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Russell Buster recalled vividly the last words the late Grant Dean said to him before they launched their Adult Soapbox Derby cars down Third Street a decade ago in Marble Falls.
“It was Mustang Sally (Dean) against the Waterhole Special. When we did race, his last words were, ‘See you at the bottom of the hill, brother,’” said Buster, a fellow developer, former city councilman and previous owner of RBar & Grill.
“I can remember he won by inches. He was an intense competitor. He could laugh when he lost and had a lot of fun when he won,” Buster added. “We shared 30 years of the Marble Falls experience. It won’t be the same without him.”
Dean, 66, died Thursday, Nov. 5, after losing a battle with cancer, surrounded by loved ones in his home in Burnet County.
The local legacy he forged began about three decades ago and eventually evolved into the cultivation of several successful subdivision developments, a number of real estate ventures and a versatile construction business, under the umbrella of Cactus Properties.
“We both came to Marble Falls roughly the same time, had kids about the same age. I had a number of properties downtown,” Buster said. “Grant bought most of those properties and fixed them up. He opened Lorraine’s (now Brass Hall), Brenda’s (Morris skincare) business and Darci’s (Deli).”
The most recent venture, included The Highlander office, along the same row of businesses on Third Street.
His love of the local community also manifested itself in his co-founding of the decades-old Adult Soapbox Derby and the current Marble Falls Main Street Association.
Dean also co-founded and was vice president of Mission Marble Falls, based out of the Boys and Girls of the Highland Lakes facility, which feeds 35 to 70 citizens three days per week.
Considered a committed conservationist, he founded Highland Lakes Clean Air, which became Protect Texas, to press for oversight on the influx of the aggregate industry and quarries throughout the Hill Country.
Grant was also an original member and supporter of the Hill Country 100 Man Give A Damn project which gathered tens of thousands of dollars for local non-profit organizations.
Dean’s son Travis Dean expressed how every corner of the community has reached out to the family to offer condolences and reminisce about a man considered “larger than life.”
“We’ve had calls of support – everyone from a painter to a state representative,” Travis Dean said. “It runs the gamut of impact that he had on people, on the community.”
Considered gregarious and hard-working, Grant Dean was also described as a fun-loving individual by friends and loved ones.
“Grant was inspired first and foremost by his sons and grandchildren and worked hard to assure their future was secure,” Travis Dean said. “He supported his family by inspiring them to work hard, love well and laugh often.”
Travis Dean added his loved ones would miss, “his huge smile and loud laugh. He was always the life of the party and that void will be felt for years.”
His contributions are expected to be felt by generations to come.
“His company has built many custom homes and important structures throughout the Hill Country, including Trinity Episcopal Church,” said Rector Dave Sugeno of Trinity Episcopal Church of Marble Falls, 909 Avenue D. “He is responsible for almost all the buildings we have here at the church. He offered all the gifts he had generously.
“His special gift was construction. That’s what he offered this church. We have a beautiful facility thanks to him,” Sugeno added. “He leaves behind a great legacy. He left behind buildings that are going to be standing long after we’re gone.”
Along with his work, he was an avid sporting clay competitor, fisherman, gardener, supported live music ventures, even coaxing musicians to downtown Marble Falls.
“We don’t have that much control over the length of our days, but we have control how we spend those days,” Sugeno said. “He lived his life in service of others. He lived those days in joy.”
Buster added that Dean will be remembered as a pivotal part in transforming the heart of the Highland Lakes.
“He had several subdivisions that he put together. He was a major builder and developer, willing to take risks and back it up. He worked his way out of the hard times when they came and kept building for the future,” Buster said. “I don’t think the progress that downtown has made would have come about without Grant being involved. He was a very large part of it for the last 25 years.”
Memorial services for Dean are pending.