When a local financial advisor sees a job that needs to be done, he turns into a community activist on the evenings and weekends.

Whenever Franklin native Dean Abplanalp sees a way to help out, he gets involved, such as by donating time and energy to Franklin’s annual holiday lighting festival or maximizing the investment plan for the Johnson County Community Foundation.

His many decades of good deeds and friendship haven’t gone unnoticed, and recently a few longtime friends and associates decided it was time for Abplanalp to get a special thank-you from the community.

As a result, in a surprise ceremony earlier this year, he was honored with the Sagamore of the Wabash award, given by the governor to honor outstanding service in the state.

“It was a complete surprise and probably the most humbling evening of my life — that’s how I describe it,” Abplanalp said.

Abplanalp’s father, Gilmore Abplanalp, now 92, got to hand the award to his son. Dean credits his dad with helping instill his sense of duty to the community.

Gilmore first came to Franklin in the 1950s, working as a civil engineer when U.S. 31 was being built. He owned a business for many years on the site that is now the Steak ‘N Shake restaurant in Franklin.

Because a special sense of community is one Dean grew up with, he has enjoyed continuing to foster it in the next generation. Although Franklin certainly has changed in the past nearly 60 years Dean has been here, he said the connection to neighbors is a value that hasn’t changed and that is still cherished in the community.

“You want to be a part of a nice community. I think Franklin is a great place to raise a family,” he said.

One of Dean’s community activities began for a very personal reason. He got into organizing the fund for the yearly holiday lighting ceremony as a tribute to his first wife, who passed away in 1999. He is now married to Dorcas Abplanalp.

Other organizations he’s served include the Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County and the Franklin Little League — a group he played baseball in as a kid and one he was glad to see his stepson involved in as well. He served on the Franklin College Board of Trustees for six years. In other educational volunteer work, he founded the Franklin Study Connection, serving as the first president in the elementary-age youth outreach organization.

“Being from a small town, I think that’s what makes a small town what it is — you end up being able to take a great deal of pride in the success of those organizations.

“It’s hard to find really good volunteer board members that take an active role in wanting those things to succeed, so you hope that during the time you’re there, you’re able to add value to the organization.”

Dean is a financial advisor at Raymond James. He is a graduate of Franklin Community High School and Ball State University and has worked in financial advising since 1980. He was nominated for the Sagamore by longtime family friends and clients, the Edward Hudock family.

“We knew about a lot of the things Dean was involved in, and he helped us a lot first when my mom was sick. She had Parkinson’s disease and my dad was alone. (Dean) just did a lot to support our family. He would take pies out to my dad,” said Paula Hudock Gallagher, who is also a former classmate of Dean’s and a longtime friend.

“He worked with my dad really closely, getting (the estate) set up for us,” she said. “Right before my dad died, he visited my dad a lot as a friend and made things so much easier for us kids.”

Besides her personal knowledge of Dean’s character, she’s followed his many good works in organizations such as the Interchurch Food Pantry.

“He helps organizations and non-profits have a really solid structure, which makes it so easy for people to volunteer,” she said. “You just have to use the word ‘integrity’ — just doing things the right way. He finds a need and makes it work.”

President and CEO of the Johnson County Community Foundation Gail Richards said Dean’s work is succinctly summed up by saying that he just loves and cares about his community.

“It’s not every day you drive by your office and see one of your board members cutting the grass — just because he wanted to,” she said.

Dean was an integral mentor to Richards when she first began at the foundation in 2009. He helped her understand the complex investments and financial processes that were unique to the organization.

“When I started in the spring of 2009, we’d just lost a lot of our money through investments because of the recession. He took it upon himself to re-vamp the way we were doing our investments. Since 2009 he’s saved us over $500,000 in fees,” she said.

Today, the foundation is on secure financial footing because of his work and dedication, she said.

Author photo
Anna Herkamp is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at aherkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2712.