County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Murrell Eldean White


Murrell Eldean White, 88, passed away unexpectedly in Henderson, Nevada, on March 20, 2024. Affectionately known as Dean or Deano, he was born on April 24, 1935, at his family farmhouse in Clare, Michigan, to Zina Almeda Belcher and Harold Arthur White. Growing up on a 120-acre farm alongside his siblings Bill, Bob, Chum, Judy, and Wanda, Dean developed a love for the outdoors and a knack for lending a hand. He cherished his time caring for the horses in the barn, always accompanied by his faithful dog, Tip, trailing close behind. Despite his fondness for most animals, Dean had a fierce aversion to birds and chickens, stemming from a childhood encounter with his Uncle Paul's particularly aggressive rooster. His mother, tired of the bird's antics, took matters into her own hands and served the troublesome rooster for dinner, much to Dean's surprise. From then on, he sought revenge on these feathered menaces by happily indulging in fried chicken without guilt; he particularly loved Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers!

His love for farming and animals extended from childhood into adulthood. In 1952, he represented Clare High School as one of two delegates at the FFA National Meet. In the mid-1960s, he wanted a pony but lacked a horse trailer, so he ingeniously removed the back seats from his car and persuaded his new pony, Goldenboy, to climb into the back for transport. With Goldenboy's head poking out the window, surprising passersby, Dean became the talk of the town! He trained Goldenboy to pull a buggy, thrilling his nieces and nephews with joyous, memorable rides. Dean also offered rides on his lawnmower, letting kids take the wheel if lucky. He often claimed his best ideas came to him while driving his mower or a forklift at work. Dean's passion for the outdoors extended to his garden, which was not an average plot. It was expansive enough to feed the entire community, and he did just that, generously giving away baskets of fruits and vegetables to anyone in need. Whether it was cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, or Illinois Extra Sweet Corn, Dean could grow it all. He even offered free samples in the middle of his garden, extending his proud bounty to anyone willing to accept from his earth-covered hands.

Dean loved sports. He was a versatile participant, coach, manager, and fan. His athletic journey began as a catcher for Clare High School’s baseball team, a role he continued after graduation with the Clare Merchants in fast-pitch softball. Throughout adulthood, Dean coached various teams, from ladies' softball to kids' little league, sharing his passion and expertise. His dedication to his family extended to attending nearly all his kids' and grandkids' sporting events, where he was their biggest cheerleader. A fervent supporter of University of Michigan sports, Dean never missed a game or the opportunity to celebrate their victories. He especially enjoyed rubbing in their wins to friends who supported rival teams; he kept the phone nearby so he and his sports-loving friends could discuss the game highlights and playfully chastise each other over the end results. Dean enjoyed watching the Detroit Tigers and Lions on television but preferred listening to his favorite announcers on the radio. He'd recline in his favorite La-Z-Boy with the radio nearby, creating the perfect sports-watching atmosphere. Dean's ability to tune out distractions and focus entirely on sports was a skill at which he excelled! 

Dean's passion for music was deeply rooted in his upbringing, as he was born into a musical family. His father played the fiddle in a trio at local barn dances, his sisters sang beautifully, his youngest sister could play the piano by ear, his brother played the guitar, and his mother? She played the radio! Dean was involved in musical activities as a child, including singing in a barbershop quartet, occasionally playing guitar for the Mount Vernon Grange #992 meetings, and participating in school musical productions and operettas. His love for music continued throughout his life, with much of his free time dedicated to listening to various genres. In his later years, he embraced modern technology, mastering the voice-activated remote control and exploring its endless possibilities. Every night, he fell asleep to music playing on his YouTube channel, showcasing his appreciation for old and new country music and music that was "easy to listen to." Artists like Eddy Arnold, Willie Nelson, Anne Murray,  Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, The Carpenters, Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, John Denver, Bill Andersen, Kris Kristofferson, Linda Ronstadt, and Waylon Jennings were among some of his favorites. Dean not only enjoyed listening to music but also learning about the artists. He would watch documentaries and share his knowledge with anyone who would listen. A fan of "The Voice," Dean admired Blake Shelton tremendously and had a knack for spotting talent, often predicting the show's winners long before they were announced. 

Dean's work ethic was evident from a young age, as he eagerly took on responsibilities and exceeded expectations. His early jobs included cleaning calf pens and milking cows, a task he undertook as a surprise for his father, who found milking tiring after working all day. This dedication continued into adulthood, where he worked various jobs, including at Culligan Water and other factories in the Lansing and Owosso area. His most significant career, however, was at Johnson Controls, where he spent most of his working life. He drove forklifts and was elected as a 1st shift committee man for the UAW, advocating for workers' rights. His commitment extended beyond his daily tasks; he also volunteered with the Christmas Charity Committee, organizing 250 food baskets yearly for the needy in Shiawassee County for the duration of the program. Dean's strong work ethic and dedication were further exemplified when he was selected as the hazardous waste manager, where he assisted with the closure of the factory in 1995. 

