Bruce Brown makes lasting mark on family, communityFormer City Council member, Citizen of the Year dies at 83
Having visited more than 80 countries around the world, Bruce Brown could easily be remembered for his adventurous, cosmopolitan life. Instead, he’ll be remembered for his love for and work on behalf of family, friends and the community of Mukilteo.
Bruce Baden Brown, 83, died peacefully Tuesday, Feb. 14, after several months of declining health.
The community is invited to honor the former Mukilteo City Council member, Historical Society leader and Citizen of the Year at a reception from 2-5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, in the Point Elliott Room at the Rosehill Community Center. Plan to share stories while enjoying some food and wine.
Brown was born Dec. 1, 1933, in a Capitol Hill hospital in Seattle to Charles Brown and Mabel Coleman Brown. He was the youngest of four siblings, born at the beginning of the Great Depression and faced a challenging childhood.
His mother died when he was five months old. His father remarried, but his stepmother was an angry woman who showered her stepchildren with pain rather than love.
Young Bruce found comfort in the Boy Scouts, where he was nurtured under the tutelage of scoutmaster Phil Smart Sr., the long-time owner of a Mercedes-Benz dealership on Pike Street who yet was best known for his philanthropy.
Smart taught Brown that in spite of some adults’ abuse of children and other vulnerable people, Brown could grow up to be a good and caring man. Those were virtues he adopted and practiced throughout his life. Like his mentor, he became an Eagle Scout. He also joined the Sea Scouts.
Brown graduated from Edmonds High School at the start of the Korean War. At 18 years old, he promptly enlisted in the Army just after Christmas in 1951. He ate 10 pounds of bananas before reporting for his physical to ensure he could make the minimum weight requirement.
Perhaps as early evidence of his adventurous streak, he joined the airborne infantry division, envisioning himself jumping out of airplanes over enemy territory.
But, during the course of his physical, Brown took an IQ test in which he scored so high that a sergeant offered him work in the Army Security Agency, which was charged with intelligence gathering, electronics countermeasure operations and general security of Army communications. He accepted.
In later years he would regale listeners with stories of carpooling during which one of his riding companions, sitting in the back seat behind Brown, would communicate with him by clicking his teeth in Morse code.
Completing his service to country, Brown returned home and went to the University of Washington. He graduated in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in Production Engineering. His love for and support of the Huskies remained strong throughout his life.
His early career was filled with variety, including stints as a laborer, schedule planner and estimator. He landed at Boeing, but was one of the victims of the massive 1971 layoff in which an iconic billboard advised, “Will the last person leaving Seattle – Turn out the lights.” Never one to stay unemployed for long, and deciding his UW degree had limited value, he became what he called “an accountant with an imagination.”
He went to work for the Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco, a job that took him to the Middle East and around the world – twice. He later would recount stories of life “behind enemy lines” when Iraq was raining Scud missiles on the Saudis and American troops. Along with his love for the UW, he cited his stay in Saudi Arabia as among the most influential experiences of his life.
His work career was also interrupted when he met his future wife Lois at a Boeing work group. The 29-year-old bachelor was enchanted and, in February 1963, they were wedded.
Settling in Mukilteo, the couple focused on raising their family and, at the same time, became intensely involved in the community. Both Bruce and Lois would be named Citizen of the Year. He spent six years on the city’s Civil Service Commission and four years on the Council. He co-chaired the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival, was active in the Historical Society and remained active in the community he loved until the final months of his life. He will be remembered for his gentleness, kindness and dry sense of humor.
Brown is survived by his brother Gordon, his wife, Lois, daughters Debra Bordsen, Joann Longley and Kelly Dukes, sons-in-law Cary Dukes and Charlie Longley, and grandchildren Lucas Bordsen, Christina Dukes and Evan Dukes.
The community is encouraged to wear purple or other Husky gear to his memorial. Cougar alums, however, will be welcomed, as well – just this one time.
In lieu of flowers, you’re encouraged to make donations to the Mukilteo Historical Society, 304 Lincoln Ave., Suite 101, Mukilteo, WA 98275.