While we may have recently become familiar with the concept of parish stewardship, it’s something that members of our faith community have actually been living out for many years. Dean Rivard, a longtime parishioner at St. Jude Thaddeus, has shared his talents with our community for decades.
Born in 1933, Dean was raised on a 1,500-acre farm in Northern Minnesota. He lived on the farm until he was around 20 years old — at that time, he received a letter from the draft board inviting him to enter the U.S. Army. He did not want to join the Army, so instead, he drove about 110 miles away to the Navy recruiting station in Bemidji, Minn.
The Navy recruiter was not there, so Dean volunteered to join the Air Force in June 1954. He was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for basic training. It was the first time he had ever experienced such hot temperatures — 102 degrees. He trained as a jet fighter mechanic in Amarillo, Texas, where he graduated head of his class. He was invited to stay on and become an instructor at the tech school.
“I went through TIC, Technical Instructors Course, to become an instructor,” Dean says. “For the next four years, I was an instructor. It wasn’t too bad.”
After four years, Dean was turned over for a line of assignment. He was asked where he’d like to go.
“I said I’d like to go to Alaska,” he says.
But it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Dean was transferred to Japan. He then moved to Sheppard Air Force Base in June 1961. At this time, he moved to Burkburnett for the first time and met a group of like-minded friends.
“They were trying to get a church going,” Dean says.
In 1963, Dean was transferred back to Amarillo as an instructor, where he stayed until 1965. After that point, he ended up back in Burkburnett. At this time, the church was meeting in the Burkburnett Town Hall.
“I ended up on the building committee for the church,” Dean says. “We had decided on the church that was going to be fan-shaped, with seating areas looking at the altar.”
Dean helped with the initial designs for the future church in Burkburnett. Along with his Air Force career and planning a new Catholic community, Dean also spent time as a Cub and Boy Scout leader starting in 1963. He served the community’s children and guided them to become future leaders.
In 1967, Dean was transferred to Vietnam for a year. Upon his return in 1968, he found that the church in Burkburnett had been completed.
“It didn’t look anything like what I thought we were going to have, but they couldn’t afford what the building committee had wanted,” he says.
While the new church was not what he was involved in planning, it was complete. Once again, he became a building committee member as plans got underway to build a rectory on the church property for the priest.
A parish family purchased a used church bell in Mexico and delivered it to Dean’s driveway around 1969.
“Leona and I and the kids, worked together to clean the rust and everything off it,” Dean says. “I made a frame to fit the tower. So we put the bell up there, the frame and everything.”
This bell is still in use and is rung before every Mass at St. Jude Thaddeus in Burkburnett.
Dean retired from the Air Force in 1975 and went to work in the civil service. During these years, he served the church by maintaining the church grounds, the equipment used for grounds maintenance and building maintenance, and he made himself available for whatever the parish needed.
“I took care of anything and everything I could take care of,” Dean says. “I haven’t graduated from that yet.”
In 1995, Dean’s wife, Leona, suffered from a stroke. He cared for her until she passed away in 2019, and he continues to pray for her.
Dean felt he was called to use his skills to help the parish and its grounds in a manner that served our Lord. Dean continues to make himself available any time he can.
“I decided I would do whatever I could to help this parish out,” he says. “I’ve been taking care of the lawnmowers and such since the very beginning.”
Among his help with maintenance and even some electrical work, Dean was also a member of the St. Jude Council 7371 of the Knights of Columbus and served as treasurer for several decades — he is still a trustee of the council. Dean lives out his faith through daily prayer. Today, he still provides his time and talents to the parish.
“I’m a proud member of this church,” Dean says.
We thank Dean for his service to our parish and our country!