After the factory shut down, Dean retired from Johnson Controls and shifted his focus to his health. Dean and his wife, Sandra, moved to Lake, and he took advantage of it by taking up daily bike rides around Eight Point Lake to tackle his weight once and for all. Joining the Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) group, he eventually shed enough weight over the years to be crowned the TOPS King of Weight Loss at their national convention. By the end of his life, he proudly boasted of being only about five to ten pounds heavier than he was in high school. Remarkably, he overcame his diet soda addiction in 2022, humorously apologizing to anyone who may have lost money on their PepsiCo stocks due to his abrupt, cold-turkey approach. In his later years, his preferred drink was iced water with freshly cut lemon, reflecting his commitment to a healthy lifestyle. 

Dean's most exceptional role was that of a father. While he had one biological child, Tracey White Ley, Dean embraced the father figure role to many others. At 33, he and his first wife, Roberta Jeanette Fournie, became guardians to four orphaned teenage nieces and nephews (Dave, Rick, Kevin, and Karen Eberhart), raising them until they were ready to enter independence. He extended fatherly love to neighborhood kids, nieces, nephews, and those he coached. At 50, he faced tragedy with the loss of his wife in a car accident. In 1987, he remarried Sandra Jean Robinson Tyrrell and wholeheartedly embraced the role of stepfather to her nine children (Dan, Debbie, Darcy, Donette, Tracy, John, Laura, Robert, and Tom Tyrrell). Dean's love knew no bounds, and he treated each of these children as his own, reciprocating the love he received from all the kids in his blended family. His heart was always full of love, and he shared it with all fortunate to know him.

Dean spent most of his life in Michigan, residing in Clare, Owosso, Lake, and Ovid. In 2016, he moved to Interlachen, Florida, where he became an active First United Methodist Church member, occasionally serving as an usher. In 2021, Dean relocated to his new home in Henderson, Nevada, with his daughter and son-in-law. He was fond of phone conversations with dear friends and family, reconnecting happily with long-lost friends in recent years. If Dean really liked you, you might receive multiple daily calls! He enjoyed playing cards on his computer, watching game shows with his family (even at 88, he could solve Wheel of Fortune puzzles faster than his kids and was a Price Is Right enthusiast, often guessing the closest bid), and staying informed about current political affairs and world events. He was proud of his political affiliations and had no problem sharing his two cents worth about modern politics, whether you wanted to hear it or not. Dean had dazzling blue eyes, an ever-present smile, a joyful sing-song voice, and an infectious laugh that filled the room. He threw his entire body into it when he laughed, and you couldn’t help but laugh with him. He brought joy to so many and had friends wherever he went. 

Dean is survived by his wife, Sandra, and all those whom he had a hand in raising and who affectionately called him dad: Tracey White Ley and her husband, Matthew Ley; Dan Tyrrell and his wife, Tonya; Debbie Ellsworth; Darcy Tyrrell; Donette Tyrrell; Tracy Tyrrell; John Tyrrell and his wife, Nerissa; Laura Tyrrell; Robert Tyrrell and his wife, Erika; and Tom Tyrrell and his wife, Melanie. He is also survived by these other family members who thought of him like a dad: Cindy Conrad; Robbie Upshaw and her husband, Jerry; Sherry Weisenborn; Dave Eberhart and his wife, Vickie; Rick Eberhart; and his like-a-son, fellow U of M fanatic, Craig Bauer. He was known as Grandpa Dean to thirty youngsters and Uncle Dean to dozens of nieces and nephews. He was the cousin of Bill and Bertha Mae Stough from Clare. He was also a brother-in-law to Freda Terry White of Bouse, Arizona, with whom he had recently reconnected after decades of living on opposite sides of the country. He was like a brother to his work buddy for decades, Paul Britton, and loved equally by his wife, Linda. Dean was nicknamed “The Big Cheese,” as he was the last living member of his nuclear family, outliving all his siblings and parents. Our loss is their gain, as he is now home with them all. 

In honor of Dean, his family kindly requests that you perform a random act of kindness to spread his spirit of love, selflessness, and generosity. Plant a garden and share the harvest with others. Donate food to a local church or food pantry. Rescue an animal from a shelter. Assist a neighbor in need. Sponsor a family during the holidays by providing them with food and gifts. Reach out to an old friend just to say hello. Support your local Little League by donating equipment. Offer to mow your neighbor's lawn. Simply strive to be a compassionate and caring individual. Dean embraced his parents' motto, "Treat everyone right, and you won’t go wrong," if more people followed this example, the world would undoubtedly be a kinder place. Dean certainly did more than his fair share of throwing kindness into the world and letting it have a rippling effect. We hope that you will, too, in his honor! 

An abbreviated copy of this obituary was published in the Clare County Cleaver on April 25, 2024.