Luling resident and basketball great Dean Church was honored with a surprise gathering and fish fry with Grand Ridge Golf Club friends at the clubhouse on Friday night.
It followed ceremonies the previous weekend at a special awards ceremony in Ragin Cajun territory at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette when the No. 12 jersey he wore as an All-American was retired.
The pond behind his No. 13 home on Michael Drive was re-named "Dean’s Pond" at the Grand Ridge party as a special tribute to the basketball great. Church serves as secretary of the Grand Ridge board of directors and even though he is a very humble man he told me he got that job because he has "pretty legs."
Church is originally from Ashland, Ken. and ended up playing basketball from 1960-65 for the school known then as University of Southwestern Louisiana as a package deal to get his 6’7" brother Don to play also. Long term didn’t work out with his brother playing but 6’2’’, 150-pound Dean gained special fame with his passion for playing spectacular basketball. His record showed an 83.2 percent return on his free throws and a 57 percent field goal percentage. His wife Sally made her special pralines with No. 12 on them to give to well wishers at the Willowdale event. They met each other at the end of their school terms at USL and she only got to watch him play one game since she had never been a fan of sports.
After college and marriage, Dean and Sally moved to Akron, Ohio in November where he played amateur basketball with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. After Sally got pregnant with Dean Jr. she told her husband she wanted to move back closer to family so they moved to New Orleans in May where he worked briefly for Tenneco and then at Avondale Shipyards where he became vice president until his retirement. They have three children, Dean, David and Anne Church Graffagnini.
Daughter Anne said when she went to USL it was then that she found out how great her father had been as a basketball player because her college professors treated her with a special respect. Her dad is in the hall of fame and she and Dean Jr. remember as children when a basketball goal was set up in their driveway that "he never seemed to miss a shot."