Friday, April 13, 2012

Jack Brown 1926-2012

Telling a Story

Dad spinning a yarn at our wedding a few years back

Darn I never wanted to write this blog. About noon on April 5th, just as I was going through Nanton, Alberta, near the end of our long trek from Arizona I got a phone call from the folks at the Foothills Hospital letting me know that my Dad had collapsed in his room there and although they were doing all they could for him, it might be a good idea for me to come on over if I could. Having a full load of horses and dogs in the trailer behind me complicated the issue so as quickly as I could I headed for Dogpound North and kicked everyone out into the yard and jumped in the other truck and headed back to Calgary.

By the time I got to the hospital my family had gathered to be with Dad and soon after he slipped out of the room and left us to contemplate life without him for the first time ever.

Dad was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta and worked there his entire life. His father died when he was about 11 and my grandmother, Dad and his brother Walter were left to fend for themselves in the middle of the depression. Times were not easy but I do believe Dad looked back on those years fondly.

His high school years were spent working afternoons as a machinist in the Munitions Plant at Ogden Shops as World War II raged on around the world. After the war ended and Ogden Shops started transitioning back to a Railroad yard he accepted a job as a labourer working for Imperial Oil in Norman Wells.

Jack Brown 1946

Up till that time he had planned on attending university to become a doctor, but the oil patch worked it’s magic on him and he started off on a pretty exciting 60 year career in the business. Those early summers were spent on geological field crews throughout Northern Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories as well as around Vancouver Island. He returned for a time to the University of Alberta where he met and sang his way into the heart of my mother. They were married in 1950 and spent their honeymoon roaming around southern Alberta scouting seismic crews. As time went on he eventually joined the ranks of the Landmen working in Canada and has been a member of their organisation since about 1952, as well as serving on many committees and teaching many courses he was able to exercise his voice and love of music by opening almost every meeting for the next 40-50 odd years by singing the national anthem. His love of singing and bird hunting are two of the things I remember most of him as a young boy.


As kids we used to tramp our way up and down the irrigation canals of eastern Alberta and the last sight that a lot of roosters saw was that shotgun muzzle of his tracking across the sky. We always had a great gun dog or two with us, starting out with Jet and Rod, and then Pat, but the best of them all was a Brittany Spaniel named Duke, old Duke seemed to know that we only hunted roosters so he didn’t waste his energy finding the hens. If Duke was on point and Dad was behind him a pheasant was headed for the pot.

Over the years Dad had a chance to see a lot of the world but some of his best trips probably came later in life, when my brothers took him to check off a couple of things on his bucket list.

He and Kelly spent six glorious weeks traveling the length of Africa beginning in Cape Town and continuing north to wind up in Cairo.

Africa Disk 1 282Africa Disk 3 044

And then another trip of a lifetime with brother Brent to Ecuador and the Galapagos' Islands. I think Dad really just wanted to check up on Darwin’s theories and make sure he had interpreted the data correctly.

Ecuador and Galapagos 010-001

Here they are and that small line between them is the equator.

Dad, Mom and I had a journey around the United Kingdom checking up on our roots way back in 2000, and then Brenda and I and Dad took a drive up the Cassiar Highway and then on to Alaska in 2007 and Dad and I went on a fishing trip to Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands a couple of years back.

Dad & I-1

Below is Dad sharing some time with his old horse Dolly and my nephew Ryan, a few years back. Ryan is 26 now so it may be more than a few years.


And here is Brenda and I along with Dad enjoying a little sightseeing while cruising through Deception Pass in the San Juan Islands of Washington State on brother Brent’s boat “Ain’t Life Grand”.

Brenda, JB, Dad Sailing

Dad lost his own father early in life and many times told me that my Grandfather Macnab became like a father to him over their 50 odd year relationship. My grandpa was a man of few words but I know he shared a lot of stories with Dad that no else had ever heard and Dad made sure those stories got handed down to the next generation.

One of his last requests was to head over to Western Canada High School and take some pictures of some of the awards that Grandpa had amassed while he was a student there back in the the early part of the 19th century, that is a request that I will fulfill soon and should be the topic here sometime in the future. Below they are wandering along with Grandpa sharing some of that oral history.


Before Brenda and I started traveling to avoid winter we used to celebrate Alberta’s Family Day holiday and my Dad’s birthday each year with a big bonfire and sleigh ride here at Dogpound North. Although it was in mid-February we were always blessed with warm days and usually had over 100 of our friends and neighbours over to help up burn up whatever old building was slated for demolition. The picture below is of Dad on his 80th birthday with a cake that Brenda  had made.


