Dean Blegen had been a fixture of Community Mail Room 410, or CMR, 410 in the Amelia Earhart Center in Wiesbaden since it was stood up nearly 20 years ago.
During that time, he touched the lives of thousands of people who have been a part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District for the last two decades as well as the additional U.S. agencies that call the AEC home.
People knew him as a caring, friendly face who made sure they always got their mail and did whatever he could to brighten people’s days.
“Throughout the year he would do small things to show the customers he cared,” said longtime friend and mailroom colleague Aaron Schroeder in a message he shared with the Europe District team. “On Valentine's day he always brought roses to give out when people picked up mail. At Christmas he would dress up as Santa and deliver gifts and candies throughout the building.”
Overseas mailrooms like CMR 410 at the AEC take on a special level of importance since they serve personnel who greatly rely on them for personal and official mail and packages to keep close relationships with loved ones around the world. . He understood this critical aspect of the mailroom, and therefore he was able to have such a valuable impact on the lives of personnel at the AEC over the years. Many had even taken to calling him “the Mayor of the AEC.”
These deep connections with people, co-workers and friends made it even more shocking when earlier this year when he suddenly fell critically ill in late February and subsequently passed in early March.
“Since his passing, there has been an outpouring of support from Army leaders, previous District commanders, previous District employees, current District employees and friends throughout the region,” Europe District Commander Col. Pat Dagon said during Dean’s memorial service, hosted virtually by Europe District on March 17. “Dean’s impact over the past 40 years is significant and it’s lasting.”
Blegen was a native of Stoughton, Wisconsin and joined the Army fairly soon after high school. He served 20 years in the Army, including multiple tours in Germany where he would marry his Sigrid and eventually start a family after retiring as a staff sergeant.
In addition to his 20 years of service in the Army, Dean was approaching and additional 20 years of service with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the AEC mailroom.
U.S. Army Europe and Africa Chaplain Lt. Col. David W. Meyer spoke during the ceremony and said that in learning about Dean from his family and friends he came to understand that service was a core element of what made Dean who he was.
“He was certainly dedicated to the service of others and he loved people,” Chaplain said. “Mr. Blegen spent 20 years serving as a Soldier… When he retired from the Army, he didn’t stop serving. He merely changed his area of service. He went to work for the postal service here in Wiesbaden, serving the people that were here ensuring they had what they needed through the post.”
He noted that service extended beyond his career as well.
“He served his community in many ways, sharing his energy and his passion and his caring for those who struggled,” Chaplain said. “Truly a compassionate individual. How many people do food drives for animal shelters? That’s a beautiful thing. Truly an individual who understood a life of service, a life laid down in service for others.”
Dean’s family participated virtually and recorded a video that was incorporated, with his son Christopher Blegen speaking for the family. He thanked the District for the kind words and stories that had been shared with the family since his recent sudden passing and said they brought the family comfort.
“Thank you so much for all of the kind words that have reached us via post, via e-mail and via Facebook,” Christopher said during the memorial. “We were overwhelmed with the amount of messages that have reached us and all of the great stories from you of where and when in your lives you met our Dad and had a part of your journey with him.”
In his message to Europe District teammates, Schroeder reminded people that while they may have known Dean from the mailroom, he was at his heart a family man.
“He raised three amazing sons here in Germany with his wonderful wife Sigrid,” Schroeder wrote. “His work space was festooned with pictures of his kids and family. He had Stickers on his car from his son’s baseball team. Every inspection they would make him take it off, and the next day it was right back on there.”
Though he was much more than his job, he still took his job and his duty very seriously and the success of the mailroom operations was very important to him, including those inspections.
“Even after failing ill the only thing on his mind was how the CMR was doing,” Schroeder said. “When I talked to him he kept asking if everything was okay at the mailroom and that he was glad he had good support to keep it going.”
Dean guided the mailroom to passing 79 straight quarterly U.S. Postal Service inspections during his time with Europe District. The day after his memorial service would have been an opportunity for him to reach 80 straight quarterly inspections, meaning a full 20 straight years of excellence in his mailroom.
The inspection took place with no delay and his team made sure the mailroom passed that March 18th inspection as a small tribute to Dean.