William 'Bill' Henry Brown Jr.
William "Bill" Henry Brown Jr., passed away peacefully Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, at Rolling Hills in Sparta. He was born in La Crosse, June 2, 1931, to Louise A. (Storkel) and William Henry Brown.
The family moved to Tomah, in April 1944 and continued to operate the Tomah Greenhouse there after the death of Louise's father, Louis Storkel Sr. Bill loved to tell the story of how Louis moved here with 17 cents in his pocket to start the Tomah Greenhouse and Fruit Farm, the largest of its kind in the state. Bill graduated from Tomah High School in 1949, and later enlisted in the U.S. Army in February 1951. He served at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, until his discharge in 1954. He later took part in the Vets Roll conducted for older veterans. He often expressed how touched and honored he was to take part in their trips. After his service, he attended Michigan State University where he studied horticulture. He met his future wife, Helen Miller, at the university. They had three children and later divorced.
Bill was employed at the VA Medical Center in Tomah as a horticultural therapist from 1957-1996. Growing flowers for the VA grounds to help soothe the stress of veterans was rewarding and a source of pride for him. Bill and his mother, also arranged for the Brown family to sponsor a World War I veteran at the VA, Morrice Gilbertson. He became an employee of the Tomah Greenhouse, until his death and became well known in Tomah for his kindness, especially to kids in the neighborhood. A house was built for "Gilly" behind the Greenhouse. Bill served on the Board of Directors for the VA Credit Union (now the RIA), Oak Grove Cemetery Association, and the Tomah Housing Authority. He was a member of the American Legion 201 for over 60 years and was a charter member of the Blue-Sky Investment Club, which averaged 15 members and ran for 56 years.
Bill enjoyed flowers and gardening, puttering in his workshop, fishing, hunting, and trips to the casino and track. He loved woodworking and made many birdhouses and clocks for others. Bill had many friends with whom he enjoyed good conversation over breakfast. Especially important to him were friends, Lois Rathbun (deceased) and Phil "Beanie" Schroeder.
Bill is survived by his three children, Michael, Teresa, and Timothy Brown; grandchildren, Justina (Michael) Gemignani and Christopher Brown; great-grandchildren, Jocelyn, Sabrina, and Valerie Gemignani; and nephews, Steve (Annette) Sowle and Brian (Bryan Kaplan) Sowle.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Louise and Henry; sister, Carol; and brother-in-law, Harvey "Buster" Sowle.
A celebration on life will be held for Bill at Winnebago Park, Saturday, Aug. 14.
The Torkelson Funeral Home of Tomah is assisting the family with arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Tomah American Legion Post #201, or the North American Squirrel Association "NASA". Online condolences are available at www.torkelsonfuneralhome.com.