David’s sister, Catherine W. Brown, sent along comments from David’s funeral, held March 23 at St. Anselm’s Abby in Washington, D.C. Catherine said Beaufort Hospital (where David was president) will have a remembrance of David on Thursday, March 29, probably at 2 or 3 pm, in Beaufort on the hospital grounds, and there will be a memorial mass for him at the family’s church on Friday at 10 am.
(David attended the Villa for two years, leaving in the spring of 1967.)
Catherine W. Brown’s remarks about her brother, David E. Brown, 1951-2007.
One of the stories our mother loved to tell about David was that he brought me a beautiful orange when I came home from the hospital. It was a story of a sweet two-year old boy welcoming his new-born sister, but it also foretold the person David would become.
To an outside observer, David often seemed glamorous. He was tall, blond, blue-eyed and handsome. He was rugged and athletic – a great basketball and baseball player and an avid skier, sailor, and golfer. His enthusiasm for the San Francisco 49ers, the Duke basketball team, and the Boston Red Sox was legendary – he routinely traveled great distances to see them play. He did cute things, like naming his Yorkshire Terrier “Duke” and carrying a canine id card showing Duke’s occupation as “basketball player.” He was fun to be with.
He loved the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, and attended an alleged 25 Stones concerts starting from his days at boarding school in Switzerland – I know he went to the one in Switzerland because for years we had a tape of it that he made illegally.
He engaged people with his humor and story telling, usually about youthful moments that drove our father crazy. He loved the sea and made it the central theme of his waterfront homes, where he hosted seafood cookouts, particularly in Annapolis where friends gathered to watch the Blue Angels. He owned beautiful collies with beautiful names like Skylie and Spinnaker. He inherited our mother’s superb taste, but had his own preference for clean modern lines. His sense of style was evident in the clothes he wore, the cars he drove, the art he bought, and the rooms he decorated. He was a cool, classy guy.
Inside, David grew up to be a substantial, complex person. He shared his deepest feelings very selectively. In fact, I think very few people really understood him. But some aspects of his inner character were obvious to anyone who knew him more than superficially. He was extraordinarily kind and gentle. He was distressed by conflict and anger. He was slow to judge and quick to forgive. He made strong, life-long friendships. He was highly emotional, sometimes to a debilitating degree. He cried unabashedly, and expressed his love explicitly. His love for his children was palpable. He was devoted to our mother and sent her innumerable notes and letters signed with phrases like “Mom, you’re great”. He was smart and energetic. He believed in hard work, and he worked hard. He was a closet intellectual who loved to read. He valued good English, and took pride in never swearing or using vernacular language. He was incapable of being vulgar or cruel. He wrote by hand whenever possible. He was a master of the thank-you note, and sent them freely to his colleagues, his friends and his family. He praised others and disparaged himself.
Most significantly, David was a generous and giving person. My orange was only an early example of his capacity for extravagant and sometimes perhaps excessive gift-giving. But his greatest gifts were not material. Nor were they limited to his friends and family. He loved teaching and mentoring. He was quick to share his knowledge and even his little survival skills – like how to organize your wallet. Empathy and compassion motivated him to service throughout his life, perhaps in part because he had more than his fair share of injuries and hospital stays when he was young. In fact, it was during his first stint in an ICU, after a motorcycle accident, that he saw clearly his future in health care. As a college student he always had jobs to earn money – his story-telling benefitted greatly from his days packing ice chests for fudgie wudgie men on the New Jersey shore. But he was most proud of his work at St. Jude’s Hospital for Children, which paid almost nothing, and of his volunteer work as a companion to the less fortunate, some of whom he simply referred to as “my men.” His instinct to care for those less fortunate continued throughout his life, as he went from Prince George’s County to Greater Southeast and then to Beaufort, where he tried never to miss serving dinner to the patients on Thanksgiving Day.
When we gathered here sixteen years ago after my mother’s death, Father Christopher concluded his homily by saying that my mother was “outstandingly charitable.” David always doubted his self-worth and felt that he fell short of our mother’s expectations, and would never have believed the same of himself. But it was true. He was our mother’s son.
Remarks of Barry Passett
Family members and friends,
Many of us are here at the Abbey again, too soon, too soon, following that extraordinary farewell to Winifred 16 years ago. I could have waited, even though, given the fact that I am 17 years older than David, waiting might have meant I’d miss this event.
There is a perhaps-apocryphal story of Pope John Paul on his death bed. One of the brilliant young Polish priests at the Vatican visited him and asked if there were any last words he would like the priest to carry to the faithful. The Pope responded, “What makes you so sure that I will die first?”
There was a wonderful lesson in the response. One of the great mysteries of life and death is that we never know who’s going to “go first.” The mystery of children dying before their parents is for me that most painful of the human condition. It is a regular feature in the news in wartime, so regular that — in the current war — it has already been pushed off the front pages. Yet it has happened over 3,000 “extra” times in the past four years.
Younger people are the generic “hopes for the future.” From the day he arrived at Greater Southeast over 25 years ago, David was the younger generation, the hope for the future. (That can get annoying when you pass 40 and then 50, but that’s the way it is.) His early job was working with physicians on quality of care. He made that a focus for his career. It was a great strength, a hospital exec who understood the doctors and what they do, helping them deliver better care, whether they wanted to or not. His work at wounded Greater Southeast and promising Fort Washington showed great promise.
He fulfilled much of that promise at Beaufort, growing into a mature leader, one comfortable — well, relatively comfortable — with the public demands of that role. And beyond that, as Catherine has reminded us, we remember the person: His perfectly appropriate commitment to Red Sox, his perpetual need for water and a boat to sail on it. (Ah, the speeding tickets he asked me to fix so that he could continue driving from the Annapolis water to Greater Southeast each morning!)
He leaves each of us with memories. Not knowing when our time will come, we are greedy: We would have liked more.