2015 U.S. Hall of Fame Player Inductee

Dean Johnson by Team Boggan

            I’ll begin with this shot of Dean Johnson and his Speed Graphic camera taken 60 years ago. He was based in Germany, an Army Stars and Stripes photographer whose photos were sometimes used by The Associated Press and United Press International. In the Service, or—after 2 and ½ years—out, Dean always seemed to have a camera, was always aware of the historical importance of a person—it might be himself—appearing in a photo.

            Thanks to a chance find in 1957 of Coleman Clark’s 1948 “Little Sports Library” table tennis book, Dean sought out the New York club that the champions he’d read about called home and learned to play the game, abetted by lessons from World Doubles Champion Jack Carrington when in 1958 Dean was in England.

            Living in New Jersey, working at an ad agency, Dean was able in the late 1950’s to commute to New York City to play at the Broadway and 96th St. Courts and to go to nearby tournaments—enough of them anyway to get a repeat U.S. National Ranking in the Top 40. In the 1960 Massachusetts Open, he was a finalist in the Mixed with Leah Neuberger, and at the 1960 New York and Fort McHenry Opens, with and against Sol Schiff, he had Men’s Doubles successes. Same in New Jersey after he’d joined clubs in Cranford and Fairlawn. In the 1961 State Championships he defeated 9-time Champion Bill Cross, but lost in the final in 5 to John Kilpatrick. Here’s Dean getting some 1959-1962 coverage.

            In 1962 at the Canadian Open Dean meets Helga Bultemeier, an expatriate young woman who’d been a Junior Champion in Hamburg, Germany. Helga was now one of Canada’s best—in the 1963 Montreal Golden Cup Championships, she was runner-up to the Canadian #1, Denise Hunnius. Dean, attracted to her, privately checked her out with New Yorker Marty Doss, also from Hamburg where he’d played in some of the same junior tournaments Helga had. Dean was favorably impressed to hear Marty say she was “always well-dressed and was always with her father.” He tells us that, “Despite the fact we were living 400 miles apart, Helga and I began a flurry of correspondence and also arranged meetings at tournaments.” After many a round trip from New Jersey to Canada, Dean married Helga on July 25, 1964.”

            After Helga won the N.J. Closed Women’s Singles in 1965, she and Dean gave up tournament play, though Dean continued to enjoy doing exhibitions with Schiff. Years later, Dean would relive old times with Sol, and contribute to an hour-long video of his extraordinary seven-decades career.

I also note Dean and Marty Riesman’s long friendship—here are photos of them taken 30 years apart. A special exhibition Dean did in 1975 with Marty raised $2,500 to benefit the children of a family in Kinnelon, N.J. whose parents were killed in a fire. In return for doing this exhibition, Marty received from Dean a promotional brochure that included the famous Reisman logo. Also well known is this 1966 drawing Dean did of Marty for the USTTA magazine Table Tennis Topics. At the 2007 Nationals, they’d be playing doubles together.

In the new millennium , we’ll see from The Collector, a many-issued publication put out under the guidance of ITTF Museum Curator Chuck Hoey, an historic photo of Schiff, Dick Miles, Lou Pagliaro, Marty, and in the background Dean who’d facilitated this last get- together. When these great players died, all within a relatively short time, Dean was ready with tributes. Here he is at the 2010 Hall of Fame Banquet delivering Reisman’s In Memoriam tribute to Miles.

            Like Si Wasserman, Dean found other interests, took an extended sabbatical from table tennis. Instead, tennis became his family’s sport, and, as the years went by, Dean, Helga, their son Eric, and their daughters Karen and Kristina all excelled, won championships. Meanwhile, Dean and Helga continued to pair together quite well to establish their own successful ad agency.  “Without Helga,” said Dean, “the agency could not have functioned. She exhibited persistence and skill as bookkeeper, media director, bill collector, and gained computer competence—all in addition to raising three children, running a household, cooking and gardening—and making time for everyone’s tennis—thus allowing me the freedom to concentrate on servicing customers.”

             But after these productive years, with a move away from New Jersey, Dean couldn’t resist becoming in 2004 a founding member of the Newport News, VA Table Tennis Club. And, continuing to be as energetic as ever, he busies himself with Table Tennis Hall of Fame activities—does power-point presentation work that helps Tim Boggan screen his Introductions to inductees at annual Hall of Fame Banquets, and creates poster-boards for the annual Nate Wasserman Memorial Scholarship Awards.

