Dean Dunn Carlton died Saturday at her home in Pinetops after a lengthy illness.
Dean is survived by her mother, Mabel Bunting Dunn; her husband of 58 years, J. Phil Carlton; and daughters Deanna Drescher (John) and Elizabeth Trathen (Marcus) of Raleigh. Grandchildren, who called her “Mama Dean,” are Dean, Anne and Grace Drescher; and Kate and Jack Trathen.
Also, her brother Marshall Dunn (Judy) and their two children and six grandchildren survive. She also leaves behind several uncles and cousins. Her father, Francis Dunn, predeceased her in 2000.
Except for college years, Dean and Phil lived in small Pinetops all their lives. Every time they might have left, she had no desire. She loved her neighbors and relatives, and was especially close to her mother.
"We were raised only a few blocks apart but didn’t mix until I spotted her at a United Methodist youth meeting in 1955," Phil said. "Right before my eyes was the prettiest girl on earth. Right here. In Pinetops."
Dean was the valedictorian of her class at South Edgecombe High. She attended Meredith College and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1963. She and Phil were married in the summer of 1960. On their honeymoon, the Terry Sanford for Governor campaign tracked them down and asked Phil to return to help with a rally at the fairgrounds. Dean never complained and was always up for stuffing envelopes and licking stamps at campaign headquarters. Later she was a loyal supporter of Gov. Jim Hunt. She and Phil enjoyed traveling the state and re-connecting with old friends from the Sanford, Preyer and Hunt campaigns.
At UNC, with the birth of Deanna, Dean became a fulltime student and mother. Elizabeth was born three years later. In Pinetops, she was involved in anything that had to do with the children’s schools and activities and held about every office in the Pinetops United Methodist Church.
Dean was an unpretentious person. No false airs. She would attend any gathering she felt the occasion called for, but she’d rather be at home. She much preferred to start the day with the breakfast crowd at a Pinetops eatery.
At home, Dean was a proficient matron, wife and mother. Her home was her sanctuary; her yard, a challenge and joy. She loved the yard, trees and flowers. She could name every flower, plant and weed in the yard and knew exactly where each should go. She would walk 25 yards across a rain-soaked yard to pull up a weed no one else had seen. She loved animals and befriended all of them in Pinetops, and carried in her car a box of dog treats to hand out to her many canine friends.
Her love for her family was more important to her than anything. She loved her daughters and the men they married. She cherished her grandchildren and attended their many games, plays, concerts and recitals. As they got older, she texted and called to keep up with them. She gave each of them her book of recipes, "Here's What's Cooking at Mama Dean's House."
People from all over -- especially the caregivers who have spent so much time with her the last several years – say: “She is the sweetest lady I have ever known.” And that is the perfect word for Dean here: Sweet.
The family wants to thank all her caregivers for tending to and loving Dean in her last days.
At Dean’s request, there will be no formal services. She will be buried by her family in the Pine View Cemetery with assistance of the Reverends Jesse Baker and Alan Felton. Family and friends are invited to the residence at 301. N. 9th St., Pinetops, NC. on Tuesday from 2 to 5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Carlton Family Foundation, PO Box 67, Pinetops, NC 27864, or Pinetops United Methodist, PO Box 13, Pinetops, NC 27864.
Arrangements are entrusted to Carlisle Funeral Home, Tarboro, NC. Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.carlislefuneralhome.com