The year was 2013. I was in the midst of writing the sequel to my first novel. At the same time, I won a trip to see the premiere of Iron Man 3 in Hollywood. Since I was having issues with my story, my hope was I could use some of my free time to get together with some of my writer friends out there and discuss things.
I told one of my friends what I hoped to do. “Oh, you don’t need me. You need to talk to Dean Stefan.”
“Who’s Dean Stefan?”
Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers
Dean and I made arrangements to meet for lunch, but at the last minute, he had to cancel. He’d come down with a cold and didn’t want me to catch it. Instead, we had a long phone conversation. For 90 minutes, we talked storytelling philosophy, heroes journey, what worked and didn’t how to apply it in books versus screenplays and more. It was relaxed and genial, I took notes, and in hindsight wish I’d brought my recorder to capture the call. Dean was wise, funny and generous with his time and knowledge.
And the entire time I’m ignorant of who he is, other than another working writer like my other friends. Except Dean turned out to be the writer they went to for fun. Quick-witted, his jokes were legendary, his observations wry and his puns awful.
Men In Black: The Series
Jackie Chan Adventures
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Over the years, we stayed friends. We chatted via Facebook and on occasion Messenger whenever I hit other roadblocks on books or in life. I would make comments on his amazingly bad jokes. Usually, he’d reply with an even worse come back. It was a thing of beauty.
We always joked about our ships in the night moment, and about how, when I finally made it out to California again, we’d hook up this time for a frosty beverage or such.
Clifford the Big Red Dog
My Friends Tigger & Pooh
Barney & Friends
Pom Pom and Friends
Miles From Tomorrowland
A month ago, that voice went silent on Facebook. Word trickled out. He’d had a major heart attack and was flown to UCLA Medical Center. It had been touch and go for a while, with Dean in the ICU. But soon there was a picture of him, eating applesauce. I told him online it was time him to go get well because someone like him sure as hell could never get any better.
Damn, how could I be so wrong?
Wednesday morning I got word from my friend Nicole, the one who introduced me to Dean, of his passing. Complications of the heart attack, they say. He leaves behind a wife and a daughter who just graduated college last year. What else he leaves behind is a legacy. All across the Internet, people who knew Dean are sharing their stories, their memories of this warm, sweet, funny man. If you look at his Facebook page today, there are hundreds of postings from people, prominent ones who have been greats in the television animation industry for the last few decades. And why not? With an IMDb page like Dean’s, you tend to get around.
The Penguins of Madagascar
Ben 10 Omniverse
Transformers: Rescue Bots
Norm of the North 2
Oh, there’s one more post as well, from a small writer, trying each day to hone his craft, to step into the light and join the ranks of someone like Dean. He would have liked and encouraged that. That, too, is part of his legacy.
I will miss you, my friend. Be well on your journey.
P.S. There is a Go Fund Me to help Dean’s family defray some of their costs. You can find it here.