BuJazzO: That's German for Swinging Big Band Jazz
Farewell to a Friend
On August 13, I attended a memorial service, something I don't often do. But this one was special, as it honored a good friend and jazz-loving neighbor, the Rev. Robert O. Browne (known to many of his friends as Friar Boborino), who died July 2 at age eighty-six. Several months after Betty and I moved from North Carolina to Albuquerque in 2003, a gentleman passed by my garage as I was inside doing some cleaning. "Hello," he said, "my name's Bob Browne. We haven't met because I've been in the hospital for some time." Looking inside, and noting the several thousands of CDs encased on one wall, he said, "I see you have some music. What kind is it?" "Mostly big band jazz," I replied. He responded with one of the widest grins I'd seen in quite a while, and I knew immediately I'd found someone with whom I could share my love of America's classical music. Unfortunately, Bob wasn't well enough to endure long visits so I never got to know him as well as I would have liked, and I'm sure he felt the same, as he said so in e-mail messages. What I did learn about him was fascinating. As a boy in St. Louis he played sandlot baseball with neighbors Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. Later, he worked in local radio and theatre groups and as a dancer. In the Army, he was an entertainment director who coordinated shows for troops who were to be deployed overseas, all the while working as a standup comic in San Francisco nightclubs. After his discharge Bob earned a degree in psychology from St. Louis University, then made a sharp u-turn, was graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago in 1953 and began a ministry in the Presbyterian Church that lasted for fifty-eight years. Bob wasn't your typical garden-variety pastor; he was widely known for his offbeat sermons, and was once dubbed "the clown prince of the Presbyterian Church," an honor he probably cherished above all others (and there were many others). The Rev. Browne was also an ardent champion of human and civil rights who was jailed in Mississippi for helping African-Americans register to vote, having ridden a "freedom bus" to get there. On another occasion, he stood alone between an angry mob and a black family who'd moved into a white neighborhood in Pennsylvania and convinced the mob to disperse and go home. The Rev. Browne led a long and productive life, one that was filled with love, laughter, music and adventure; no one can ask for more than that. To me, he was a good friend, neighbor and fellow music-lover whose natural warmth and friendly smile will be missed.
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