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'The House That Dean Built'

Man instrumental in founding Meals On Wheels honored at banquet


Dean RossThe Cherokee County Meals on Wheels building is sometimes referred to as “The House That Dean Built.”

Dean Ross (pictured at right with Terry Dennis, Cherokee County Meals on Wheels Executive Director) was one of the first residents on board when the Gaffney Ministerial Association decided in 1983 to start a Meals on Wheels ministry to feed elderly residents. He has served on the board of directors as treasurer and member-atlarge for 27 years.

“Although we know that Dean Ross has done a lot of community service work, his service to Meals on Wheels has been our anchor. We would not be here or be as self-sufficient as we are were it not for his drive and dedication,” Meals on Wheels Director Terry Dennis said. “Through his extraordinary efforts, thousands of county residents over the years have been blessed with not only a meal, but with care and helpful concern.”

Those efforts were recently recognized when Ross was presented the Palmetto Patriot Award before 200 Meals on Wheels volunteers at an appreciation banquet at Buford Street United Methodist Church. The Palmetto Patriot Award is given by the lieutenant governor’s office and is the highest community service award. The award was given in recognition of the role Ross played in developing the Meals on Wheels community ministry.

Today, volunteers donate their time and vehicles to deliver 400 meals every day so senior citizens do not go hungry in Cherokee County. It’s part of a national effort to eliminate hunger among elderly residents by 2020. A recent study found 1 in 8 South Carolina senior citizens goes hungry every day.

Ross, 88, has made it a personal mission over the years to ensure Meals on Wheels continues to provide nutritious meals for the county’s elderly residents.

“When the present building was built in 1994, Dean not only spearheaded the project, but also laid tile, carpeting, hauled in and installed equipment, built cabinets, painted — putting his hand to every need,” Dennis said. “By so doing, we were successful at opening our doors on a building with no debt — mortgage-free.”

Ross has always had a close connection with the Gaffney community. He is the son of William Henry and Fanny Gaffney Ross. He is a direct descendant of city founder Michael Gaffney.

With the help of Pat Garnet, Ross received a scholarship to Clemson College to be band director when he was a student. He arranged “Tiger Rag,” the Clemson fight song which is still used today. His entire class was drafted into the military during his junior year at Clemson. He served with distinction and received several battlefield commissions during World War II. He graduated from Clemson in February 1948 and started work the next day as the Blacksburg High band director. He directed the Blacksburg High band to several state honors over the next 10 years before going into school administration.

Ross stayed with the military and retired from the National Guard after 30 years, reaching the rank of colonel. He spent 25 years as Cowpens High principal before retiring in 1983. He is an Eagle Scout, longtime Rotarian and has been a deacon for 62 years at First Baptist Church in Gaffney. He is a respected Cherokee County historian.

“Dean has meant a great deal to thousands of people in and around Gaffney over his lifetime of service,” Dennis said.