As the one best able to identify the people, events and circumstance which shaped my life, I authored the following account before my death.
Philip W. Brown of Williamsburg, 72, recently departed the wonderful life he was granted on Oct. 8, 1940. His late parents, Raymond M. ("Coca-Cola") Brown, Sr. and Evelyn M. Brown taught him to be honest, respectful of others. His five older brothers taught him by example to value intellectual curiosity, the arts, nature's beauty, higher education, physical fitness, a sense of adventure, innovative problem solving and craftsmanship.
Childhood years were happy times for Phil in Hampton, exploring the neighborhood "jungles,' searching for fascinating articles washed up on nearby beaches, building model airplanes, and taking care of the family horses and hunting dogs. There was bird and duck hunting with his father and brothers, learning photography and darkroom techniques, attending five 2-month summer camp sessions near Brevard, N.C., sailing local waters, and spending time with friends Godfrey Smith and Keene Garvin.
In later years Phil's mother, Evelyn, set his standard for courage with how she coped with the sudden accidental deaths of three grown sons, Peter, Dean and Ray, and health problems of her own.
Following graduation from Woodberry Forest School in 1958 and Davidson College in 1961, Phil entered the Naval Aviation Officer Candidate Program. Awarded his wings in 1963, he was assigned to the USS Forrestal- based Fighter Squadron 74 as an F-4 fighter pilot. In 1967, following two deployments to the Mediterranean and one to Southeast Asia with Fighter Squadron 144, he left active duty to fly F-8s and A-4s in the Naval Reserve and earn aeronautical engineering degrees from Georgia Tech and Princeton universities.
Peter, Wynne and Catherine Brown were born of his 1968 marriage to Donna Young Coxsey. Donna's child, Laura, was adopted, as were four others: Jai, Mary, Keith and Kelly. In 1986 this marriage ended in divorce. Phil was thankful for the steadfast kindness and support of Donna's mother, Doris Young.
The NASA research pilot position he held 1974-2001 at the Langley Research Center was Phil's "best job in the world." His mentor, office head Jim Patton, and his fellow research pilots were engaged in fascinating and rewarding flight research. Working with smart, motivated and creative engineers and technicians at Langley, was a continuing pleasure. The NASA Exceptional Service Award and induction into Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame were among the public recognitions of Phil's contributions to aeronautics.
Phil gained two valued step-children, Misha and Joshua, in 1994 when he and Janet R. Derrig married. She brought him joy as a companion, confidant and more recently, a caregiver.
As NASA retirement approached Phil designed modifications for incorporation into a new, Romanian-built, one-of-a-kind variation of a Russian airplane. Its purpose was to conduct flight research as a private venture.
His good NASA friend, Dale Bowser, was invaluable in this effort, acting both as an advisor and airplane mechanic. Other NASA friends made significant contributions. Unfortunately, the onset of Phil's terminal illness and the limitations it imposed led to the closing of this venture.
Large family holiday celebrations hosted by nephew David and Jenny Brown of Williamsburg were a particular pleasure and followed a seven-decade-long tradition established by Evelyn. Post-retirement participation in NASA activities, the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society and the Virginia Jaguar Club, as well as the renovating of the family home were enjoyable to Phil.
As disease symptoms worsened and Phil was often confined to the family home, he enjoyed visits from friends and family members and learning new digital photo and video techniques. Caleigh the Westie, Phil's constant companion, was a wonderful therapy animal, as were rescue cats Alley and Cosmo. As an agnostic deist, he awaited death with trepidation but with hope for a peaceful afterlife realm.
In addition to his wife, Phil is survived by children Laura, Peter, Jai, Wynne, Catherine, Mary, Keith and Kelly; step-children Misha and Joshua Derrig; and numerous grandchildren. Two older brothers, John of College Park, Md. and David of Yorktown, also survive.
Doctors Kerbin, Miller, Kersh and Volz provided expert medical treatment and advice as did the Williamsburg Sentara medical staff. Jan provided loving care until his last day.
A time of gathering will be held 5-7 p.m. on Saturday, July 6 at Nelsen Funeral Home, 3785 Strawberry Plains Rd, Williamsburg. Online condolences can be offered at www.nelsencares.com