Dec. 23, 1928 — July 5, 2011
On Tuesday, July 5, 2011, Dean Frederick Unger passed away at his home in El Macero, surrounded by his family. He was 82.
He was born Dec. 23, 1928, at Sutter Hospital in Sacramento to Charles Frederick Unger and Velma Wyatt Unger.
Dean’s early development began in Sacramento’s Curtis Park where he attended Bret Harte Grammar School. He had a black cocker spaniel, Rastus, that he loved and showed in the Sacramento Dog Show. Dean clearly recalled riding in a rowboat down the street with two best friends during a flood in Curtis Park in the early 1930s.
From Bret Harte Grammar School, Dean advanced to the California Junior High School and then to McClatchy High School, where he played football and was the Student Body President. After graduation from high school, Dean attended the University of California Berkeley (Cal).
Dean’s father, Charles F. Unger, graduated from Ames College in Iowa and was an architect in his early career. He started the highly respected Unger Construction Company in Sacramento. His father’s dedication to the building industry greatly influenced Dean to enroll in the UC Architecture program. At Cal, Dean joined his brother, Wyatt, an engineering student, who had recently returned from World War II after serving with the Navy “CBs” in Okinawa.
Architecture proved to be the path to happiness for Dean and the year 1950 proved to be a landmark year. This year marked the acceptance of his marriage proposal to Peggy and his acceptance to be one of 10 members to attend the Architectural Graduate School at UC Berkeley.
Upon Dean’s graduation from Cal with a master’s degree in architecture, he volunteered to serve in the Air Force during the Korean War. He took a battery of tests and qualified to be a second lieutenant. After basic training at Lackland Field in Texas, Dean was sent to Patrick Air Force Base, a support facility for the Infant Missile Test Program at Cape Canaveral, Fla. At the end of the war, Dean returned to Sacramento to work as a draftsman for two fine men, Ken Rickey and Fred Brooks; Their stewardship helped define the ethical importance that is so meaningful to the practice of architecture.
In 1959, Dean made the decision to become a sole practitioner by establishing Dean F. Unger, AIA Inc. With his wife, Peggy, and their three children, Evan, Lynne and Bruce, Dean developed a loyal clientele. His relationship with long-time local residents and the outstanding reputation of his father and his brother, Wyatt Unger, helped him build his business.
While growing his company, Dean became active in local circles. He served as president of the Central Valley Chapter of The American Institute of Architects. He also was a member of the Sacramento City Housing Appeals Board and the first Sacramento County Parks and Recreation Commission, which coined the name “Discovery Park” and started the American River Parkway right-of-way. Dean served on the Crocker Art Gallery Advisory Board as well. During his terms of public service, Dean’s architectural practice grew and produced award-winning designs.
The high-point of his professional service came when California Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed Dean to the state Board of Architectural Examiners. Dean sat on the board for 12 years, serving four years as board president. During that period, California was producing more architects than any other state. As president, Dean signed more certificates for architects than anyone in the world, a feat of which he was very proud.
In 1982, Dean was awarded a fellowship in the American Institute of Architects by his peers. During his tenure on the state Board of Architectural Examiners, and as a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Board, and as a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Dean chaired the group to formulate the National Architect Design Exam, as well as the “Exam for General Knowledge of the Practice of Architecture” during the 1970s.
Up until a month before his death, Dean continued to practice architecture through his company. The firm, which has been in business for more than 50 years, has earned over 40 design awards. Dean F. Unger, AIA has more than 2,000 successful design and construction projects to its credit. Some of Dean Unger’s most notable work included the Yolo County Administration Center in Woodland, the Tuolumne County Administration Building in Sonora, the Teichert Corporate Headquarters, the Point West Executive Park and the Farm Credit Banks in Sacramento, the Gold River Executive Center in Gold River, the Aspen Neighborhood, Fifth & G Plaza, the UC Davis Faculty Club and the Veterans’ Memorial Center in Davis. Before his death he had been actively planning and designing a multi-use project to be built on family-held acreage along the Sacramento River in West Sacramento’s Bridge District.
Dean’s younger son, Bruce F. Unger, AIA, a graduate of the UC Berkeley Architecture Program, has served as CEO of Dean F. Unger, AIA Inc. for the past 10 years. Under the leadership of Bruce F. Unger, the firm continues Dean’s legacy of design excellence.
Dean co-founded the Sudwerk Brewery in Davis in 1990. The brewery has received many national and international awards over the years for its outstanding beer, including just recently another gold medal for its craft Pilsner at the 2011 California State Fair.
Dean was incredibly fortunate to combine his love of work and family. Besides working alongside his son Bruce for more than 30 years, he partnered with his daughter Lynne Unger Yackzan in multiple development projects for 25 years and mentored and invested in his eldest son, Dr. Evan C. Unger’s Tucson, Ariz.-based Biotechnology Companies. In recent years, he worked with several of his grandchildren on various design, development and brewing projects.
Dean was affectionately known by his family as “Granddaddy.” Some of his most cherished moments were with his family, especially his grandchildren, fishing trips with family and friends and visits to his home at Lake Tahoe.
Dean is survived by his wife of 59 years, Peggy Unger; his children, Evan C. Unger (Susan), Lynne Unger Yackzan (Randy) and Bruce F. Unger (Lisa); and his 11 grandchildren, Wyatt, Heather, Lucy and Bryan Unger, Lisa Yackzan Herrington (Gregg), Kimberly (Kenneth), Trenton and Scott Yackzan and Dean, Adam and Emelia Unger.
A memorial is set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 16, 2011, at the Veterans’ Memorial Center, 203 E. 14th St., Davis. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Yolo Hospice, 1909 Galileo Court, Suite A, Davis, CA 95618.