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Scoutmaster, businessman Dean Dinnison, 85, dies

Fri., Oct. 17, 2008

Local Scouts planning Riverfront Park statue

Longtime Spokane Scoutmaster, businessman and World War II veteran Dean Dinnison died at his ranch outside Spokane last weekend at the age of 85.

He mentored scores of boys and taught them outdoor skills, and many went on to earn Scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout.

He’ll be memorialized in that role by a bronze statue his stepdaughter is creating at the behest of local Scouts.

Organizers hope the sculpture, which depicts an older Boy Scout guiding a younger one, will be installed in Riverfront Park next spring. They plan it as a testament to volunteerism and leadership – two ideals Dinnison’s friends and family say he embodied.

“He loves Scouts,” said stepdaughter Deborah Copenhaver-Fellows. “He molded little people into powerful men.”

Dale Johnson, who replaced Dinnison as Scoutmaster of South Hill Troop 325 two years ago, called Dinnison “uncompromising” and generous.

“You always knew very clearly where Dean stood,” Johnson said. “It was either right or it was wrong.”

Even at 85, Dinnison remained active, tending to his Scotch Acres ranch on North Grove Road and participating in board meetings at a financial planning company.

“He was always on his tractor,” said Dave Holloway, 47, who has known Dinnison since meeting him as a Scout in 1972. “If somebody needed help, he was on the tractor doing whatever needed to be done.”

Dinnison also loved animals, raising Arabian horses at his ranch and giving away foals to kids. He had four dogs and a wolf he received as a gift.

“He was vital until the very end, feeding his own horses, working with his own dogs,” Copenhaver-Fellows said.

A former Marine, Dinnison was known as a tough Scoutmaster. He expected boys to go above and beyond, taking leadership roles whenever possible.

“He didn’t give you a lot of slack,” Copenhaver-Fellows said. “He just said it like it was, and that was the way it was. He didn’t mince words.”

Dinnison and his late wife, Leslei, had nine children and stepchildren.

Born in a log cabin in Pierce, Idaho, in 1923, Dinnison boasted he grew up with Nez Perce and lumberjacks as friends. As a teen he fought wildfires and ran mule packs carrying supplies to lookouts for the U.S. Forest Service. He enrolled in the ROTC at the University of Idaho, later joining the Marine Corps and fighting in World War II and Korea.

After leaving the service, he worked in the liquid fertilizer business, remodeled South Hill homes and became a principal at area investment firms.

Inspired by Dinnison’s legacy, Scouts two years ago began campaigning to install a large version of the statue, “Footsteps to the Future,” which Copenhaver-Fellows previously created based on the likeness of two local Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America had used it for a national camping award.

Local Scouts have raised roughly three-fourths of the estimated $120,000 project cost in cash and donations, Johnson said. They hope to locate the statue northeast of the Monroe Street Bridge in an area of the park called Veterans Court, pending final city approval.

Dinnison’s death “gives us a reason to get the project done,” Holloway said.

“But he would certainly be the first to say, ‘Well, the heck with that, don’t do anything for me.’ ”

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