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Tribute to Don Brown

238. Tribute to Don Brown

Don Brown was a United Methodist pastor and more—much more. But I first knew him when he was the pastor at New City United Methodist Church in New City, NY. And at the same time, I was in the midst of my feminist rage. I would sit in the worship service and when we came to a hymn that had “brotherhood” or “mankind” in it, I would slam my hymnal shut and sit down. Don always knew who did that. And as I walked out to shake his hand at the end of the service, I would say gruffly “We have to have lunch.” He would say, “Fine—call me and we’ll figure out a day.” I would do that and we’d meet for lunch and I would go through my agenda. And he would listen carefully. He didn’t change those words right away. But it was the time for change, and slowly but surely the words did change. Years later I realized that he pastored me through that tumultuous time.

We also evolved into friends. Some of his kids were friends with some of my kids and that gave Don and I and Gail another connection—the connection of teenagers and parents living through it.

Within a few years I came to his office and talked about what he thought about my entering the ministry—about me going for ordination. And he advised against it. I wondered about that and only the other day I thought: I bet he knew that it would be a hard system for me to function in, and today I think he was right.

In 1999 I started going to the Oceanaire in Ocean City, NJ where Gail had taken over the running of the guest home that had been in her family since her childhood. Year after year, there would be times of finding each other on the front porch and being able to discuss a good book, or the workings of the church, or how our kids were doing now.

And then he joined one of the writing groups I led. The group he attended met once a month at the New City Church and it was there that Don started writing his boyhood memoirs. Each of us would take turns reading what we had written for the group, and all of us were amazed at the detail that Don remembered—names of neighbors, games he played as a child, relentless detail. And then he started bringing to the group his reflection about each of his paintings. I loved it—to be able to go to an art show and see the painting, plus also read something that the artist had to share about that particular painting—what a gift.

He published his memoirs: The Way It Was—A Boyhood Memoir 1934-1948 by Donald H. Brown and after I read it I found a 1951 connection that I had never known. He died the end of January, his funeral was a week ago Saturday, and I’m still not liking it. I am faced again with the loss of someone that I was hoping for more of—more sitting on the Oceanaire porch to talk of anything, more lunches at Applebee’s, more conversation about the paranormal, just more—more friendship.

Thanks Don Brown.

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