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Mar. 27, 1920 Kalamazoo Kalamazoo County Michigan, USA
Feb. 6, 2007 Jackson Madison County Tennessee, USA
Robert Brown was a man cut from a different cloth, in a different era, a man of great pride, passion and character. He was a proud veteran, a member of our Greatest Generation, so brave, selfless and steady, unwavering in his beliefs and his compassion.
Robert's story began on a stormy spring day in 1920, during times of such great change in this country. Americans reveled in their costly victory in World War I, fighting off a recession in the economy as a result. Women were finally granted the right to vote, and Prohibition became the law of the land. On March 27, 1920, the Brown Family was blessed with the birth of a baby boy, a son they named Robert.
Robert's parents divorced after just a year of marriage, which made things tough on him growing up. He graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School, and to help earn money for his family during the Great Depression, he worked at a local restaurant after school. Following his graduation, Robert went to work at the Brown Stove Company and also delivered telegrams for Western Union.
Robert was joined by two half-brothers, and one half-sister, in his family's home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His step-mother was a teacher and his father worked as a struggling commercial artist. Robert is a direct descendant of Edward Doty, his maternal great grandfather. It was with a sense of great pride for Robert, as this ancestor had come to this country aboard the Mayflower in 1620, arriving on our shores on a sunny Sunday that September 6, nearly 300 years before.
Soon the dark skies of World War II thundered upon our shores, and every American was called to do their part. Robert heard the calling, and on July 25, 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Robert served in the Navy's 5th Division, aboard the USS Rigel, a repair ship. Robert served in the Pacific Theater, a hotbed of turmoil.
His uniform landed him more than the World War II Victory Medal, however. When Robert was discharged from the Navy, a young woman named Jane Beckwith spotted the handsome sailor. They made a connection, began a whirlwind romance, and after just two weeks of dating, were married in Chicago!
Robert and his new bride made their home in an apartment in the Windy City, where he began working for the Chicago Transit Authority, driving city buses and taxi's. He loved the job, and loved the people he worked with, too. His employers soon learned of Robert's great love and knowledge of engines, and trained him to become a signalman, which was a very dangerous job, but one Robert was thrilled to perform for more than 30 years.
Robert was also thrilled by the two beautiful daughters he had with Jane, first Kathleen in 1951, followed by Laurel in 1956. Wanting to move out to the suburbs, Robert built a home in Northlake, Illinois. In 1957, he sold that house and bought a three flat home in nearby Melrose Park on 24th avenue.
Robert's marriage eventually ended in divorce. Robert, always being the responsible man of such great character, lovingly raised his daughters. He loved all children, though, and was so generous and compassionate to others, especially to children and animals.
Once, one of Robert's co-workers was tragically killed on the job during Christmastime. So out of the kindness of his heart, Robert packed up his daughters in the car and took them shopping for his friend's family, having a beautiful train set delivered to the friend's sons for the holiday. That's just the kind of man he was, though, generous and compassionate.
Robert was a man of great character, but also of opinion, too! He was a devoted member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and very active in their functions. There was no doubt in anyone's mind he was a Union man through-and-through!
He was also a staunch Republican, and helped with party politics and campaigns for Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan. Robert loved to debate politics, and could really get hot under the collar about it!
Robert retired from the transit authority in 1982, after a career he enjoyed so much. Not long after, he attended a family reunion in Michigan. While he was back in his hometown he met a wonderful woman named Vivian Brower, and they really hit it off. The couple quickly fell in love, and were married.
Robert loved Vivian so much, and for the first time in a long time, he was truly happy. They shared a lot in common, and were both hopelessly disorganized packrats! They hoarded things and couldn't let go, and loved to shop on QVC, at garage sales, stores, and just about anywhere else.
Robert's beloved wife died in 1996. Just two years later, Robert suffered a stroke, which affected his health greatly. He moved to Tennessee, to live with his youngest daughter. He was never truly the same after his stroke. Laurel and her husband, along with their sons,lovingly cared for her father until sadly, he died on Tuesday, February 6, 2007.
Robert was a remarkable man, a man of such great bravery and loyalty, compassion and character. He was often forgetful, disorganized, and hot-headed, quick to temper yet quicker to forgive. Above all, Robert was a devoted husband, loving father and faithful friend, and a true American in every sense of the word. He will be greatly missed.