As the news spread of the loss of Dean Faulkner Wells on Wednesday, friends recalled her life. To share your memories, comment below.
“Deanie adopted me when I first moved here and always included me in everything. I would spend Christmas with her and even go to midnight mass at the Episcopal church, a couple of times getting me to bring in her kids Christmas gifts after midnight, once it was a trunk load of weights for her son Jaybird. We went to football games together, sitting in the south end zone and had more fun than frat boys at Mardi Gras. We did many road trips to away football games and once ended up in Hollywood, Mississippi, after our loss to Tennessee and the band kept playing “Rocky Top” so as we left she flipped them off with a double bird. She was a real gal, but loved to be with the guys talking sports, even lining up on the floor like a nose tackle. She and Larry had one of the best marriages I’ve ever been around. She understood life and enjoyed it to the fullest.” — Ron Shapiro, owner, Main Squeeze
“I met Dean around 1972 and was awed by her and her literary circle. It was clear that we would never be bosom buds because I didn’t play tennis and didn’t give a rat’s tail about football, but she let me come around anyway. With Deanie gone, the hackneyed phrase ‘end of an era’ has been coming to me all day. No one but Dean bridged the gap between the old Oxford and the new, between the literary ghosts and the young writers who still crowd around her kitchen table,” said Lisa Howorth, a writer and co-founder of Square Books. — Lisa Howorth, co-founder, Square Books, writer
“Dean embodied the best Faulkner characteristics — intelligent, tough, brave, independent-minded, and guided by a strong sense of right and wrong for which I always had respect. She was an astute judge of character and loved children. When she asked me to run for local political office in 2001, it came more as a threat, and certainly got my attention. She lived her quiet, private life with Larry in that house right up against bustling commercial Oxford and the busiest intersection in town, a small woman who was a stalwart defender against those qualities of progress that often seem to threaten the things that matter most to us. She was especially loyal to friends, the Ole Miss Rebels and writers generally. I hate she did not get to bask a bit longer in the glow of success for the beautiful book she finally wrote herself. Her family and friends will miss her greatly, and I think this town will, too.” — Richard Howorth, owner, Square Books
“Dean and I grew up together. She was just a year older than me, but we lived twice across the street from each other and often played together as children. I was closer to her cousin (step cousin) Vickie Fielden who lived off and on with Pappy and Miss Estelle. Dean and Jill being older, loved to scare us with spooky happenings that we attributed to the ghost of Rowan Oak, Judith. I had known for many years that my Daddy, Elton Hooker, was the first person to reach the crash site of Dean’s father, Dean Faulkner. A few years before my Dad died, I asked Larry if Dean would like to hear my Dad’s story. As a result, Daddy and I took Dean and Larry out to Thaxton (in Pontotoc County) and Daddy showed them exactly where the crash happened. Dean had never known this. It was a moving moment for us all. Just a year ago we gathered at Dean’s to bid farewell to Vickie and now Dean is gone. Her children grew up with my children. It is hard to lose one’s life-long friend. Dean was always smart, funny, well-spoken and gracious. A typical southern lady with strong opinions and the knowledge to back them up. She touched many lives and I will miss her greatly.” — Kaye Bryant, family friend
“Dean was a wonderful voice for the arts. She carried the history of Oxford both through her work and by encouraging writers. Her ability to bring young writers and the community together helped to shape the passion for literature in Oxford.” — Wayne Andrews, director, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council
“Oxford will be a much less interesting place without her. She was a patron saint to all working writers. She understood the life, and she supported writers during their high and lows. She and husband Larry have fed numerous writers when hungry and served drinks when they needed something stronger. I never actively sought stories about her uncle, but they naturally came up. One of my favorite images is of a young Dean and Pappy walking from Rowan Oak to a late show at the Lyric to watch Charlie Chan movies. He loved them. Dean never missed on opportunity to let me know when they ran on TCM. She was a sweet woman but also wickedly funny. She could tell a heartwarming memory and appreciate a bawdy joke better than anyone. I can’t imagine Oxford without her. She was the last link to a storied world and a gracious, giving friend. I will miss her husky, knowing laugh. I know she enjoyed this last year tremendously. Dean was never one to seek the spotlight and often shunned it. But I know she was immensely proud of her book and the well-deserved attention it earned. Just a few weeks ago, she was interviewed for French television at Rowan Oak. As the host of the show began to translate his question, she stopped him. Only to answer back in fluent French. He was amazed and incredibly impressed by her grace.” — Ace Atkins, writer
“Deanie was so very private, but she often found herself in the uncomfortable position of speaking on behalf of the Faulkner family. Deanie loved to invite writers to gather in her home … around the table where Faulkner wrote. I, for one, feel privileged to have been a part of that. I’m sad, personally, because I’ll miss my friend. I’m sad for the literary world because Dean was the last person who still had new memories, new stories about Faulkner. Dean, very quietly, supported the efforts of artists and writers and folks trying to make Oxford a better place. I loved listening to Deanie tell a story. Nothing was quite like her whisper.” — Neil White, writer
“Right before Dean’s book came out she did an interview at Rowan Oak with Southern Living magazine. I asked her what her favorite room in the house was so we could do the interview from that room. She told me, ‘Whatever room Larry is in is my favorite room.’” — Bill Griffith, curator, Rowan Oak
When my husband and I started playing duplicate bridge in Oxford, Dean was one of the warmest and most inviting of the bridge players. We didn’t know a grand slam from a hole in the ground, but Dean always encouraged us to keep at it. We knew her for years before we realized that she was literary elite. She was always just Deanie to us – a wonderful lady who brought joy and light wherever she went. — Meaghin Burke, local bridge player
“June 15,2011. I emailed Dean, thanking her for her memoir and saying in part, ‘that it will stay with me longer than a Christmas orange. 50+ years and we’re in the Student Union Grill and I’m jumping on your neighbor’s horse bareback and Willie Morris reading to us The Fumble and Jimmy Buffett calling his mother as we drank around The Kitchen Table…You tolled the bell for me and I’m still breathing! If I ever make it back to Oxford again, I must see you.’
Dean replied within 15 minutes.
June 26, 2011 (on my Facebook) Knowing that you are dying and I on a mountain top in Malibu, my bell of love is tolling for us. In your email to me a week ago, you said, ‘Take care.’ I so regret not seeing you in Oxford last time. Oh my little Deanie, as we all pass on, my passing will be blessed in knowing you.
June 27, 2011 (on my Facebook) Larry and Family. I will be there at the gravesite as I was there 18 years ago, with Dean standing at her Mother’s grave and singing between two ladies of color, in full voice, “I Will Over Come, Someday”.” – Jimmy Hall, actor
“There are so many reasons to love and admire Deanie, but, as her friend, what always struck me was how she had never lost her child’s heart. How she always wanted to play.” – Joe Ann Marshall Allen, friend (July 28, 2011, Page 2A)