He was born in Shanghai. The year was 1921, or maybe it was 1922 – he wasn’t given a birth certificate at the time and was never officially told . His father, Sydney Maddock had moved the family to China a few years earlier. As an executive at a steel company at the time he had been assigned to run operations in the Orient. Sydney didn’t like the idea of calling his son Jr. so he named him Sydney Dean Maddock, which became Dean for purposes of pragmatism. Not long after Dean was born the steel company went bankrupt, and Sydney decided to move his family back to the U.S. This required a three week journey aboard a ship across the Pacific – a place that Dean would return in later years.

After spending his childhood in Chicago and New York, Dean went to college at Colgate. He graduated in three years. Before graduating he had his high school sweetheart up for a visit and proposed to her on campus. He and Joan Ritter (AKA Grandma Maddock) would marry in Ft. Lauderdale. But the romance was put on hold after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Dean responded to the call of duty by enrolling in mid-shipman training on the campus of North Western University in Chicago. A four-month crash course was followed by aquatic training in Virginia and then it was off the Pacific.

At my age (21 years old) my Grandfather found himself in charge of the 90-member landing craft team. Their mission was to insure the safe passage of the infantry from their aircraft carrier onto the beaches of the islands held by the Japanese. He led the fleet of landing crafts each of which carried about a dozen men to shore at a time. The film Saving Private Ryan shows what this was like (note the film chronicles the War in Europe not the Pacific, but clearly conveys the terror of the experience):

After the war he came home to Joan and they did their part for the Baby Boom by giving birth to six boys. He worked in different industries, jobs and cities: from St. Louis to Little Rock to Pleasantville to Brussels to Greenwich. As the COO of U.S. Industries he traveled the world. He raised his six successful sons and sent each of them through college. Yet, there was always a sadness about him. Perhaps it was an overbearing father or the horror’s he experienced in the war. Whatever it was he struggled with it his whole life, and often relied on the positivity of Joan to keep the family going.

When retirement came he did what many of his generation seemed di and migrated to Florida, to see out the rest of his days in Naples. Here Joan and Dean lived a quiet but pleasant life, until Joan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That was 12 years ago now. Dean still lives in Naples. Joan does too, though she has lived in an Alzheimer’s community for some time. Everyday Dean gets in the car and drives up to see her. Sitting with her and telling her what he’s been up to. She recognizes him and greets him saying, “well hello dear”. But then she proceeds to mumble and speak incoherently, with the occasional laugh or emotional outburst that have no relation to what he is saying.

Here Dean lives alone in Naples, and even though he has family all over the country he refuses to leave. His last mission is to care for Joan, even if she barely knows that he is there. Now that is love.

  1. May 29, 2008

    Say Hey to Grandpa Maddock for me.


  2. May 30, 2008

    I really enjoyed reading about your Grandpa. He sounds like a great man.


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