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News of Otsego County

cooperstown democratic party

James Dean, Village Trustee, And Much More
FOUGHT FOR LAKEFRONT, BUILT SANTA’S COTTAGE, PLAYED CARDIFF GIANT

James Dean, Village Trustee, And Much More

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Retiring Trustee Jim Dean, with wife Eileen by his side, holds up a newspaper report from when he played the Cardiff Giant in CBS’
“Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” in 1982. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

James Dean, a Cooperstown village trustee since the Democratic sweep in 2012 began his party’s almost decade-long control of 22 Main St., is stepping down.

While known today as a trustee, Dean has been part of the civic landscape long before that:
• Since early 1981, when, recently arriving (in 1977) from New Jersey, he launched a fundraising drive to acquire Smith Ford’s Ed Smith’s property at the bottom of Pioneer Street to double the size of Lakefront Park. The drive failed and Smith eventually built a house there.
• Since December 1981, when future mayor Carol B. Waller, active in the 4Cs Christmas Committee, recruited Jim – a maker of fine staircases – to build Santa’s Cottage in Pioneer Park, which youngsters are still enjoying two generations later. “We manufactured everything,” he said, “the doors, the trim, the windows.”
• Since 1982, when a production executive knocked on the door of his workshop, in the parking lot behind what is now the NBT Bank branch, and asked him, “Have you heard of ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’.” He hadn’t, but he agreed to play the role of the Cardiff Giant on the CBS serial, publicizing the story nationwide.

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