Pastor stands in for father at prom
Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 21, 2012 at 8:05 p.m.
Updated March 20, 2012 at 10:21 p.m.
When the father-daughter dance commenced at Kimberly Dean's senior prom, the 18-year-old pinched the sides of her orange and green floral bustled gown, and ambled to the back of the room.
Thoughts of her father, John Dean, were on her mind as a country song - "My Daughter's Eyes" - streamed through the dance.
"I wish my dad was here," she thought quietly.
Two years ago, Dean's father died suddenly from a heart-related illness. And while other senior girls sought out their fathers for the dance, Dean, a self-professed daddy's girl, yearned for her father to glide her across the floor.
Walking to the rear of the Jackson County Service Building, where Edna ISD held the prom earlier this month, Dean spotted a familiar face in the crowd.
"What are you doing here," a surprised Dean, asked.
"I was wondering if you would dance with me," Dean's pastor, the Rev. Andrew Schroer, asked.
Titling her head downward, Dean nodded, and followed Schroer to the floor.
"I was crying the whole time, I think," Dean said.
"I was crying, too. I just kept telling her how proud her father would be of her," Schroer, 38, added.
Pastor, as Dean calls him, has been an adored friend and supporter for her family for about a decade. He's been the family's Christian friend and leader since Dean first started attending his church, Redeemer Lutheran, when she was 10 years old.
Pastor was also one of the first people Dean's mother, Sharon, telephoned when John passed away.
"She asked me if I could pick up the kids from school that day. It was a complete shock when John died. He was so young," Schroer said.
The morning of the prom, three of Dean's close girlfriends made a special surprise phone call to her mother.
"They asked my mom if there was anyone she knew who could dance with me during the father-daughter dance," Dean said.
"I was just going to stand up in the back of the room and wait for it to be over."
Dean said her mother's first instinct was to call Pastor.
"Mom knew if I could dance with anyone, it would be Pastor," Dean said.
"My first response was, 'Does Kim know about this?'" Schorer said. "But I was happy to do it. I love Kim, I'm very proud of her. I knew I wasn't taking her dad's place, I was trying to be there as a friend."
As Schroer swayed Dean across the floor, the pair noticed they were encircled by a crowd of emotional faces.
"Everyone sort of stared at us and said, 'Awww,'" Schroer said. "For the most part, everyone knew her dad passed away."
Dean said she was so overwhelmed by her pastor's dancing gesture, she couldn't even remember the song they danced to.
"I know there was dancing, and I know I cried, but I don't remember what the song was," she said. "I just thought about my dad while we danced, and I pictured him looking down on me and smiling," she said.
After the dance ended, Dean said her girlfriends surrounded her and shouted, "Surprise!" And for the remainder of the evening, after all the parents had departed, she was stopped by classmates offering hugs and compliments about how beautiful she looked in her gown.
"It was the best prom. I was so happy, and I was in the best mood the rest of the night," she said.
Dean said losing her father has been a difficult transition the past two years, especially as she approaches graduation.
Dean's academic excellence has ranked her as salutatorian of her graduating class, so the prom isn't the only major life event she wishes her father could be alive to experience.
"I think about him for things like that, like graduation and weddings," she said. "I was a daddy's girl."
Schroer said he doesn't know if he'll one day have to fill in for Dean on her wedding day.
"We'll deal with that when we come to it," he said, looking at Dean. "But either way, you know you'll have a friend for life."