My uncle, Richard Brown, 84, passed away quietly last week after an extended bout with melanoma. As is true for many of the “Greatest Generation,” Richard led an interesting life, punctuated by his beautiful wife, my Aunt Shelba, and four wonderful children. He will be greatly missed by his family and many friends.
Brown was a child of the depression and was raised among an extended Irish family in the Chicago area. After graduating from high school, he moved with his parents and younger brother to Houston in 1949. His older brother, my father – who died 10 years ago this week, was in the Coast Guard at the time, but followed them soon after. They were among the first wave of northerners fleeing cold weather and lost opportunities in the “rust belt.” The transition to Texas was likely difficult. I’m certain if air conditioning hadn’t then become ubiquitous in Houston, my grandmother would have remained in Gary.
When the Korean Conflict broke out in 1950, Brown was drafted into the army and served in the 24th Division of the Eighth Army. The 24th Division served with distinction under Belton’s Lt Gen Walton Walker, taking the main brunt of the initial invasion by North Korea, and later halting the Chinese counterattack. Brown lost most of the hearing in one ear, but otherwise came home in one piece.
During the late 50s and the 60s, Brown’s young family moved back and forth between the Houston and Dallas areas. He was one of the original “Mad Men” of the 1960s, and had, for many years, a successful career in advertising. Brown became a rabid Cowboys fan during the Tom Landry era. I remember that presented quite a challenge when his family lived in Houston. He was an expert at barbecuing brisket and ribs, and may have actually been the first Cowboy fan to watch football games outdoors on television, while minding his smoker.
I remember my uncle as a patient and kind man, who lived with exuberance; a man who listened to others enthusiastically and spoke his thoughts without judgment; and a man, like many of his generation, who proudly served when his country called. I will always treasure the card I received from him in December 1953 from Korea, on the occasion of my first Christmas. In it, he writes to me directly: “Michael,” he wrote, “I hope you never have to spend a Christmas far away from your family, and especially, never at war.” And thankfully, I never have. Thank you, Uncle, for the remarkable life you lived, and the contributions you made to those of us who loved you.
Michael Brown is an education consultant and former teacher. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.