Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando educator Thomas Deen known for his bird dogs

BROOKSVILLE — Thomas "Bird Dog" Deen liked to get up before dawn, take his children and a pack of English pointers deep into the Hernando woods before dawn and wait.

Before long, the call of quail trilled high in the trees.

"You could hear them whistling," said Earl Deen, 57, Mr. Deen's son.

His wife, Dorothy, later fried the birds, seasoning them first with flour, salt and pepper, and served the dish with rice and gravy and buttermilk biscuits.

"I liked it better than I thought I would," said Lorenzo Hamilton, a retired football coach at Hernando High School, where Mr. Deen served as assistant principal from 1961 to 1973.

Mr. Deen, an administrator for the better part of 38 years with the Hernando County school system, died Feb. 24 after a short illness. He was 83.

His skill at training bird dogs earned him a following and a nickname. At his funeral Monday, friends and family remembered what he made of his birth name.

He grew up in Mississippi, a farmer's son who dropped out of high school to help save his father's cotton crop. He played football in college and believed in a strong handshake.

"He'd said, 'Don't try to overpower them but let them know you're a steady person,' " said son Earl, the principal of Pine Grove Elementary. "Your handshake says a lot about you."

He served as principal of Moton Elementary, Brooksville Primary and Hernando County's Adult Education Center before joining Hernando High as the school's first assistant principal. In an era of corporal punishment, liberally applied, Mr. Deen preferred reasoning with students.

"You might be in his office today in trouble. Tomorrow, you might be out there hunting with him," said former Hernando High student Tom Varn, now the assistant principal of Nature Coast Technical High.

Mr. Deen was proud of his Southern roots. If you knew him, you knew he was from Mississippi and that he loved hunting quail. He was loyal to his friends.

"Even though it might have been unpopular for him to be my friend at the time, he never wavered from that," said Hamilton, who is black, of the white Deen. Hamilton came to Hernando High as area schools were being integrated.

Earl Deen learned the lessons his father taught.

"Don't lie. Do the right thing. Be the kind of friend people won't be ashamed to claim. Be the kind of person who would walk across the street to shake somebody's hand and not hide from them. If it's not yours, don't mess with it."

When he sits down to eat, he repeats Mr. Deen's blessing:

Kind father, pardon our sins. Make us thankful for these and all other blessings that we receive from thee. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (717) 892-2248.


Thomas Earl Deen Sr.

Born: April 18, 1925.

Died: Feb. 24, 2009.

Survivors: wife Dorothy; daughter Lynn Hamon; sons Earl and Greg Deen; brother Olan Deen; sister Pam Rimby; and numerous nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

Hernando educator Thomas Deen known for his bird dogs 03/02/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 2, 2009 11:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  2. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  3. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
  4. Protest sparks Texas lawmaker threats of gun violence


    AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of protesters opposing Texas' tough new anti-"sanctuary cities" law launched a raucous demonstration from the public gallery in the Texas House on Monday, briefly halting work and prompting lawmakers on the floor below to scuffle — and even threaten gun violence — as tense …

  5. Photo gallery: 20 mugshots of pro athletes arrested in Florida - 1994 to 2017


    In light of today's arrest of Tiger Woods in Jupiter, Florida on DUI charges, here are 20 booking mugs of professional athletes who have been arrested in Florida, from 1994 (Jennifer …

    Desmond Bryant - 2005 - Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Desmond Bryant was arrested in Miami on charges of criminal mischief after allegedly "going to a neighbor's house inebriated and causing a commotion."