Friday, April 29, 2011

Howard J. Brown -- Another of "The Greatest Generation" gone

It is with deep sadness to write about the passing this morning of Howard J. Brown – friend for more than 46 years, benefactor, confidant and occasional intellectual sparring partner.
Officially, Kenosha’s “Uncle Howard” was for 40 years the publisher of the Kenosha News. He passed that title onto Ken Dowdell ten years ago but remained president of the parent company which owns television stations and other newspapers.

The Kenosha News, however, was his “baby” and the people of this community by and large his unofficial nieces and nephews.

There wouldn’t be enough space in the newspaper to list the many people, organizations and causes Howard supported – almost all privately. Yes, he was a trustee of Carthage College and the ringmaster for Kenosha Christmas Charities – the official name for what we know as Goodfellows. A rite of passage into adulthood for many business and professional people in our community was receiving the Goodfellows invitation from Howard.

Media owners like Howard do not exist today. He would work late hours and take delight not only in a good news story but being able to sell someone an ad in the paper. Reporters would not find it unusual for Howard to stop at their desks and provide his good counsel. Readers had a way of telling when Howard wrote an editorial. The preacher of brevity as the soul of wit seldom practiced it.

Howard was very loyal to Betsy – his “bride” – and virtually every adult conversation would inquire about your bride and children. Howard was also very proud of his girls, all of whom are independently successful women today.

On a very personal level, I would not be where I am in life without his support, guidance and advice which began when a precocious 12-year-old popped into his office and started a lifelong friendship.

Only two or three times did I ever see Howard emotional. The last was about when he held back tears to lament how he had to lay off employees and downsize due to the economy, something he dearly did not want to do. His sadness then was greater than at the death of his own father who lived well into his 90’s.

Last year at one of our lunches I told Howard how much he meant to me and said that the one lasting impression I had was his reverence for people and the dignity of work. It didn’t matter if you were a high roller, a public official or the man stocking the vending machines Howard respected you and made you feel that way.

For all the good that Howard has done for others and this community he only asked for one thing in return – that you “be of good cheer.”


Anonymous said...

I worked for him as a paperboy in the 70s and 80s and you are so correct... Now I'm married to the daughter of one of his longtime employees... I'll tell you he paid well and cared so much for his people and his lasting impact will go on for many years to come! His type will never come back... thanks for providing a great foundation for my wife's family and to her. We will owe you for ever! My wife would have never been able to attend college with out your generosity...

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful and gentle man. Eloquent, articulate, involved, loyal - what a loss for all of those he touched, encouraged.

He will be very sorely missed and there will be a major empty spot where he stood in this community and to all who knew him.

My very best to his family and to his beloved 'bride' Betsy.

Thank you for writin your tribute.