William Lawrence Dehen
May 17, 1922 - October 1, 2013
"Bill," as friends and family knew him, was the type of man you hope to be. The son of German immigrants, Bill was born on the living room floor of their home in east Portland. He grew up during the years of the Great Depression; for Bill Dehen, life was full of opportunity, not guarantees.
After Pearl Harbor, Bill joined the US Navy and served as a torpedo man 2nd class in the Pacific theater. The war informed Bill's perspective on life in a very profound way. After the Peace he started work at the family business, Dehen Knitting Company. In July of 1948 he married the love of his life, Lou Ann; they celebrating 65 years of marriage in the summer of 2013.
Dehen was a family business, and that concept of family influenced the way Bill treated the more than 100 employees that worked for him. Customers and employees alike believed in the product, yes, but they also believed in the man. The honesty, humility, and dedication that were the hallmarks of Bill's life were apparent in every aspect of Dehen's business. Bill worked for and ran the company across five decades, and even in retirement, remained a trusted source of shrewd advice and honest perspective. Bill alway said, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well."
He wouldn't call himself a businessman. Bill was a family man who used business as a way to provide, support, and teach. Bill is remembered as a man of integrity and honor, and as a man who served. He served his country, his employees, his customers, his children and grandchildren, and above all, his beloved wife Lou Ann. He wasn't out to make money; he was out to make a life for himself and his family. It just so happened that, along the way, he made some damn fine sweaters.
November 6, 1926 - March 3, 2018
Ask me about the company, and I’ll tell you about the family—ask me about the family, and I’ll tell you about Lou Ann. Bill Dehen may have steered the ship, but she was his North Star.
Lou Ann met Bill on a blind date the spring of 1948, and married him later that year. They welcomed their first child in 1949, and by 1963, had added nine more. We’ll let you do the math—suffice it to say: life comes at you fast.
An avid reader, exuberant dancer, and spirited friend, Lou Ann’s passion for life was infectious. She was always up for a good party, ready to laugh with old friends or make new ones. Lou Ann’s generous and accepting love was apparent to all who knew her, and she possessed a gentle yet abiding strength that centered the bustling Dehen household. She was also fond of Manhattans.
It is said that the most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother, and by this measure, Bill was more than up to the task. The happy couple treasured 65 years in this life together, raising a family, supporting their community and, in their later years, traveling the world. Lou Ann was a woman of deep faith, and believed that their travels together were never over, just on pause. That sort of thing is above our pay grade, but what we do know for certain is that few couples get as much out of life as Bill and Lou Ann got out of theirs.