Director of Facilities Ron Dean to return to home consulting business

Over the years, Clear Path for Veterans has been visited by the Easter Bunny, Superman and Elf, among other creative expressions, all embodied by one man: Ronald “Ron” Dean, Sr.

After serving the past three years as Clear Path’s Director of Facilities, Dean is hanging up those pink, red and yellow tights, but not his tool belt; he is transitioning away from Clear Path to commit full-time to his consulting/home inspection business.

Dean was born and raised in Central New York. After graduating from Chittenango High School in 1968 – his yearbook listed “have a hit record” as his ambition and “STP stickers on pigs” among his dislikes – he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in combat as a machine gunner with the 101st Airborne Division, 3/506th Task Force in Vietnam (1970-1971), earning The Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal in Vietnam. Returning stateside, he served as drill sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves 3d Bn, 389 Regt, 1st Bde (1972-1974).

Dean joined the Chittenango Rotary Club for the first time during its silver jubilee in 1977. Two years later he moved to Long Island, where he owned and operated the RWD Development Company based in Port Washington. He also served as superintendent of buildings and the code enforcement officer for the villages of New Hyde Park, Manorhaven and Plandome Manor, and as a member of the Nassau County Planning Commission.

In 2007, Dean moved back to Chittenango, and designed and directed the construction of Chittenango’s first Habitat for Humanity home located on Dyke Road. The Madison County chapter has been building homes in the county’s rural communities since 1984, but this was the first one erected in Chittenango. The two-story home featured green technology from the ground up, using foam blocks for the building’s foundation and a geothermal heating and cooling system – technological expertise that Dean would employ in later years at Clear Path.

Dean rejoined the Chittenango Rotary Club in 2008. He served as club president 2014-2015, chairs the club’s construction projects, and, in 2018, was recognized by The Rotary Foundation as a Paul Harris Fellow in appreciation for substantial contributions to the foundation.

Although Clear Path opened in 2011, Dean first learned of the organization in 2013 from a fellow Chittenango Rotary Member. He quickly made his mark, chairing a Rotary fundraiser for Clear Path and in August 2014 undertaking the supervision for design and reconstruction of Clear Path’s Woodshop and Art House project.

Dean recalls of that project:

“I was told that Clear Path wanted to rebuild the former pool house into a wood shop for Veterans, and I volunteered to do the building design and drawings. By late winter of 2014 I came to a (Wednesday) canteen (lunch) and was told by (CEO) Melissa (Spicer), ‘Your ears must be burning, we had a board of directors meeting last night and we put you in charge of building the wood shop.’ I had recently finished the Habitat house and accepted this wood shop project.

“The wood shop construction took more than a year to complete – using mostly Rotary Club volunteers – and upon completion the Rotary Club donated $11,300 to purchase the tools for the wood shop. During the construction I grew close with Clear Path staff and its operation, and I started to notice some things being done around the building and property by ‘happy to help’ volunteers that was not quite up to snuff. (Following the completion of the wood shop and after suggesting to the management team that he review any project or problem before it was tackled,) in the first week of August 2015, I was asked if I would accept the position of director of facilities.

“When I accepted, Melissa looked at (now Chief Strategic Officer) Earl (Fontenot) and started laughing. Earl smiled, then Melissa turned back to me and said, ‘Great you can start now … but we can’t start paying you until September,’ at which time we all laughed. Considering I had just worked a year and a half as a volunteer, one more month couldn’t hurt, so I accepted the position.”

With more than 45 years of experience in construction, property management and building code enforcement, Dean has received numerous forms of recognition, including the number one rank for Director of Codes, Code Enforcement Officer, Structural and New Construction Examiner (Electrical) and Construction Inspector II by the Onondaga County Civil Service, and the top rank of Code Enforcement Officer by the Madison County Civil Service.

In 2015, Dean was awarded Clear Path’s inaugural Miles & Maddy Award. This annual recognition is named after Miles Vigil and Maddy Spicer. Maddy was Melissa Spicer’s certified therapy dog, who “healed the souls of many,” according to Melissa; Maddy passed away in April 2013. Mark “Miles” Vigil was stationed at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division before deployment to Afghanistan on a combat tour as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. After returning home and struggling with severe post-traumatic stress, Miles took his life in late 2010. Each year, a Veteran and a civilian are honored for their impactful service above self.

“Ron has been tremendous asset to Clear Path on many levels,” Spicer said. “When our Vietnam Veterans returned home from combat they received everything but a hero’s welcome. From the very beginning, we built this place to be a welcoming community for our Veterans and their families, the welcome home they never received. Ron has fully embraced that concept, building tremendous bonds, not only with his Vietnam peers, but with all who walk through our doors. He leaves behind a large tool belt to fill for our next director of facilities.”

Dean enjoys time with fiancé Karen Neider, five children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.