“Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.” — Tony Robbins
I dropped in on my longtime friend Dean Chapman the other day. Dean is retired and has been doing some serious writing lately. He recently had a fourth paperback published, and I was anxious to talk to him about it. I have all his earlier works.
My wife and I first met Dean and his wife Elsie when our daughters were enrolled in pre-nursery school at Diablo Valley College.
If you were living in central Contra Costa County during the ’70s, you likely heard of and may even have met the Chapman family. Dean and Elsie are longtime Concord residents who adopted seven children, along with five of their own. That’s in addition to the many abandoned cats and dogs that would’ve been euthanized had they not taken them in.
No, these Chapmans aren’t the ones that inspired Frank Gilbreth to write “Cheaper by the Dozen.” But their story is just as amusing and heartwarming.
“So what’s the big deal?” you say. After all, there are a lot of couples who have adopted seven or more kids. Dean and Elsie’s children were an exceptional bunch. Three were post-polio, one a paraplegic, two were born out-of-wedlock, and one was a foster home placement. Besides, two were from Korea, one was born in India, and one arrived from Vietnam. None spoke English.
You would’ve thought Dean was an entrepreneur of some flourishing business or that he’d inherited a bundle of money from his parents in order to feed and care for so many children.
I know how expensive that can be. My wife and I raised two of our own.
Dean worked hard and did well as a salesman for several wholesale rose growers in the region.
His job required him to be on the road a lot because of the territory he covered, but he never shirked his family responsibilities.
Elsie had her hands full as a stay-at-home mom. The older children pitched in to look after their younger siblings which helped immeasurably. No child was left out. Even the little ones were assigned chores.
All 12 kids have grown up, gone their separate ways, and are happily living independent lives.
Elsie and Dean have a warehouse filled with wonderful memories following the day they first met.
His most memorable day? Dean answered without hesitating — the moment he saw his soon-to-be wife being escorted down the aisle 63 years ago. And his eyes lit up as if he were seeing her again for the first time!
Although his advancing age and arthritis are beginning to show in his physical appearance, Dean’s mind is as sharp as the day I first met him, and he retains his charm and droll humor that won him over with so many people in our community.
Dean’s latest book titled, “If You Caught My Eye, Please Return It,” is an Amazon publication available at most bookstores.
His three earlier publications include, “Where Was I When Time Went By,” “Looking Ahead While Falling Behind,” and “The Dog Ate My Things To Do List. What A Good Dog.”
If you are the least bit interested in knowing what growing up as a Chapman meant, any one of his novels is five-star. Each book captures the family at their best — or should I say their most animated moments.
And the funniest thing is, it’s all true! I should know. My family shared in many of those real-life experiences.
It’s regrettable that Dean didn’t begin writing 40 years ago. Dean turns 90 next year!
Thankfully his mind doesn’t know that, and I expect him to crank out a few more books — besides trying his hand at playwriting — before his pen runs out of ink.
Dean’s son Steve, like his father, is also a gifted writer, and has published several books that are equally worth reading. I expect to see more of his work in the future.
Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at [email protected].