Veteran Pinning Ceremony Honors Dean Larimer of Lenox

How much does Dean Larimer love his country? He lied about his age so he could join the Navy.

Willard Dean Larimer, known as “Dean” to his friends and family, was honored September 29, 2021, with a veteran “pinning” ceremony, arranged by the EveryStep Hospice team in Mount Ayr.  

A lifelong Iowan, Dean was born September 15, 1925. Growing up in Des Moines, Dean attended what would later be known as Valley High School and recalls having a winning football season the last year he was in high school.

Dean left high school before he graduated to join the Navy. He lied about his age so he could join the American forces in World War II.

Dean served on the U.S.S. Lexington (CV16 Blue Ghost) from 1943 to 1945. The U.S.S. Lexington and her attached Air Groups received the Presidential Unit Citation for participating in the following operations and raids in response to Japan's attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor in 1941:

  • 1943 - Tarawa, Wake, Gilberts, Marshall Islands.
  •  1944 - Marianas, Palau, Bonins, Philippines, Yap, Ryukyus, Formosa, Luzon, China Sea, Ulithi, Woleai, New Guinea.
  • 1945 - Japan, Bonins, Ryukyus, Wake, Marianas, China Sea, and Tokyo.

As a result of his service, Dean also received Letters of Commendation authorizing him to wear Commendation Ribbons and Operation Stars For the following operations: Gilbert Island Operation 1943, Marshall Islands Operation 1943, Asiatic-Pacific Raids 1944, New Guinea Operation 1944, Marianas Operation 1944, China Sea Operation 1945 and Raids on Tokyo 1945. He also received the American Area Service Ribbon.

Dean was a gunner’s mate for a 40-caliber anti-aircraft gun. When his ship was hit with a torpedo off the coast of Vietnam, Dean was thrown into the gun, injuring his knees. He was medically discharged from the Navy in 1945.

When Dean was a 4-year-old, he became friends with a neighbor girl named Gwen. He married that girl after returning from war and they spent 71 happy years together. They lived in Creston and then settled in Lenox, where they raised two sons, Terry and Dick.

Dean worked as a mechanic, painter and carpenter. He built and remodeled many houses in Lenox and the surrounding areas and has been a member of the American Legion for 75 years.

EveryStep’s veteran pinning ceremonies provide honor, dignity and recognition to veterans at the end of their lives. Family members and friends are often on hand with EveryStep staff and volunteers during the celebratory events, which include the Pledge of Allegiance, the awarding of a veteran service flag pin, the singing of “God Bless America,” a reading of "What is a Veteran," and the presentation of a certificate of recognition.

EveryStep’s Veteran-to-Veteran program is a special service pairing veterans who are volunteers with hospice patients who have served our country. A specialized Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer can provide companionship while talking, reading and sitting with patients. Veterans bring a unique skill set to help patients find peace at the end of life.

To learn about volunteering opportunities across the 44 counties and many communities served by EveryStep Hospice, please visit If you or someone you know needs care or support, complete the confidential "Find Care" form at  The form sends a message to EveryStep staff who then follow up with a phone call. It's a great way to start a conversation and get answers with no cost or commitment. EveryStep can connect the individual to its own programs and services that may be helpful, as well as services offered by other organizations and providers in the community. Visit to get started.

Pictured above: (Front row) Jake Dailey, WWII Navy vet and EveryStep veteran volunteer; Willard Dean Larimer, Navy WWII vet. (Back row) Gary O’Daniels, Army Vietnam vet and EveryStep veteran volunteer; Terry Larimer, Air Force Vietnam vet and son of patient; Virgil Ebrecht, Army Desert Storm and EveryStep veteran volunteer.