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Columbia Missourian

Gordon Brown, 82, served in the military, mentored young and old

By Laurien Rose
June 4, 2013 | 8:19 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA  Gordon Brown was a brilliant mathematician, a dedicated soldier and a mentor to everyone around him. 

"Gordon was always ready to put out a helping hand to anyone ready for it," said Anne Claypool Brown, his wife of 58 years. "His job was to do the very best he could all the time." 

Mr. Brown was born Feb. 3, 1931, to Arthur Ernest and Edith (Watters) Brown in Chicago.

Mr. Brown died in his home in Columbia on Saturday, June 1, 2013. He was 82.

After graduating from Knox College in Illinois, where he met his wife, Mr. Brown went on to earn his MBA at Northwestern University.

Mr. Brown served as a first lieutenant and was a dedicated officer during his active duty in Germany. He retired as a captain in the Army Reserves. During his service, he was sent on a mission overseas, his wife said. American statesman and four-star Gen. Colin Powell was sent on the same mission five years after Mr. Brown. Their orders were to delay the Russians if they attacked with only a platoon of men.

"It was a suicide mission because there would have been no chance of stopping the Russians," his wife said.

Mr. Brown moved to Columbia with his wife in 2000 after receiving an alumni magazine from MU, from which his daughter Allison Crunick graduated in 1982.

"There was an article in the magazine about Columbia being a good place to retire," his wife said. "We had been looking for a place to retire to, and Gordon thought it was an easy place to get around in."

Mr. Brown worked in the sales and marketing industry in many places, including Chicago, New York and Toledo, Ohio. Before opening his own business, Swifty Print, in St. Charles, Ill., Mr. Brown worked for companies such as Reynolds Aluminum, Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation and Owens-Illinois.

His daughter, Susan Adams of Edmond, Okla., said her dad raised his children to be well-educated and worldly.

"He took a lot of time and care to make sure we knew how to take care of ourselves," Adams said. "He had the best Donald Duck impersonation and we used to love to hear it."

Mr. Brown attended his granddaughter's college graduation in Oklahoma and joined his family for a celebratory dinner at an Italian restaurant. He never let his children pick up the checks when they went out, but someone had already paid that night. Realizing this, Mr. Brown excused himself from the table and went to talk to the manager of the restaurant. The manager came over to the table at the end of the night, congratulated the graduate, then turned to Mr. Brown and said, "It was very nice to meet you, Gordon."

"So many people knew him well and were glad to know him," Adams said.

During his retirement, Mr. Brown was a member of the Columbia Metro Rotary club for 13 years. Mr. Brown also spent his retirement working part time for the MU athletics department and helping with events. He was often requested to work traffic on game days, probably because of his military experience working with convoys, his daughter Susan said.

Mr. Brown was passionate about mentoring others. He worked interesting jobs throughout his life and was rich with knowledge, his wife said. He mentored anyone from high school students to adults, telling them what he knew and offering any advice he could.

"He would always take on a challenge," his wife said. "He helped people with whatever they came to him with, whether it was school problems, someone getting mixed in with drugs or monetary problems. He could talk to people and tell them what they need." 

Mr. Brown always helped people with math-related problems. He once helped an employee work out a 12 column accounting sheet that included Christmas spending and car insurance payments so she could keep track of her bills. High school students came to him with questions about yearbook printing and, in the 1950s, he even helped a man working on early computers.

"Computers in the fifties were two stories tall, and you had to knock out the floors to put them in," his wife said.

Gordon is survived by his wife of 58 years, Anne; his children and their spouses Susan and Paul Adams of Edmond, Okla.; Allison and Geoffrey Crunick of La Vista, Neb.; and Doug and Kristine Brown of Omaha, Neb.; and his grandchildren Karen and her husband Karl Goke, Tommy and Katie Adams, and Ryan Brown. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Anne Brown, and four nieces.

His parents and brother, R. Harper Brown, died earlier.

The family will receive friends at their home Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. A private service and interment will be at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Ill., at a later date.

Memorial contributions are suggested to be sent to The Rotary Foundation, 14280 Collections Center Drive, Chicago, IL 60693; Knox College, Office of Advancement, 2 E. South St., Galesburg, IL 61401; or The Illinois St. Andrews Society, 2800 Des Plaines Ave., North Riverside, IL 60546.

Condolences may be sent to the family at