"Dean Branson’s first inclination when he moved to Torch Lake was to start asking questions about water quality."
 from Jeanie Williams with contributions from Norton Bretz, Tina Fields, Gary Knapp, Becky Norris, and Fred Sitte, The Unstoppable Dean Branson

Early Years

Dean was born July 11, 1941 in Livingston, MT, to Otis and Katherine (Moore) Branson. [An interesting side note - Livingston is on the Yellowstone River, north of Yellowstone National Park.]
He lived in Belgrade MT and graduated from Belgrade High School in 1959. Dean earned his undergraduate degree from Redlands University in Redlands, CA and then went on to achieve a PhD in Biochemistry from Montana State University in Bozeman, MT.  He became a biochemist for the Dow Environmental Company and retired as an Environmental Steward at GE Plastics.
On Aug. 24, 1963 in Billings, MT, Dean married Sharon F. Feuerherm who survives.  Also surviving Dean are their three children, David R. (Kimberly) Branson of Vero Beach, FL, Katherine D. Branson of Mason, MI, and Dennis W. Branson of Grand Rapids, MI.  Also surviving are grandchildren Evan Otis Branson, Dennis (Aubry) Wellington Branson, Shayna Lynne Branson, and Anthony Dean Branson, one great-granddaughter Malaney Amara Branson, and several nieces and nephews. Dean was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Ralph Wellington Branson.  
Dean was a very active man in his community.  He served as a big brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for more than 50 years, was a member and past president of the Elk Rapids Rotary Club and Three Lakes Association President.
Dean enjoyed boating, snow skiing, gardening, spending time with his grandchildren, and engaging in any time of physical labor He was also an active member of the Calvary Lutheran Church in Elk Rapids, especially with its Endowment Fund outreach.- Mostly from Antrim Review

At Rotary Club of Elk Rapids

Dean joined Rotary on March 16, 2004 in Elk Rapids. He was President in 2008-2009 and remained very active, supporting environmental causes, bike trails, water trails and the like.


Did any of you ever get a call or text from Dean asking if you have a few minutes….?
If you did, then you know how thorough, persistent and caring this man could be.
My first contact with Dean was in 2005-2006 when Dean chaired our Rotary Good Works Committee. My wife Bonnie, a dental hygenist, had just received a grant from the Bellaire Rotary Club initiate free preventive dental care for seniors as by a Registered Dental Hygienist. This was a first for Michigan, and it was pre-“Affordable Care Act”, so the needs were significant! Bonnie asked if our Elk Rapids Rotary Club might be interested in donating funds? So I explored this, and,  as a new member met Dean Branson who was chair of our Good Works Committee. 
Here is where I began to learn what a force Dean was. Bonnie applied for funds and began discussions with Dean. She later asked me “Who is this Dean Branson?  He keeps asking me for more and more information to back up and support our request for help?  Does it really matter what color the room or uniforms will be where free dental hygiene services will be given to seniors?”  (I exaggerate a bit, but this is close)
This was when I coined a nickname for him….DIGGER DEAN! I found this to be his pattern in all that he did for others.  He has served in many roles in our club, including President, at the same time he was President of the Three Lakes Association. Dean brought his same digging and caring thoroughness to every job he did in Rotary. His focus was ALWAYS on Community Service in the broader sense, locally or internationally, for adults or youth. He was consistently an advocate for people served by Rotary.
This past June, we saw his continued insistence on including youth as trainees in using ultrasound technologies to save lives in Malawi, Africa with pending grants to include the Elk Rapids High School Interact youth as part of their international service,  (Interact is a Rotary Club for High school students who do community services locally and internationally).
His recent passion was to serve as an advocate to launch this same ultrasound technology in rural areas of Haiti via Soaring Unlimited (SU). ( SU is a medical group just opening its $400,000+ plus Clinic in northern Haiti after more than 24 years of service to underserved people.) 
Incidentally, via Pure Water for the World, Dean went to Haiti in 2014 with other Rotarians, including the President of the Elk Rapids Rotary Interact Club at the time.  Guess who lobbied for her to go and meet with Interact students in Haiti?
Having known Dean for more than sixteen years I can expand his nickname to “DIGGER DEAN….WHY NOT?”, reflecting his willingness to change, his openness to trying new ways to resolve long term challenges that always benefited people, and his perseverance to push and push until the best outcomes could be realized. He was always open to change and improving the lives of those around him, and as such was a blessing to all of us!
As a friend of Dean and Sharon  for many years I have been honored to be blessed by this relationship!  And to know them is to love them!
- Jim Nothoff                                             

Dean was my interviewer for the Rotary entrance exam. He was very thorough in answering questions about Elk Rapids Rotary Club finances and funding, such as the good works fund, general fund, and so on.

He was always available to talk about club functions and  roles of officers, a very amicable and outgoing person. It was hard not to like him.
- Bob Chaphalkar

As a long-time friend of my mother, father and uncle, Dean was quick to welcome me to Rotary and encourage me to join. He was my sponsor and a reliable friend who will be missed.
- Susan Sweet
Dean was an amazing man! At first, I was intimidated by his firing of questions to gain information. Soon, I learned he was just curious and passionate about everything.
One morning after a Rotary International Relations Meeting, he approached me about writing a grant for one of the Elk Rapids Garden Club Village Gardens when I was serving as president and crew leader of Zupin- Anderson. That was my first exposure to grant writing. Short story: Zupin Anderson Memorial Garden has received many thousands of dollars from The Grand Traverse Community Foundation, converting the garden to a national pollinator garden as a way station for monarchs and mason bees. Four grants later!!! Thank you dear friend.
- Paula Jorge


Sadly, Dean passed away on  December 12, 2022, due to Bulbar Amyotrophic Sclerosis, ALS.