Robert William Brown passed away at the age of ninety-one on Sunday, October 6, 2019 at the Audie L. Murphy Community Living Center (CLC) in San Antonio. Mr. Brown had fought a three-year battle with lung cancer and was admitted to the CLC recently when his health began to decline.
Robert was born on March 10, 1928 in Jourdanton to William Brown and Aurora (Benavides) Brown and was a lifelong resident of Jourdanton and Pleasanton. Robert began his education in a Jourdanton Catholic School where he struggled through his elementary years until he learned English. He then attended Jourdanton Public Schools and was graduated from Jourdanton High School in 1948.
Robert was preceded in death by his wife Mary Helen Brown, his parents, William and Aurora Brown; sister Adeline; brothers Raymond, Buddy, and William, and his lifelong friends and second family, Jimmie and Fay Palmer.
He is survived by his sister Josephine Brown Segura; brothers Ruben, Johnny, Tommy, and Jimmy Brown; children Cheryl Brown; Nancy Garza and husband Rudy; Bobby Brown and wife Lydia.
He is also survived by grandchildren Matthew Benavides and wife Amanda, Jaclyn Benavides, Jason Garza and Justin Garza; Trey Brown and wife Brenda, Jenifer Griego and husband Mark.
Robert also leaves behind eighteen great-grandchildren: Mikayla Castillo, Marina Castillo, Michael Castillo, Melaina Castillo; Ayden Garza, Jordan Garza; Aidon Benavides, Matthew Benavides, Madisyn Benavides, and Brooklyn Benavides; Zoey Garza, Brodie Garza; M’Lynn Griego, Colten Brown, William Griego, Braden Griego, Peyton Brown, and Tanner Brown.
Robert lived and experienced a long and diverse life. After being graduated from JHS, Robert was called into service in the U.S. Army in September 1950, when the Korean conflict was underway. Robert served in Korea for two years as an infantry combat soldier, specializing in communications. He was honorably discharged in November 1952 and returned home to Jourdanton.
Robert was a fine athlete while at Jourdanton High School (JHS), and excelled in football, basketball, and track. However, he was best known for his baseball playing. Since baseball was not a sponsored sport at many high schools, including JHS, he found a place to play his favorite sport on the local Bluebonnet League team. As a sixteen-year-old he made the starting team playing shortstop and second base and enjoyed playing and competing with many players who had varying degrees of experience in college, the minor leagues, and in plain-old sandlot baseball. While in high school and after graduation, he received several offers to play shortstop for minor league teams, but due to his anticipating a draft notice, he deferred until he was called up by the Army during the Korean Conflict.
Robert was also one of the fastest high school sprinters in the area. He qualified for the state track meet at San Antonio’s Alamo Stadium. During the preliminary, qualifying heats, he ran the one-hundred yard dash in 10 seconds and qualified for the finals. Although he qualified for the final event, he didn’t compete in the finals due to his having to return home early with the physician, who had volunteered to drive him to the track meet. He had to choose whether to stay and compete and possibly have to walk home or leave with his ride. He chose to leave with the doctor, losing his opportunity for a possible state track title.
While in high school, Robert began operating the projector at the Gayle Theater in Jourdanton, which was owned by Jimmie and Fay Palmer. Robert would attend school, participate in sports, and then operate the projector during the evenings and on weekends. He continued to operate the projector for the Palmers after completing high school. This after-school job began a lifetime relationship with Jimmie, Fay, and their children Wilbur and Dorendia. The Palmers became a second extended family for Robert and his family.
After returning from Korea, Robert worked for several employers in the Houston area, but later returned to Jourdanton to resume his relationship with Jimmie Palmer. He began working for Jimmie as a heavy equipment operator in a conservation contracting business that Jimmie had started. This began a long history of Jimmie and Robert working all over south Texas.
On April 19, 1953, Robert married Mary Helen Salinas with whom he enjoyed fifty-one years of marriage and raised three children. Unfortunately, Mary also was stricken with lung cancer and passed away on December 16, 2003. Robert and Mary loved to dance and spent many joyous weekends with friends at area dances. They also loved to make regular trips to visit with family and friends. Family, especially grandchildren and great-grandchildren were the joy of their lives. They never missed an opportunity to spoil them and always had smiles, laughter, hugs, and gifts for them.
During his years with Jimmie in the conservation contracting business, Robert constructed and maintained hundreds of stock tanks and cleared thousands of acres of brush on numerous farms and ranches. Jimmie and Robert pioneered many methods of maximizing the productivity and efficiency of stock tanks and ranch land for ranchers all over the south Texas brush country and the areas surrounding San Antonio, Laredo, and Eagle Pass.
Robert was best known for excavating and maintaining stock tanks with a dragline. He was always most at ease and comfortable at the controls of draglines and became highly proficient at constructing efficient and long-lasting stock tanks and earthen structures that survived harsh droughts. Many ranchers would call Jimmie when they needed stock tank work and request Robert to do their work. Graves Peeler was one of many ranchers, who would tell Jimmie, “Don’t send the dragline unless you can send Robert with it.” And Jimmie, who always placed customer satisfaction first, was only too happy to comply. Robert worked for Jimmie for approximately thirty-one years until he semi-retired in 1979.
After his semi-retirement in 1979, Robert and his wife Mary purchased a convenience store adjacent to St. Andrew Catholic Church. Robert and Mary operated the store until 1988. A downturn in the area oil industry and shortages of available gas products resulted in hard times at the store and Robert and Mary were forced to sell the store.
In 1981, Robert was appointed to the Pleasanton City Council to complete the unexpired term of councilman Richard Hayden, who left the Council to run for state representative. Robert went on to serve on the Council for seven years until he chose not to seek reelection.
Robert was also a long-time member of the Pleasanton Noon Lions Club and served one term as president. Robert was proud of the many charitable and community services that he was part of as a Lion.
Upon the death of his longtime friend and employer, Jimmie Palmer, Robert took on part-time duties assisting Jimmie’s widow, Fay, with maintaining the Palmer family farm and rental houses. He enjoyed working and staying active by helping Fay with the many unanticipated jobs that a family farm and housing maintenance provided.
Although the true author of this quote has never been verified, Mark Twain was fond of stating, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Robert’s life personified this statement. He always enjoyed his work, whether as a projector operator, dragline operator, store owner/operator, city councilman, volunteer, parttime farm assistant, or just helping out a friend to lighten his burden.
Visitation will be held at Hurley Funeral Home at 118 W. Oaklawn Rd., Pleasanton on Thursday, October 10 from 3-7 p.m., with a rosary to be held at 7 p.m.
A Catholic Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Matthew Catholic Church at Jourdanton on Friday, October 11 at 10 a.m. Burial will follow at the San Jose Catholic Cemetery on FM Highway 1332, Jourdanton.
Pallbearers for the funeral services are Trey Brown, T.J. Gossett, Michael Castillo, Justin Garza, Jason Garza, and Ayden Garza. Honorary Pallbearers are Wilbur Palmer, Rudy Garza, Colten Brown, William Griego, Matthew Benavides, Ricky Segura, Rudy Segura, and Matthew Benavides, Jr.
Robert was proud of his military service and the services that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Veterans Administration provided him during his post-military years and his recent illness. One of his requests was that, in lieu of flowers, family and friends would be encouraged to send gifts or donations to an authorized Veterans’ Organization of their choice or to a Cancer Research Organization of their choice, in hopes that future generations might see the end of this dreadful disease.