Charles K. Brown III

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 11:15am

Charles K. Brown III died peacefully in his apartment at Sunnybrook Village in Brunswick on July 2, 2014 at age 97. He was able to enjoy the presence of friends and family members to the end.

Charley was born in Deposit, N.Y., where his father ran the town pharmacy. The only son of an only son, he enjoyed the love and support of both a remarkable mother and also of three sisters and seven aunts. When he wasn’t working in the pharmacy, he could hitch rides on the horse drawn milk delivery wagon and on ice floes on the Delaware River. He was a scholarship student at the Northwood School in Lake Placid, N.Y., and attended Hamilton College, where he majored in mathematics and chemistry, was steward of his fraternity, and was a founder and captain of the ski team.

A year spent in New York City after graduation in 1938 convinced him to pursue teaching rather than banking. In New York, he also first attended meetings of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and was drawn to their peace testimony in a time of gathering world troubles. He enrolled in education courses at Cornell, and joined Ithaca Friends Meeting. He then entered Civilian Public Service, a Quaker-sponsored alternative to military service for young men who were conscientious objectors to war.

When war was declared on Japan, Congress required conscientious objectors to serve for the duration. Charley served for a time as a firefighter and surveyor in federal forest lands in California. While he was there, Ellen Baily, a young Friend from West Chester, Pa., visited the camp for eight days, and by the time she left, they were engaged. Charley arranged a transfer to Philadelphia State Hospital (Byberry), where he was an orderly on a ward for incontinent mental patients. He joined other conscientious objectors in helping to ameliorate and expose the inhumane conditions the patients endured. In March of 1944, while Charley was still at Byberry, he and Ellen were married, a union that thrived for 63 years until her death in 2011.

Charley took a job teaching mathematics at Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school in Chester County, Pa., shortly after the war. He taught with humor and insight for 35 years, also serving as dean of boys and boys’ college counselor. He coached soccer and led an intramural softball team called the Charley Horses.

For 12 years he was assistant director of the National Science Foundation Institute for Teachers of Mathematics held each summer at Hamilton College, and he led a National Science Foundation/USAID Institute for Mathematics Teachers at Jadavpur University in Calcutta, India, during a sabbatical. He served on the national committee to write the Advanced Placement mathematics exam.

Throughout his teaching career Charley also sustained and led Quaker institutions. He served as clerk (chairperson) of Westtown Monthly Meeting and in several leadership capacities in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the regional governing Quaker body. He was clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for five years. He served as clerk of the Yearly Meeting Worship and Ministry Committee, and led revisions to "Faith and Practice," the Yearly Meeting guide for spiritual discernment and business process. He was clerk of Representative Meeting, the Yearly Meeting’s interim governing body.

Charley retired from teaching in 1982, and he and Ellen moved to Wiscasset, in a region where her family had roots. In “retirement” he remained active with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). He helped Ellen set up her art exhibitions and her booth at the Maine Common Ground Fair, he tutored inmates in the Lincoln County Jail, and he provided thoughtful input at Wiscasset town meetings and in his letters to the editor of local newspapers.

Charley is survived by his two younger sisters, Janet Seehausen of Nashua, N.H. and Nancy Cox of Savannah, Ga,; his three children, Baird Brown of Philadelphia, Pa., David Brown of West Chester, Pa., and Eliza Allison of Wiscasset; four grandchildren, Hannah Marzynski of Seattle, Wash., Felicity Brown of Washington, D.C., Joshua Brown of Portland, Ore., and Eliza Brown of Chicago, Ill.; and two great-grandchildren, Jacob and Levi Marzynski of Seattle, Wash.

Gifts in Charley’s memory can be made to Westtown School, Pendel Hill, or the American Friends Service Committee.