Family and friends of Henry Leo Brown Sr. will gather at Bachman Community Center, 3815 Anderson Pike, on Signal Mountain this Sunday, from 1-33 p.m. to dedicate the renovated cafeteria to the late Leo Brown, a founding board member and advocate for a community center to serve all residents of Walden’s Ridge. Guests of honor at the dedication will Bea Brown and their children, Jan and Leo, Jr. and many grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
A framed enhanced photograph of Leo by Karen and Charlie Stone now graces the renovated room. New windows, flooring, ceiling and lighting, and energy efficient HVAC units have transformed the old cafeteria into a comfortable and inviting place thanks to a successful fund raising campaign, contributions from MAGI (Mountain Artists Guild, Inc.) and considerable labor from many volunteers including Earl Hereford, John Behrman, Alan Voss, Ken Abel, and the Joe Robbins father and son team.
Bea reminded us that Leo would hope the cafeteria be of use. And used it is! Summer camps, artist workshops, scheduled meetings, fitness classes, and the staging area for all Girl Scout cookie sales on the mountain. We are grateful to Leo Brown for his vision to lay a strong foundation for Bachman’s continued service to the Walden’s Ridge community.
Jan’s tribute to her father:
Leo was born on May 31, 1927 to Lois Mae and Walter Lee Brown. He was an only child and was raised mostly by his grandmother, Ada Levi Witt. His mother operated Brown Bros. Grocery Store and his father was a champion Tennessee Walking horse trainer.As a child Leo began collecting coke bottles and selling them back to the stores for money. He loved to make money, even then, and loved to meet people.
He was gifted in math and could add, multiple or divide four digit numbers by four digit numbers in a matter of seconds.He skipped a grade and graduated from Red Bank High School when he was 16 years old. At his request, his parents signed the papers for him to join the Navy during World War II at the age of 17.
The Navy sent him to coding school and he was getting ready to leave for combat when the war ended. He felt cheated for many years but realized that God had spared him from the atrocities of the war that many of his friends had to endure.
Leo came home, attended UTC and married Mary Beatrice Thompson.Several years later they had two children, Henry Leo Jr. and Janet Arleen.
An article was written about the Brown couple in June of 2010 in the Signal Mountain Mirror. Leo and Bea had owned a retail hardware store, Brown Bros. Hardware for 25 years. The Mirror referred to it as "The Heart of the Signal Mountain Community," and it really was. If you are from Signal Mountain then you remember that Hardware store, as it was the first one up here. If anyone needed answers to questions involving home repair, gardening or lawn maintenance, fishing or hunting, business affairs, counseling on personal matters, politics or just about anything then Leo Brown was your man. The hardware was quite unique with old dusty wooden floors, a coffee pot and checkerboard where anyone and everyone was greeted with smiles and humor by Leo and his staff. Patrons were welcome to come in, sit, talk and rest. Leo told the reporter, at that time, that "Every day was a joy." He loved people and people loved him. That fact never changed.
Leo served Signal Mountain from one end of this ridge to the other in one capacity or another until the day he died. When he was in business he left his family on holidays or in the middle of the night to open the store for plumbing, roofing or whatever emergent situations required. He felt honored to help others when they needed him. He made no discrepancy as to where someone lived, whether they lived in Walden, Signal Mountain, or Sequatchie County. He gave credit to those who could not afford to purchase what they needed when credit was unheard of and believed that a man’s word was as good as a handshake. He gave loans to people when they were in dire straits and even took food to people who had none. There were times when those boxes of food made a difference in the lives of people, especially on holidays. At his funeral someone approached the family and told them what a difference that food had made in their lives on holidays. They never forgot it and wanted his family to know about it.
At one time Leo was President of the Lions Club of Signal Mountain. He served as a Deacon of the Signal Mountain Baptist Church for many years. Leo was one of the original developers in first phase of Fox Run subdivision with Jack Kruesi. He ran successfully for Alderman of Walden in 2000. He was also a member of the beloved ROMEOS, the Retired Old Men Eating On Signal, who still meet Monday through Friday at McDonald’s on Signal Mountain for coffee.
Leo and a few others met with officials from the Hamilton County Dept. of Education and was given permission to inspect and discuss the condition of Bachman School. They were eventually granted permission to use Bachman as a community center thanks to Leo and those who took the time and effort to accomplish this. He served on the board and was eventually made a lifetime board-member. He donated time, gifts and money for a community center that he believed would help the people of this ridge.
Leo Brown loved his family, his friends, his church, his home, his birds, his truck and of course the Bachman Community Center. His hopes were that Bachman would be a place where people in this community could come together and learn new things, make new friends, sell their wares, find hope and encouragement. It would be his hope that the Bachman Community Center continue to thrive and grow, especially in this difficult time when people of the community need help even more.
Leo was not a common man, nor was he a complicated man. He sought no recognition for his life accomplishments because he felt that everything he was able to have or to achieve was a Blessing God bestowed upon him and he gave all the glory to God. THAT is who Henry Leo Brown, Sr. was.
Leo Brown, Sr. passed away on November 13, 2011. He is gone but not forgotten. He left many wonderful memories, many friends, accomplished many good deeds and was a dedicated and loving Christian husband and father. He is severely missed by all who knew him.