CARMEL, CA – Tom Brown (as friends and family knew him) was born in Ft. Worth, Texas at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, to 16-year-old Louollie Lanham Brown and 19-year-old William Thomas Brown. It was a marriage that lasted a lifetime.|
When Tom was a small child, his father and grandfather were "wildcatters," drilling for oil. Riches came and went. At age five, he moved with his parents and little sister, Jenny, to Three Sands, Oklahoma. He often spoke of his wonderful childhood in the oil fields. His father worked in a Shell Oil refinery, and the family lived in company housing, called a "shotgun house." His little brother, Jimmy, was born there.
Tom talked about how his dad used to drive the three children seven miles upstream to Tonkawa so they could skate home, down the frozen river. His father also brought home tracks and boxes from the refinery and built a roller coaster for the kids.
Tom went to prep school in Tonkawa, where he learned to play the French horn and coronet, and was a member of the glee club. In fifth grade, he was inspired to set his sights on becoming President of the United States. Eventually he went to work and planned to buy his grandfather Pochell's farm in Mule Shoe, Oklahoma. In the process, he came to know everyone in the congressional district.
But all that changed with Pearl Harbor. After graduating from Northern Oklahoma University, he enrolled in officers' training at Notre Dame, and became an Ensign in the Naval Reserve. He was first assigned to Coastal Patrol in San Diego, but was quickly reassigned to the Pacific Fleet Amphibious Force as a Gunfire Spotter. He was sent to Fort Ord for training, and learned to dig foxholes, and assemble an M-1 rifle blindfolded. Then it was off to the island of Attu, aboard the U.S.S. Zylon, to take it back from the Japanese.
He landed on the beach on May 9, 1943, as forward observer (fire support). One night on Attu there was a lull in the gunfire, and Tom crawled to his buddy Charlie's foxhole to share some coffee. Upon his return, he found that his hole had taken a direct hit from mortar fire.
Tom then went on to San Diego, Hawaii, and Guam. He was there for the liberation of Guam, and each year since he received a Christmas card from the Island. On the 60th anniversary of the liberation, he received a letter of gratitude and a Medal of Valor. He had helped win the battle by ordering star shells fired to light up the sky all night.
While on the Admiral's Staff in the Philippines, he was in the control room with his buddy Charlie (once again) when, out of boredom, they moved several ships around "just for fun." This ended up trapping a Japanese ship and saving the day. No one ever knew what had happened. On the U.S.S. Appalachian, he toured Yokohama harbor, and walked amongst the ruins of Hiroshima. He was then transferred to a troop ship back to the U.S. to become a troop-train commander. After the war he went back to his parents' home in Texas, but soon found himself bored, so he stayed in the Navy and taught Naval Gunfire Support, Amphibious Landing, and Shore Bombardment.
In 1947, while in San Diego, he attended a Military Officers' Club party and met Georgia Miller, who he married October 11, 1947. When he called to tell his mother he was getting married, she announced that she was pregnant – Tom got a new baby brother, Larry, when he was 28.
Tom was then sent to the North China Sea. He saw a lot of the country and loved the people – their art, food, and language, which he learned to speak fluently during his training in Naval Intelligence. His first child, Elenore Anne (Annie), was born while he was stationed in Bremerton, Washington. Other assignments, and other children, followed.
Olivia (Libby) was born at Bethesda Naval Hospital on June 9, 1951. The family moved to Formosa in 1952, where Tom was a Naval Attaché to China. Tom liked to say that his third child, James (Jimmy) was "made in China," but was actually born upon their return stateside, at Fort Ord. Tom was at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey to freshen up on submarine warfare.
At this point, he was reluctant to re-enlist and leave his family behind. One day, he heard Libby ask Annie what heaven was like. Annie replied that heaven is when Daddy is home every night. The decision had been made for him. Not long after, Tom received a call from a retired General, Happ Lion, who wanted to teach him the insurance business. He found that he loved it. After serving with distinction for 12 years, Tom resigned his commission in 1954 as a Lieutenant Commander.
Tom found that the insurance field offered a challenging and rewarding career – one that he pursued for more than 50 years. Beginning in Monterey, he soon moved to Carmel to enter the insurance department at Carmel Realty.
In 1959 he started his own business, and within eight years had received honors in both the Life Insurance and General Insurance fields. His business became one of the largest in Carmel, with the original staff of one quickly growing to 15. The Life Insurance Fraternity honored him by making him a member of the Million Dollar Round Table for selling more than one million dollars in insurance. He was the recipient of this award three times. He also received the Most Outstanding Agency in the United States Award from the State Life Insurance Company of Indianapolis.
Tom always served his community. He was on the Church Vestry, and was a 50-year Rotarian and one-time president. He was Chairman of the Red Cross, and President of the Carmel Association of Insurance Agents.
Tom not only delighted in his memories of childhood, but simply delighted in life. He was happy, fun-loving, tender and loving to his family and friends, and to all living things. He always kept a beautiful garden, and enjoyed taking his kids camping and hiking.
Always the card, clowning around, he was the life of the party. When asked, "How are you?" he generally replied, "Delightful." He was the best of friends, and was loved by all. Tom enjoyed gardening, writing, cooking, painting, and poetry, and was a published author. He spoke Mandarin fluently.
Tom was preceded in death by his wife, Georgia Elenore; his daughter, Elenore Anne; his brother, Jim; his sister, Jenny; and his parents, Tom and Louollie.
He is survived by his son, James Thomas Brown (Donna), and step-son, Shaqui, as well as his daughter, Olivia Braley and son-in-law, Michael Braley, who were at his side when he left this world so peacefully. It was as if he was ready to see what the next adventure would be. Tom also leaves four grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and one great, great grandchild, Kyla, as well as 14 nieces and nephews.
Tom will be terribly missed, but all who knew him will agree – No matter where he is, he's having fun.
The family would like to thank Pat Butner, Marjorie Allen, Jan Folsom and Irene Messinger for their loving help with Tom's care, and Hospice of the Central Coast their tender leadership to the next world. Also special thanks to Maco Escobedo for his loving stewardship of Tom's garden. He has kept the flowers growing for 20 years.
Service will be held Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church, Dolores and 9th St., Carmel.
Inurnment will be held at 2:00 p.m. at the Monterey City Cemetery, with Military Honors. Because of his great love of Chinese culture, he will be placed in front of the Chinese section. We thought he'd like that.
Published in The Monterey Herald on Feb. 21, 2014