In Memory: May 6

“Rejoice! I say it again, rejoice. Earthly joy was transformed into heavenly joy for Dean Chanay on May 4, 2020.

The faces of family and friends were replaced by the face of God. Rejoice! I say it again, rejoice!” Dean was a man of many talents. But it’s not what we are, it’s what we become. Dean was joy and love.

Dean leaves behind his wife, Nancy; daughter, Jennifer (husband, Mark Staral); his precious grand-dog, Tumbler; his most favorite in-laws, many nieces, nephews, and his cherished and loved friends.

Dean was preceded in death by his two earthly mothers, Lucy Chanay and Lucy Polfliet; and his most beloved priest, Father Richard Murphy.

Gazing down on us with Pure Love, praying for us at the throne of God, Dean says: Rejoice, I’ll seen you in heaven.

And now Dean’s story as dictated by him in 2010 as part of the Prayer Group at Holy Cross: My place of human birth was in eastern Ohio, a very poor county. Our Sunday dinner was a spam roast. Mom would slather that can of spam with magical spices, and we would have our Sunday feast. There was plenty because it was just the two of us. My father had abandoned us and I never even knew him. As time passed, the only knowledge I had of him was through what others said of him. Even today it’s not uncommon for those stories to be hurtful…not only to my father but as to how I internalized those feelings of abandonment. “We are all called to be prophets, some lesser prophets than others, but we are all called to be prophets.” That is one of my favorite homilies of Father Murphy. At the age of 73, I am just beginning to understand the power of God’s love and the overwhelming joy of forgiveness. The concept of prophet in this context is very new to me, but now I more clearly understand the role Mrs. Dutton had in my life. The strange thing is I don’t even know if that is her real name. From a man who prides himself in remembering names from the past, that is just interesting how God chooses for us to give witness to memories. An angel is there to watch over us, a prophet gives witness to faith. Mrs. Dutton was more than an angel, Mrs. Dutton was the first prophet God put in my life. My first childhood memory of attending church is going with Mrs. Dutton. At the age of five or six I had to venture a block to her place. She lived in the Curry Apartments. From there we had to walk three or four blocks to the church. Sometimes we even cut across the courthouse lawn and got there in half the time. Mrs. Dutton was helping me find my “pigeon.” There were several factors that had brought about the loss of my “pigeon.” First of all, my father was never in my life. He had abandoned us when I was very young. Although I had two single uncles, grandparents and a loving mother, I had no visible father. The more immediate reason for the loss of my “pigeon” was that I had disobeyed my Mom. Mom had told me not to go swimming in the river, but I did. And I cut my foot bad! I adored my Mom…in fact, I still will make the comment that if my Mom were alive I would probably still be living with her. Hence my Mom was my universe, and I had disobeyed her. I don’t recall whether I felt as though God had punished me, but as I told Mrs. Dutton: “I lost my pigeon.” Mrs. Dutton understood my heart and knew that I was struggling to say “religion.” My family did have good Christian traits, but they were not church going. I knew that I had lost something but I wasn’t exactly aware of what I had lost. Dean’s faith story was propelled into such a deep love story, as he so boastfully praises Father Murphy for having brought him into the Catholic faith in 1998.

At the age of 62 he was baptized, received the Sacrament of Penance and his First Eucharist. Like a little child dazzled with wonder, he just beamed that at the age of 62 he was wiped clean of all sin. At the age of 62! And his faith, “pigeon,” was never to be lost again. At the end of Dean’s earthly journey, sitting and contemplating his face, it was the face that all of us faithful should have etched in our hearts and minds. It is not the face of his youthful energy, there are plenty of those pictures that fill albums. It is that face which had the brushstrokes of pain hidden beneath the brushstrokes of love. There was the face that was a witness to the crucified Christ. And so many of you who will be reading this are represented in those brushstrokes.

Know that you were all well loved by this very special man. Blessed are we who knew the abundance of Dean’s earthly love. Just whisper his name and he will continue to shower you with this powerful love from his new eternal home. Blessed are we who knew that Dean’s earthly work was never done, such as his work at Our Father’s Table.

His joy-filled Monday mornings began when the carrots arrived at the Table, and he would bring them home and prepare them for the final shredding for the salads. No task too small, no task too big, he loved to join in this work. So too we can rest assured that he continues to work for us from his new eternal home.

There were many shared whispers in Dean’s last moments on earth with reminders that God was sure to say: “This is my adopted son of whom I am well pleased.”

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