Obit Dean Gimmestead

Dean Gimmestad

Dean A. Gimmestad, a long-time resident of Cavendish, passed away June 4, 2020 in Lewiston, at the age of 79. He was born July 4, 1940 in McIntosh, MN, the only child of Lewis and Eunice Gimmestad.

Dean enjoyed a typical childhood in McIntosh. He participated in both basketball and baseball in high school, as well as playing the trumpet in the school band. Following high school, Dean attended college at the University of Minnesota and later transferred to North Dakota State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree.

Dean began his career as a mental health counselor with the Hennepin County Department of Health & Welfare in Minneapolis. It was during this time he met a young speech therapist named Ellie Stolts on a blind date arranged by mutual friends. The couple dated for two years and married in 1966 in Ellie’s hometown of Eau Claire, WI. Dean decided to further his education and they moved to Salt Lake City, where he earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Utah.

In 1970, with an MSW in hand, and ready to find a job, Dean and Ellie started driving to see where fate would take them. When they got to Idaho, Dean stopped at the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare (IDHW) in Boise, where he learned of a new federal grant funded mental health program in north central Idaho. There was an opening in Clearwater County, and after driving north to look at the area before agreeing to the position, he decided it was a good place to settle and Dean took the job in Orofino. He and Ellie wanted to live in the country, and they found a rental home in Teakean.

The early 1970’s were busy years for the Gimmestads. Dean was helping develop the mental health programs for the county, their two sons, Heath and Garth, were born, and they built their rustic home on acreage in the woods off Freeman Creek Road.

Dean served as the Program Manager of Community Mental Health for the Orofino office of the IDHW. Due to the sensitive nature of his work, few people knew the details of his job. However, he was instrumental in creating a well-rounded and comprehensive mental health program to meet the needs of the county. Dean worked tirelessly with his staff to provide support for the region’s mentally ill population. He noted client support came in many forms – emotional, mental, medical, and financial - and providers must do whatever was needed to get their clients through an immediate crisis. He also felt strongly about the chronic underfunding of mental health services at both the state and federal level.

Dean retired in 2000. His co-workers offered the following tributes:

“Dean was the face of Mental Health in Clearwater County for 30 years. He inspired his staff, leading by example, to be client-focused, to meet people wherever they were at any given moment. He touched countless lives and no doubt saved many. His upbeat, quirky nature made every day at work an adventure. I will be forever grateful that he was a part of my life.”

“Dean was beloved by his clients and staff alike. His instincts to do the right thing for people were always his strength. Whether he had on his social worker hat, his Santa suit, or his grilling apron, he was the genuine article. Those of us who worked with him have the best memories of our days together. We will hold him in our hearts forever.”

Rural life was an adventure from the beginning, as Dean learned his way around tools, home and equipment repairs, gardening, felling trees, and livestock – with plenty of help from his neighbors and a lot of trial and error! Dean had a special spot in his heart for his milk cow Daisy, and the family enjoyed fresh milk and homemade ice cream for many years.

Dean coached the Orofino Eagles Little League team, boated and waterskied on Dworshak Reservoir, and loved sitting in the deer blind with his boys up in the woods. He spent countless hours working on his lawn, garden and the acres surrounding their home. In recent years, Dean and Ellie thoroughly enjoyed winter months in McCall, ID, and skiing at Brundage Mountain. His goal was to make a dozen runs in a day, which happened on a regular basis!

Perhaps with the mindset of a social worker and looking after others, community service was second nature to Dean over the years, and especially in his retirement. The process of wood-making was a favorite past time for Dean. He determined that tamarack and red fir made the best firewood and he was available to bring his log splitter to a wood-making party at a moment’s notice. The Gimmestad woodpile was always stacked high with firewood for the wood stove, but Dean also delivered many cords of wood to those in the community who needed a supply to heat their homes in the winter.

Some years ago, Dean thought the idea of starting a catering and concessions business sounded fun. He converted the back end of the garage into a deluxe commercial kitchen, found a food trailer and catering truck, bought all the needed equipment, learned about concession foods, and with much help and support from Ellie, Freeman Creek Concessions was in business. The Gimmestads were a familiar sight for many years at all the local/community events, the fairs, trap shoots, auctions, the rodeo, and local fund-raisers.

Through the years, Dean took loving care of the local park grounds, served the Cavendish church in many capacities, helped Ellie with a local soup kitchen and food bank, assisted his neighbors with countless outdoor projects, plowed the drive and chained up the school bus so Ellie could make the rounds for over 30 years, served as Santa’s helper whenever called upon, and quietly served the needs of a community that had welcomed him fifty years earlier.

Dean’s positive perspective on life, humility, kindness, ability to see a need and take action, plus his wonderful zany sense of humor have been a great gift to his family, neighbors, and many friends.

Dean is survived by his wife, Ellie of Cavendish; son Heath of Moses Lake, WA; son Garth (Megan) of Pensacola, FL; and grandsons Michael and Gavin. He also leaves a community of friends who were his extended family.

A celebration of Dean’s life will be held at a later date. Memorial donations to the LeBaron Park may be sent to Kay LeBaron, 3307 Middle Road, Lenore, ID 83541. To honor Dean’s memory, we know he would encourage people to always look for opportunities to help their neighbors and community.

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