The first line in the Bismarck Tribune article read, "North Dakota lost a true friend Tuesday." Very fitting words as Dean Hildebrand had a lot of friends and did a lot of great things for the State of North Dakota and the people who live here. Fitting words but not enough. The words, "I lost a true friend Tuesday," would be more appropriate for me. Dean Hildebrand was the former director of the ND Game & Fish Department where I am currently employed. But he was much more than a boss. He was a truly kind and compassionate human being. Many of my co-workers feel the same way, some even went so far as to refer to him as "uncle Dean". Although I have never thought of him in that respect I did consider him a very dear friend. I am now about 3 blogs behind schedule. I've had things I want to write about but just haven't had the time. But I feel I have to write this before I can catch up on any of my other nonsense. This is my tribute to a man I feel very fortunate to have had the pleasure of working with for almost 10 years.
To say Dean cared about his staff is an understatement. Every year each employee received a handwritten card for their birthday. Each card would include everything Dean was thankful for whatever job it was you happened to do. Every card also included best wishes and greetings for our families. Dean was that kind of person. If he ever needed to talk to you about something work related, he never told you what he wanted without first sitting down and asking how your family was, how the kids were, and what they were up to. It was only until after he was satisfied with your family life did he get around to asking you about whatever the work related question was. A lot of times he didn't come to see you about work at all. He just wanted to know how you were. During one of the many "Dean discussions" we've had this week around the proverbial "water cooler", one of my co-workers commented on how the entire time my co-worker's son was deployed to Iraq, Dean made a weekly visit to ask how he was doing. You could set your watch for the Monday morning visit my co-worker received, Dean was that dependable.
Dean was also a fan of big band music and loved to go out dancing with his charming wife. I happen to play trumpet in a couple bands and the Elks club in Bismarck hires us on a fairly regular basis. Dean and his wife could usually be counted on to attend. I still remember the first dance we played that I noticed they were there. During our break he made a point to come over and tell us how much he enjoyed our music. He picked up a small place card that was promoting our band and took it home with him. He brought the card with him to work and must have told half the building what a great band I was in. There were very few people I work with that knew I even sang or played. I'm not one to "toot my own horn" (pun intended) so to speak.
Even after Dean retired December of 2005 he found time to stop by on occasion and make the rounds visiting people. One of his visits several months ago was after I had recently been promoted. He had heard about it (of course) and had to congratulate me and tell me what a good choice the department made and that he was sure I would do a fantastic job. I'm still not sure about that but I appreciated his sentiments. He had a "palm-breaking" hand shake that you had to watch out for because he loved to shake hands with people.
He was active in so many organizations, his church, and his family. You really wondered where he found time for everything. Our department web site http://gf.nd.gov/multimedia/news/2008/09/sp-news.html has a great tribute with some video and links to other places. I would encourage you to take a look at it and get to know this man who was once my employer but even more, a true and very dear friend. One thing all the people who knew Dean would agree on is that he embodied the personal philosophy that you should always try to leave the world a better place than when you found it. Mission accomplished Dean! You will be missed!