Dean History: Minnie Karstens Dean- Dean - WI

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Dean Medical Group's History

A Tour Through The Decades

Dean History: Minnie Karstens Dean

  • Minna Karstens Dean's love of wearing purple led to the selection of purple as Dean Clinic's official color.
  • Minna Karstens Dean married her childhood sweetheart Joe Dean in 1905.
  • Joe Dean holds his sons JC and Frank in this photo dated 1909-10.
  • Minna Dean holds sons JC and Frank, circa 1910.
  • Minna Dean and daughter Janet add some style to a cruise.
  • Joe and Minna Dean pose with their grandchildren.
  • Joe and Minna Dean are shown in this photo from approximately 1940.

Minnie Karstens Dean

On August 16, 1905, Dr. Joseph Dean married his childhood sweetheart, Minnie Karstens. The Karstens family had emigrated from Mecklenburg, Germany, in 1865. Minnie was born in Madison on April 6, 1878. German was the primary language spoken in the Karstens home. “Minna,” as she preferred to be called, learned to speak English starting in first grade. She later attended the University of Wisconsin.

After Minna and Dr. Joe married in 1905, they moved in with her father, Carl, and lived in the Karstens’ home at 201 West Gorham Street. Carl, like Joe’s father, was a carpenter. His shop was adjacent to their Gorham Street home. In 1913, the family moved to a small frame house home at 636 East Gorham Street and replaced it with a new brick residence in 1917.

Purple for a reason

Minna and Joe raised three children: Joseph, Frank and Janet. Joe so adored Minna that his children commonly lobbied their mother first if they wanted their father’s permission for something because he would “do anything for her.”

Their granddaughter, Sally Millar, described Minna as “a grand lady who was prim and proper.” She often appeared in public wearing a stylish hat, gloves and an elegant purple outfit.  Her preference for purple apparel, an unusual color choice at the time, eventually led Dean Clinic to adopt purple as its signature color.

She wore many figurative hats, too

Minna assumed the many roles of a doctor’s wife in those days. In addition to raising children and managing the home, she participated in several civic organizations, including the Madison Civics Club and the PTA, for which she was president.

During World War II, Minna was one of the first women to join the Gray Ladies chapter at St. Mary’s Hospital. This organization was part of a nationwide Red Cross initiative to offer First Aid training to community members in an effort to help local hospitals left short-staffed by the war. From that initial group of dedicated volunteers in Madison, St. Mary’s first auxiliary was formed in 1945. Minna continued to work with the auxiliary and volunteered with the Dane County Medical Auxiliary as well.

Philanthropic tributes

Minna outlived her husband, who died in 1943 at age 64, as well as her son, Joseph “J.C.” Dean, who died in 1959 after a career as a Madison physician, too. Well aware of what they meant to the medical community, Minna honored them by establishing the Dean Memorial Library at St. Mary’s Hospital in 1951 and the Joseph Dean Scholarship at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1960. Minna passed away on October 29, 1971.

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