Having suffered a massive stroke one year ago, Irma Dean gave up her beautiful life here on Earth. A quote from the book Somewhere Angels goes like this: “God said, “When it’s your time to come, I’ll send someone to bring you. You won’t need to fear; you won’t need to find your own way. The person I send knows the way very well.” Early on the morning of September 19 the Angels came to Arbor Springs, and Irma went with them for her journey to Heaven to live forever with Jesus. We are sure she is smiling and hugging family and friends there at this very moment – as she was always known for her bright smiles and loving hugs here on Earth. This is her story.
Irma was born on April 22, 1924 to William and Navada Trimble, in a tiny community called Woodshop, Alabama. They named her Irma Nell, and called her Irma. Irma had one big brother, Jesse, and two big sisters, Mae and Sybil. Sadly, Sybil only lived to be five years old, so Irma never really got to know her. But she sure loved Jesse and Mae. The three of them bonded as they grew up together – playing and fighting, as sibling will do. Irma was an avid tennis player, an accomplished croquette player, and she loved to sing and dance.
Irma finished high school in Lafayette and then studied at West Point Business College. To help with her expenses, she worked at West Point Dye Works. It was in traveling back and forth to work that she met Alton Dean. He was tall, thin, with a big smile. Put a Navy uniform on that man and Irma fell for him almost immediately – and he for her. It was not long before Alton asked for her hand in marriage. They were married on February 1, 1945, shortly before the end of WWII. Alton shipped out right after the wedding and so months later they met in New Orleans for a belated honeymoon. Although she had never been much further from home than LaFayette, Alabama, and never away from family, Irma boarded a train all alone for the big city of New Orleans.
After WWII Alton was discharged from the Navy, but when the Korean Conflict was declared he joined the Army. After he returned, he served in the military as a recruiter. Irma was a ‘military wife.’ By now Irma and Alton had two little girls, Linda and Bonita. They moved around a lot, living in Columbus, Montgomery, Atlanta, Augusta and Roanoke. A few years later Alton received a medical discharge. But that didn’t settle them down – at least not for a while.
They finally moved to Opelika, and that became “HOME.” Over that decade, Irma worked in both a Sewing Room and at Belk’s in Roanoke and later at the Tog Shop in Americus. In Opelika, Irma began work at Morris Snower Sewing Room, where she worked until she took a leave to care for Alton after he was diagnosed with cancer at the early age of 48. By then they had added a little boy, Michael, to their family.
Irma cared for Alton throughout his illness and was by his side until he died. Her girls were grown, but her little boy was only in the 3rd grade. Irma became both mother and father to Michael as he grew up. She went to baseball games, took vacations – just the two of them – saw him graduate from Auburn U. She was determined he would not miss out on anything – just as she had been for Linda and Bonita.
Somewhere in there she decided she wanted to go back to work. She first returned to her previous position with Morris Snower & Company, until she was recruited by Rodney Jones to oversee and make women’s apparel for his retail stores. After Rodney closed his production shop, Irma became a part time employee at Walmart, but her part time hours soon approached full time. She was known to all customers of the “fabric department.” Being a professional seamstress she was called on for advice and instructions, and she gladly gave both along with her friendship to many. It would be hard to say how many gifts of appreciation and friendship this lady received from her Walmart customers. Finally, one day, she decided to retire again, this time for real.
All her children were grown and on their own. They all worried that she would get bored. But not Irma! Every Tuesday and Thursday mornings she HAD to be at the SportsPlex for Senior Aerobics. For 30 years she worked as a volunteer at EAMC. She was a participant in the Auburn University Pharmacy Department’s student/patient program. She interacted with neighbors on a regular basis. She was active in her church. She met her sister Mae for coffee several afternoons a week. All of this up until her stroke in September 2018.
Irma loved her garden. She was so proud of her flowers, especially the roses she had nurtured since Alton died. She was an avid supporter of our military and fiercely patriotic. She loved Opelika. Irma was a regular every year at the Opelika Veteran’s Day Celebration.
Irma loved her grandchildren. Even as they grew in number and then the great-grandchildren came along, she wanted to be sure she made something for each of them. Whether it was knitted, crocheted, embroidered or potted – they all have something that Grandmother Dean has made. And that extends to many other family members as well. She loved them all.
Having grown up a Methodist, in the early 70s Irma joined Northside Baptist Church, where her sister was a member. Irma had a strong faith and was fully devoted to Christ. Her Bible is worn and with many handwritten notes in the margins.
She was an outstanding Mother and Grandmother, the best friend anyone could ask for, and a true follower of Christ. Her family is large, and her friends come from many walks of life.
Irma is survived by her children, Linda and Bob Fucci, Bonita and Andy Lee, Michael and Ashley Dean; her grandchildren Scott (Kim) Green, Derek Chandler, Kim (Marty) Thomas, Allen Fucci, Nick Fucci, Mark Fucci, Will Potts and Cainan Potts; 14 great-grandchildren; 6 great-great grandchildren; her sister Mae Abrams; sister-in-law Mozelle Dean; special niece Brenda Bumby, who has been such a blessing to her in her aging years, 9 more nieces/nephews, and many other special family members and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents, William and Navada Trimble, husband Alton Dean, granddaughter Debbie Fucci Lambert, brother Jesse Trimble, and sister Sybil Trimble.
The family offers a special thanks to Dr. Campbell and the Kindred Hospice team of caregivers as well as the nurses and CNAs and other employees of Arbor Springs for their kindness and for the care and love given to Irma as well as the family during these trying months. They have truly been a part of our family.
Family and friends will celebrate the life of Irma with prayer, music and remembrances at 3pm on Sunday, September 29 at Jeffcoat Funeral Home Chapel. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service (2pm) at Jeffcoat. Burial will be at Garden Hills Cemetery immediately following the Chapel service. Irma loved flowers, so we will not discourage flowers, but one of her favorite charities was His Place in Opelika. Donations may be made in her name to His Place, 1415 2nd Avenue, Opelika.
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