Fellow Virginian Jimmy Dean dies at home; he was 81.

I saw this as a “breaking news” banner last night as I shut down my laptop but I wanted to get the story before I posted on it. Jimmy Dean – singer, actor, and businessman, died at his home just outside Richmond yesterday at the age of 81.

Born in 1928, Dean was raised in poverty in Plainview, Texas, and dropped out of high school after the ninth grade. He went on to a successful entertainment career in the 1950s and ’60s that included the nationally televised “The Jimmy Dean Show.”

In 1969, Dean went into the sausage business, starting the Jimmy Dean Meat Co. in his hometown. He sold the company to Sara Lee Corp. in 1984.

Dean lived in semiretirement with his wife, who is a songwriter and recording artist, on their 200-acre estate just outside Richmond, where he enjoyed investing, boating and watching the sun set over the James River.

Dean was a familiar face on TV commercials as I was growing up at home. His products duked it out with the Bob Evans brand back in Ohio and Indiana and I recall they were pretty good. I remember doing a double-take when I first saw him in the James Bond flick, “Diamonds Are Forever” with Roger Moore. (Is that the sausage guy with the super spy?!?)

Another thing about Dean that impressed me was the care he took with his finances. With Hollywood, Nashville, and Motown replete with stories of people who hit the big time, make boatloads of cash, and waste it away until they’re completely broke, Dean was a different tale. He went out of his way to plan for the future and provide for himself and his family.

Rest in peace, Jimmy Dean, and may God grant your family strength to endure.

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