For My Brother Charlie

Today I was picturing my brother in heaven arguing philosophy with St Thomas More; chatting with the Maritains, Jacques and Raissa; having a coffee with Dorothy Day, then perhaps a football toss with Knute Rockne; and finally cooking a wonderful meal with Julia Child, to be shared with our parents... How happy he must be in the company of all the angels and saints


A bittersweet weekend in Charlie's Mountains

On the weekend of September 16, the wake and funeral were held for my brother Charlie on a beautiful two days in his loved Catskill Mountains. He died after a long battle with multiple myeloma early in the morning of September 14, 2011.

The wake gave us a chance to see relatives and friends that we have long missed, and to pay our respects to Pat Brown, my brother's loved wife and my dear sister-in-law. Every one of his children [Charlie, Anne, Claire, Trish, Grace, Peter - and Peter's wife Susan, and the girls' husbands, Mark, Adnan, Roger, Jim] helped to make the weekend a success, from planning the program, to setting up hotel reservations, to ordering the wonderful buffet supper after the burial. And a special thanks to Charlie's grandson Patrick, who cared for him during his last days at home. My contribution was a scrapbook my daughter Mary Beth and I had put together for the family that had all the pictures and memories of our childhood that I could find. It was most appreciated.

The funeral mass was conducted by Charlie's oldest son Monsignor Charles Brown, [now an Archbishop and the Nuncio to Ireland], and an impressive 8 of his priest friends that all knew and respected his father as well. Three of his grandsons were alter boys, and his granddaughter played the violin. My daughter read the general intersessions during mass, and
after the mass had ended, my son Chris recited a poem he had written for his uncle (Click for larger version)

All three of Charlie's oldest friends, Dave McCarthy, Dick Norton (Here is a link to Dick's warm and personal memories), and Jim Dwyer (Here is a link to Jim's beautiful memory poem), had kind words to say about their Notre Dame friend for over 50 years.

The burial was in a beautiful cemetery that overlooks the mountains he loved and knew so well.

He was full of faith, kind, generous and open-hearted. I will miss my life-long pal as long as I live......

Charles J.Brown, Jr. -- 1933-2011

Charles J. Brown, Jr. was an eternally optimistic man who lived a life of personal and professional accomplishment. A thoughtful and  passionate lawyer, he was deeply respected and honored for his work and dedication to Greene County and the mountaintop community of Windham, New York. He was the devoted husband of Patricia Brown, his wife of 53 years, and a loving father and grandfather to his six children - Charles, Anne, Claire, Trish, Grace and Peter - and his 22 grandchildren.

Charles and his sister Mary Ellen were the two children of Charles Brown, a green grocer and food manager and Helen Brown, a nurse and veteran of World War 1. Born on December 10, 1933 in Pittsburgh, and growing up in Cincinnati and Long Island during the Depression and the years that followed, Charles later graduated from Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York in 1951 , and then earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1955.

In 1958, he married Patricia Anne Murphy from Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

After graduation, Charles began work at the law firm of Penny & Edmonds in New York City. He earned a law degree from Fordham University. He specialized in intellectual property, and was very successful in patent cases both in New York and in Europe. He was the first Catholic, and the youngest attorney ever made a partner of the firm, in 1968.

Truly a chef extraordinaire,' Charles loved to cook and prepared meals of sophisticated and delicious ingredients. His favorite cookbooks, The New York Times Cookbook, Julia Child, and Farm Journal Cookbook, were used so often that they were bound by rubber bands and still pulled out each afternoon for renewed selections.

Charles was also an avid world traveler and outdoorsman. He and his son Charlie climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland, the Grand Teton in Wyoming, and the peaks of Kashmir in northern India. At the age of 62, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa with his son, Peter, and son-in-law, Adnan Akay. An exceptional athlete, Charles also completed many marathons and endurance races. It was perhaps his love of nature and the outdoors that led him to leave New York City in 1971 and begin a new life with his family in the country of the Catskill Mountains, building a cabin, a home, a garden, and raising cattle, horses, chickens, sheep and many other animals.

In Windham, New York, Charles began a legal career that eventually resulted in the largest law firm of the county - Brown, Kelleher, Zwickel, & Wilhelm - and his appointment as Greene County Attorney. His work for his clients and the county was highly respected and admired.

A voracious reader, particularly of history and Catholic theology,  Charles was never without a book in hand. His Catholic faith was perhaps his defining characteristic, and he led a life of exemplary devotion and dedication to the teachings of the Church. Among his deepest satisfactions were seeing his son Charles ordained a priest in 1989 [now an Archbishop and the current Nuncio to Ireland] and all of his six children graduate from Notre Dame.

During his 18 month battle with multiple myeloma cancer, Charles inspired everyone who saw his fierce determination to live life to the fullest. On his refrigerator was posted a humorous line from the cartoon, Charlie Brown – “All we need is confidence.” With that line, we will always remember him. Charles died with his family around him, on September 14, 2011, aged 77.


I am so glad to think that my brother Charlie is now looking down on us and smiling at all the ceremony we have planned these two days. He was happiest surrounded by family, traveling to adventuresome places and praying to God. He loved his home in the Catskills and,  most of all, his dear wife Patty. Their marriage was truly made in heaven. When I think of him today, it is with joy, mixed with my sadness at losing my life-long pal. 

I thought of the last lines of this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Here they are, sent with all my love: 

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods
with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

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