Dean and my paths merged many times over the years.  We worked in different functions in the same corporation, sharing many mutual friends and colleagues.  After retiring from real employment, we worked for different consultancies but with the same clients.  Independently we both relocated to the greater Elk Rapids area. 
Much has been said about Dean’s legendary persistence in pursuit of causes he loved.  There was no escaping Dean’s gravitational pull.  He drew me into his work preserving the quality of our beautiful water resources and into many good works projects at Elk Rapids Rotary. 
Dean’s unshakable positive attitude and his optimism even extended to his estimates of the time and effort required for water quality and good works projects.  Once Dean’s estimate was “We have the GPS coordinates.  We should be done retrieving the sediment sampler in 45 minutes.”  Of course an hour and a half later the flotilla of pontoon boats on Torch Lake with air support was still searching for the submerged red float that marked the sampler location.  A similar overly optimistic estimate was applied to the amount of time we would be standing waist deep in cold springtime water, drilling for a sample of ground water infiltrating Torch Lake.  Another illustration is the time required to weatherize homes with Rotarians for families needing help always seemed to exceed the amount of time that Dean had advertised.
It is both unbelievable and unfair that Dean is not still working to preserve our lakes, doing good works for Elk Rapids Rotary or spending time with his family.
- Don Watkins

I met this very accomplished and wonderful man through Rotary years ago, Dean Branson. Dean was the type of man you could easily connect with and begin partnering and brainstorming with. He was a 
cheerleader for multiple Rotary services such as scholarships, weatherization, spring cleanup, good 
works, highway clean up, clean water, and BBQ to name a few. He was big on inclusion of members in 
whatever arena would be a good fit for them. Dean was also a wealth of knowledge and loved to share 
his knowledge with others. With Deans passion for his many interests, you always knew where he stood 
and he had the data and expertise to back up his thoughts and suggestions.

I recall outside of Rotary, Dean worked to help support the preservation of our beautiful area lakes. One program he strongly supported was a summer internship for high school students. When the phone rings and a boat and captain are needed for the students to collect their samples and Dean is on the other end of the line, you just can’t say no. 

I was definitely a recipient of experiencing Deans many passions. I truly enjoyed working with him in 
various capacities and learned a lot along the way. I am honored to call Dean my friend.

Sherry Steffen


Somewhere around 2011 several Elk Rapids citizens began exploring ways to better utilize the picnic pavilion in Rotary Park. Following many meetings that explored different ideas it was decided to use the blank walls of the pavilion and the land immediately to the north for a display of photos, maps and storyboards to highlight the history of the Elk Rapids area. The project eventually was named the Because of the Water display.

In 2013 fundraising efforts began.  It was estimated that over $12,000 would be needed. Fundraising started slowly.  Enter Dean Branson. Dean was familiar with the Elk Rapids Area Community Endowment Fund as part of the Grand Traverse Community Foundation. Dean came to me and enthusiastically stated, “This is exactly the type of community betterment project the foundations are looking for.” He was right. We submitted a grant request and on 12/19/13 a check of $3,000 from the Elk Rapids Area Endowment Fund was directed to the project. This followed upon the heels of a donation of $1,500 from the Elk Rapids Rotary Club and a $1,500 match from the Rotary Endowment Fund. These grants plus other donations put the final amount raised at ~ $13,500. The projects was fully funded without any cost falling on the local taxpayers.

Dean was a key player during various phases of raising the funds for the “Because of the Water” display.

Honor Role 

In ~ 2011 the Elk Rapids Rotary Club started a tradition of honoring outstanding members. The name of each honoree was engraved on a stone paver which was place at the entrance of the pavilion in Rotary Park. In the first few years the honorees were deceased members as there was a lot of catching up to do. Eventually honorees selected  for the Honor Role were still living and in many cases still active member of the club.  In 2018 Dean Branson was so honored with his name engraved on a paver placed at the entrance of the pavilion in Rotary Park.

Question and Answer 

In the days when the club met on Tuesday evenings and we frequently had guest speakers it was guaranteed that Dean would have one, and probably more, questions. It did not mattter the subject, Dean had questions and sometimes supportive comments. Dean was always  fully engaged.

                                    - Jim Sak