Dean L. Gustavson, World War II Pilot

, ca. 1969

Dean L. Gustavson was a renowned architect and pilot.  In this video, shot in Dean’s St. George home in 2007, he tells a group of young men about his life experiences, and the lessons he found to be most valuable in his life.

Following is the obituary published in September, 2011 when Dean passed away:

Dean L. Gustavson

1924 ~ 2011

Dean Leonard Gustavson died peacefully at home on September 19th, 2011 in the arms of his wife, Vonda (married December 2008). Dean’s family had the pleasure of a last weekend with him before his passing. Dean was born to loving parents, Leona and Ernest Gustavson, on June 26th, 1924 in Salt Lake City, Utah. On April 28, 1944, Dean married his lovely bride, Barbara Louise Knight, in the midst of the terrible conflict of World War II; their marriage was later solemnized in the Salt Lake LDS Temple on August 29, 1944. At just 19 years old, Dean was commissioned in the Army Air Corps as a B-17 and B-24 pilot. He flew dozens of weather reconnaissance missions over the treacherous North Atlantic. He also flew Mosquitos, P-51s and P-38s in the European Theatre. Barbara was his steadfast and loving support on the home front as they faced repeated heart-wrenching separations, never knowing his fate from day-to-day as that War raged on.

Following the War, Dean went to Berkeley on the GI Bill and, with Barbara’s support, obtained a graduate degree in architecture. Dean had a phenomenal architectural career as the lead designer for Gustavson Associates – a leading architectural firm in the nation. In the early 1960’s, he worked with political and religious leaders to envision the Second Century Plan, elements of which continue to be implemented in the redesign of the Utah State capital city. Dean’s design work – which included the University of Utah Engineering Center, many commercial office buildings and schools, private homes and the 1970’s redesign of the University of Utah Medical Center hospital – won numerous local and national awards, including a national design award named in his honor. Dean’s professional qualifications and vision led to the honor of becoming a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1970. About the same time, he became President of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) during which time NCARB, under his leadership, pioneered nationwide reciprocity of teaching, testing and licensure standards.

In 1960, Dean designed his glass and steel Holladay home, which won a national design award. Here, Dean and Barbara raised their children: Mark, Lisa and Clint. Dean was a devoted husband and enjoyed a 63-year-long love affair with his beautiful and loving bride, Barbara. Together, they were devoted parents, took their children on many fabulous vacations around the world, and offered their children every imaginable cultural and educational opportunity. Dean encouraged his children to dream big and to back their dreams with hard work. Growing up with Dad was all about Possibility. In 1986, Dean (with the help of his son, Clint) restored a World-War II vintage Stearman Biplane to better-than-museum condition and, well into his 80’s, Dean could be seen flying aerobatics over the skies of Southern Utah. A strong interest in astronomy led him to design and build an observatory in the backyard of his Holladay home where he spent many years peering at, and photographing, planets and deep-space objects. In the late 1980’s, Dean designed a stunning vertically-sculpted home in St. George, where he and Barbara spent their retirement years. At the same time, his architectural consulting firm managed the design and redevelopment of the UC Berkeley and UC Davis campuses.

Dean and Barbara were heartbroken at the death of their son, Clint, in 1998 – they, and their children and family endured this tragedy with dignity and faith in Jesus Christ and in the eternality of all close relationships. Dean was exquisitely attentive to his sweet and patient Barbara through her long, final illness, leaving no stone unturned in her unceasing care. Following Barbara’s death in 2007, Dean (at age 84) had the marvelous good fortune to meet and marry his second wife, Vonda Williams, with whom he enjoyed fabulous vacations and a deeply loving marriage. Dean and Vonda were, and are, a blessing to each other. Dean daily expressed gratitude to Vonda for the joy of their marriage and for her devotion to him in his brief final illness. Dean approached his death with the fighting spirit which characterized his entire life. He loved life, could not imagine giving up and, within two days of his passing, was making plans for Christmas with Vonda, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dean is preceded in death by his first wife, Barbara and their son, Clint. He is also pre-deceased by his sisters, Alice (Bob, deceased) and Lila (Parker), his sister-in-law, Rae and her husband, Clifford (Barbara’s brother). He is survived by his wife, Vonda, his children, Lisa, Mark (Janet) and by his grandchildren, Jenny (and her son, Julien), Steve (his wife, Candice and son, “little” Parker), Eric (and his wife, Holly), his sister, Elsie (Keith, deceased), his much-treasured brother-in-law, “big” Parker, and by several nieces and nephews as well as many friends, both in Salt Lake and in St. George.

We, his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, wish to express our love and gratitude to Dean for showing the way toward a life of optimism, love and joy. The sky was, and is, the limit for Dean. Dear Husband, Daddy and Grandpa, fly high until we meet again.

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