Meanwhile, utilizing text and photos from early volumes of Tim’s History of U.S. Table Tennis combined with his own independent work involving new contacts, new interviews, and new photos—as with Hall of Famer Sally Green Prouty or Marty’s friend, Sir Harold Evans, esteemed author and former President of the  Random House publishing firm— he creates a six-volume set called American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age, 1931-1966).Tim wrote a Foreword to Vol. V in this series, and dedicated his own Vol. XIII to Dean.

Indeed, we see Dean in so many photos, and so many places, that when, after Marty’s death, a short 2 and ½ minute film on him is being considered and, as Director Bon Duke and Franck Raharinosy acting as the young hustler are looking for someone to play the older iconic self-promoter, who gets the nod  but Dean, and out to L.A. he goes and is stylishly outfitted to play the part.arold EvanShAROLD eVANS 

             Dean, living in Virginia Beach, worked to help get the 2011 Nationals there and became Chairman of the local Organizing Committee for the tournament. Here’s the home page of the Nationals’ website designed by Jacob Wells showing the impressive venue. Adept at marketing communications, Dean worked tirelessly to promote all aspects of the event, including “An Evening of Table Tennis Talent, Techniques and Tricks” Program, and received in gratitude “Ambassador Extraordinaire” recognition from the City of Virginia Beach. Here he is, grandly outfitted, gamely going along with the idea that the Local Organizing Committee serves the first ball of the tournament. (Will Lily Zhang kill it?)  Another surprise: he and Helga received these baked goods, eaten then but immortalized now. They come directly from Adoni Maropis’s mother’s warm hands in appreciation for the friendship Dean and Helga had shown her son at these Nationals. More congratulatory eats comin’ up in this photo. Dean’s fellow hard-batters are celebrating Adoni’s victory (clockwise from left: Si Wasserman, Ty Hoff, Dean, Adoni, Dean Norman, Jay Turberville, Scott Gordon, and Jeff Johnston).

            There in Virginia Beach Dean continues to be involved in Ping Pong Charity work. He’s a founding member and on the Board of Directors of the Table Tennis For Charity Foundation. The 2015 7th annual Ping Pong for Charity Celebrity SLAMfest event and recreational tournament, held in Sept.,  raised over $75,000 for four charity partners—Alzheimer’s Association, Vanguard Landing, Parkinson’s, and People in Need. Total raised to date: $323,000. Two months later, Dean with Dr. Scott Sautter was part of a retired-community program promoting the therapeutic value of Ping Pong for Life.

            Dean not only promotes and presents awards at clubs, schools, and tournaments, as he did here at our 2012 Nationals, but he’s an active player as well. At the May, 2012 Virginia Senior Games he was the Over 80’s Singles Champion and also took the gold in the Over 70’s Mixed with Barbara Kaminsky. A couple of years later, he and George Brathwaite will be the U.S. Over 80 Doubles Champions.        

            As a member of the ITTF Veterans Committee, Dean was among those USATT representatives who went to Suzhou, China during the 2015 World Singles Championships to bid, successfully, that the 2018 World’s Veterans Championships (WVC) be held in Las Vegas. In the first photo, back-row standing from left, are our Mike Babuin; ITTF Veterans Committee Chair Reto Bazzi; our USTTA CEO Gordon Kaye; and Dean, with (sitting far right) WVC Committee Chair Hans Westling. Pictured in the second photo in Las Vegas are USTTA members of the WVC Organizing Committee: Dean, Dan Seemiller, Dave Sakai, Angelita Bengtsson, Gail Kendall, Stellan Bengtsson, and Gordon Kaye.

There have been more historic happenings with regard to our Hall of Fame and its supporters. Si Wasserman donated a whopping $300,000 to us in an estate plan. And Dean successfully led the Committee to find and establish the much talked-about but elusive HOF Museum site we’ve long wanted. In May, 2015, our President, Donna Sakai, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Ann Campbell’s spacious Triangle Table Tennis Club in Morrisville, N.C., did the honors. At this celebratory event, Dean, who with Triangle Director Mike Babuin had done much of the artifact positioning, acted as MC.

 Longtime ITTF Museum curator Chuck Hoey, seen here with Dean whose enthusiastic work he was well aware of, had to have been as proud of his fellow historian as we are tonight. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to our Hall the multi-talented Dean Johnson.