The picture below is of the Cochrane Road Brown’s and although we had all, except Kelly on the left, moved away from our original home that is kind of where it all came together. The bunch is a little smaller now with Kelly having left in 2009, Brent just last year and now Dad. I do miss them all but I am hoping it is a while until we are back together again.

Brent's Wedding

Till then I am sure my brothers and father will tell a few stories and relive a few great memories amongst themselves, probably around a big campfire in the sky, till  we meet again.



  1. We are sorry to hear of your loss, but are glad you were able to be there. What a wonderful blogpost and tribute to your father.

  2. John, so sorry to hear about the loss of your Father.

    Your blog is a tremendous tribute to his life - terrific job.

    It was great to see that he was able to visit so many wonderful, exotic places later in life - wow, he sure got around and lived life to its fullest.

    Best of all, he was loved and cared for by his family which is the best gift of all.

    Take care!

  3. What a great tribute to your Dad. Sorry for your loss

  4. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Beautiful post John...thank you so much for sharing...our hearts and thoughts are with you...

  6. Such a beautiful tribute to your Dad. It's hard to say goodbye but in a way it's a time of rejoicing because you know they are surrounded by family that they have been missing. He sure lived a great life.

  7. Thank you for a wonderful post John. Your Dad was a special person .


  8. I'm so sorry about your loss. Your Dad lived a full and happy life--your post attests to that. I hope happy memories of him continue to help you and your family through these difficult times.

  9. My deepest condolences to you and your entire family. Though you were sad to have to do such a post, it was a wonderful tribute to your father.

  10. As fine a tribute from a Son to his Father as I have ever read....AL.

  11. So very sorry to hear about the loss of your father. But it appears he lived a grand life, did alot of things on his bucket list and was loved alot.
    Our thoughts are with you at this sad time..

  12. What an awesome life story, John, your father would be proud. Love you

  13. A lovely tribute to your Dad. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  14. JB - I was saddened to hear about the loss of your dad and even more saddened when I realized that you had lost Brent last year - I had missed that.

    Know that you and Brenda and the kids are in my thoughts and prayers and I too hope the that it is a long, long, long while until you join your dad and your brothers.


  15. Such a gentleman and so nicely shared JB; we're so sorry for your loss. Hugs and prayers for you and your family

  16. So sorry for youre loss. It was a fitting tribute to your Dad.

  17. John, so sad to read about your father having passed away. He was one year older than my mother, who also died this winter. Our condolences to you and your family. You have been writing a wonderful eulogy about your Dad.

  18. Very well written tribute John--we know it was hard for you! We are so glad we got to meet Jack and hear some of his stories!

  19. Since you have so wonderfully invited Loyce and I into your hearts and circle of friends, we feel your pain. Not knowing your dad, we understand his loss thru this touching tribute to his life and many accomplishments. We pray for your strength to move ahead on life's path without his guidance. I am certain that your brothers are looking after him quite well now. So its up to you to light that big bonfire for the future generations! Rod and Loyce

  20. A great big hug is being sent via the trade winds and I am toasting a glass to his life and yours :-)

  21. So sorry for your loss JB...what a wonderful and heartwarming tribute to your Dad.

  22. A wonderful tribute to a great man. Sorry to hear of his passing. It's nice that you have many happy memories and pictures of your time spent with your Dad.

  23. JB - we were so sorry to hear of the loss of your Dad. No matter the age, it is never easy to say goodbye to a much loved parent. Your tribute was touching and heartfelt. Thanks for sharing....

  24. What a wonderful man with a full and loving life. I think you dun him good with yur writin!

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  25. John, we're so sorry to hear about the loss of your Dad. What a beautiful tribute. You and your family are in our prayers. Hugs"...... Pat & Mike

  26. John,

    I have read many tributes in the past but yours is clearly in the top 10. What a beautifully described portrait you painted of your dad's life, family and your own special recollections.

    What rings clear is how well he lived his life, how he succeeded in fulfilling many (if not most) of his bucket list, and how he impacted his family.

    It's a tribute from the heart!

    Sincere condolences.

  27. So sorry for your lost, it sounds like he had a great and long life of success and fun!

  28. Denice and I send you and Brenda our most sincere condolences. Your Blog is such a tribute from you to him. You, I believe, are now the Patriarch of that Great Family. You will do it well!!


  29. John, I am so sorry re your Dad,he was such a kind and special man. He had a good life, and was lucky to have such a nice family to share his journey. You are a good writer, and thank you for sharing this tribute. Tried email, address no longer current. Mine is the same, so please keep in touch. Janet

  30. We have been on the road and not keeping up with our Blog reading. I am so sorry to hear of your loss, he sounds like a wonderful person. Good job on the tribute!