Earl Dean Browning, 95, of Godfrey, Ill., Died at his home in the wee hours of the morning on Monday, February 22, 2021.
Dean was born January 21, 1926 in Annawan, Illinois to Earl Franklin and Velma Lucille (Moon) Browning. A star basketball player, he graduated from Annawan High School in 1944. After graduating from high school, Dean served his country from 1944 to 1946 in the United States Army, reaching the rank of Technical Sergeant (Platoon Leader) in the 35th Anti-Tank Infantry Company. Regiment 25th Division, Tropic Lightning. Dean was awarded the Bronze Star for Bravery for serving 165 consecutive days in frontline combat service, including the invasion of Luzon, the capture of Balete Pass and the capture of Santa Fe. He also received the Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Occupation Army Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Philippine Liberation Ribbon. He was one of the first occupation troops in Japan.
After the service, he followed his high school girlfriend, Ardythe Machesney to Western Illinois University where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in Industrial Education in 1951. Immediately after graduation, Dean and Ardythe were married on June 23, 1951 at the Fairview United Brethren Church in Annawan.
Finding employment as married teachers was a challenge in the early 1950s, as school districts did not hire both husband and wife. However, following a special board meeting, Dean and Ardythe were approved and began their teaching careers in Alton, Illinois. They were the first couple to teach in the same building and the first couple to be central office administrators. During his tenure in the Alton School District, Dean taught all areas of industrial education before earning his Masters of Education in Vocational Education from the University of Illinois and becoming Principal of the adult education. As a director, he has designed workforce development, apprenticeship and general education programs, some of which have been adopted around the world. While president of the Vocational Administrators Association, he received his Advanced Specialist Certificate with Guidance and Counseling work from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. In 1968 he became the administrative assistant for vocational education and oversaw the grant writing, design, specifications and construction of the JB Johnson Career Development Center which was, at the time, the second largest school Illinois professional. Dean received the Illinois State Board of Education’s Professional Education Administrator of the Year award and was known throughout the Midwest as “Mr. Vocational Education.”
Devoting his life to education, Dean believed that every student could be successful and make a meaningful contribution to society when they received guidance and training that supported their skills and passion. Growing up in poverty during the Great Depression, he never wanted to see a student go without the necessary equipment or supplies that would hinder his studies. Many students benefited from his anonymous generosity as he and Ardythe purchased uniforms, shoes and other supplies for students in vocational training programs.
Retiring in 1988, after 37 years in the Alton School District, Dean was an active participant and frequent medalist at the Senior Olympics, and enjoyed playing basketball on Saturday mornings until he was 80. He also enjoyed working with wood and made toys for many children in the area. Dean knew how to fix anything, and his garage became the neighborhood’s help and education spot for repairing bicycles, toys, and cars.
and other assorted life lessons. Nominated by his alumni, he was honored with a place in the Alton High School Wall of Fame.
He was recently honored on his 95th birthday with a drive-through parade of local first responders and Godfrey Mayor Mike McCormick. It was truly a moment of great joy and pride for him.
His parents, his little sister, Esther Irene, preceded him in his death; brother, Delmar Boyd Browning; sister-in-law, Ruth Browning; stepmother, Pearl Machesney; stepfather, James Machesney; brother-in-law, Blaine Bonynge; and close friend and foxhole boyfriend Gene Bennett.
He is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Ardythe; their daughter, Lexa Browning-Needham and her husband, James E. Needham of Alton; grandchildren Rachael (Cameron) Williams of Huntsville, Alabama; James A. (Shannon Ryckman) Needham of Montrose, Colorado and Jonathan (Kara) Needham of St. Peters, Missouri; great-grandchildren Kate, Cam and Jack Williams, Hank, Ira and Dean Needham; sister-in-law Carol Bonynge; niece Susie Browning and nephew Don Browning.
The family would like to thank Dean’s many professional and compassionate caregivers for their excellent care and keeping alive, including Missy from the Jersey County Health Department and the staff at Unity Hospice, with special thanks to her nurse, Sarah .
Funeral services and interment with full military rites will be held at the Annawan Community Cemetery on Friday February 26, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. For the health and safety of all participants, wearing a mask is compulsory.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the E. Dean Browning Professional Scholarship.
Gent Funeral Home will take care of the arrangements. The online guestbook is available on www.gentfuneralhome.com.
Posted on February 23, 2021