Welcome to One of the Most Remarkable Landscapes on Earth

So, you have two guys of approximately the same age (and regular readers will know what that means) in a car driving the six hours from Salt Lake City down to the Southeast Utah town of Bluff (population 150+) through the awesome landscape of red rocks, wide open vistas, mountains, mesas, and deserts.

Navaho Twins

Navajo Twins in Bluff, Utah

What’s on the musical playlist when you have all day and long stretches of lonesome highway?

Why the Stones (Sticky Fingers, double album with Eric Clapton playing on Brown Sugar).  Lyle Lovett and his Large Band. Merle Haggard and Big City. And most appropriately, Leon Russell and the Shelter People singing Stranger in a Strange Land.

What better song to remind you that you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Tom and I certainly tested the speakers in our little rental car. So crank it up!

More to come…


Summer Views

Celebrating Tom's 90th

Claire, Candice, Tom, DJB, and Andrew celebrating Tom’s 90th birthday

From deep in the American West (yes, I’m traveling again), here are some photos and very brief observations from the last two-three weeks that I’ve wanted to post…but haven’t found the time.  And I’ll begin with a few pictures from Tom Brown’s Excellent 90th Birthday Adventure.  (Or the Tom-Tom Palooza, as coined by my niece Rachel.)

Brown Family Singers

The von Brown Family Singers prepare for their big turn in the spotlight at First Baptist Church

Tom Brown's 90th

Candice and DJB with Tom Brown to celebrate his 90th birthday

A vivid memory from family gatherings from my youth were my uncles Joe, Jimmy, and Paul – along with my Dad – sitting together and watching the children play. Here’s the next generation, although the vice has turned from cigars and pipes (everyone but my father smoked) to beer.  Here two of my nieces, their husbands, my brother-in-law Mark, and Candice join me in relaxing by the pool.


The next generation

The DC and Chicago cousins

Claire and Andrew with their Chicago cousins Zoe and Kelsey

TB and his children

Tom Brown with his children (clockwise from upper left) Joe, Steve, Debbie, David, and Carol on July 5, 2015 – his 90th birthday

Tom Brown and Family

Tom Brown (yes, the one with the suspenders) with all his family members to celebrate his 90th birthday

And now for something completely different.

We celebrated the start of the new (fiscal) year at work with that great Southern tradition – seersucker.  Unfortunately, not too many folks at the National Trust own any seersucker (at least not any that they would be caught dead in out in public), so the brave few posed in front of Common Reader by the artist David Salle (from the collection of The Glass House).  And yes, Katherine does look like she has a crocodile dancing on her head!

Seersucker Day

Seersucker Day, with Brent, DJB, Diana, Katherine, Brendan, and Tom

My favorite seersucker story comes from a former board member at the National Trust and one of my all-time favorite people, the late Bradley Hale from Atlanta, Georgia.  Bradley and another partner from the prestigious Atlanta law firm of King & Spalding were in Las Vegas for a convention, and being good Southern gentlemen they went into the bar – wearing their seersucker suits – to get a drink.  After a few minutes, when several waitresses passed them by, they stopped one and asked if they could order.  Her response?  “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were with the band!”  Classic.

And finally.

Our Vice President for Historic Sites knows of our family’s love for Claremont, California – home to Pomona College. Katherine’s husband attended graduate school at Claremont, and she headed there for a conference just a few short weeks after Claire’s graduation.  She texted me and said, “I’m bringing you home something you’ll enjoy from Claremont,” and the next week the following bumper sticker showed up on my desk.

I'm a Crustie

A wonderful reminder of Some Crust Bakery in Claremont, California. One of our all-time favorite bakeries.

I could almost taste that breakfast slider…or a Valentine’s day cupcake…or the cranurkey sandwich…or their wonderful lattes.

Off to more travels.  Look for some updates soon from Cedar Mesa in Southeast Utah.

More to come…


Red Wing III: A Quick Look Back

Watkins, Jarosz, and O'Donovan

Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan at Red Wing Roots Music Festival on July 11, 2015

After 12 hours of music on Saturday at a sold-out Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Natural Chimneys Park, I’m going to let the photos speak for Day Two of the festival, with only a few quick observations thrown in along the way.

Scott Miller at Red Wing

Scott Miller

  • Scott Miller is a terrific songwriter and a good performer with a great sense of humor.  Is There Room on the Cross for Me? was only one of a number of smartly written songs in his set.  Fiddler Rayna Gellert was also a find.  Check them out.
  • I liked Missy Raines and the New Hip better when they were all acoustic.  The electric guitarist was good, but her music lost some of its subtlety and just became more noise.  That said, she’s still a terrific bass player out flexing her chops and trying new things…and that’s all good.
  • I’m not sure who booked Nikki Lane for a prime 6 p.m. slot on the main stage, but to my ear a little of her honky tonking trash from Nashville went a long way.  She should have been given the 11 p.m. slot and Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen should have taken her slot on the main stage.
Jarosz and O'Donovan

Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan at Red Wing 2015

Sara Watkins

Sara Watkins at Red Wing Roots Festival 2015

Aoife O'Donovan at Red Wing

Aoife O’Donovan

Watkins, Jarosz and O'Donovan

Watkins, Jarosz and O’Donovan at Red Wing 2015

Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan – the acoustic super-trio I’m With Herwas the best show of the festival for me (and I suspect for many others as well).  As highly accomplished singers and players, the music was all of a high quality.  They obviously enjoyed playing off each other and blending their beautiful voices into harmonies that could be sweet – or growling – but never dull.  As my friend Oakley said, “Worth the price of the festival.”  Agreed!

Steel Wheels 2015

The Steel Wheels – hosts for the Red Wing Roots Music Festival III

Christ Thile

Chris Thile of The Punch Brothers at Red Wing 2015

Frank Solivan

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen at Red Wing III

The hosts for the weekend – The Steel Wheels – were part of Saturday evening’s headliners, and they didn’t disappoint.  The Steel Wheels put on their typical high energy show, which had the crowd singing along when they weren’t cheering with delight. The Punch Brothers were the true headliners, and Chris Thile and the boys played their usual masterful…and sometimes musically dense…set.  Thile was Thile…all over the place, excited to be there, and musically engaging (when you weren’t scratching your head).  Finally, at 11 p.m., Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen took the last shift of the night, with a tight 50 minute show for those hard core fans who remained.

At Red Wing III

Margaret, Candice, DJB, and Oakley at Red Wing III

These four satisfied-yet-tired festival goers enjoyed two days in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  What could be finer than sitting beneath the grandeur of the Natural Chimneys, listening to three beautiful young ladies play amazing acoustic music.  So on that note, we’ll go out with two tunes by Watkins, Jarosz and O’Donovan – the first being the John Hiatt tune Crossing Muddy Waters followed by their a capella version of Be My Husband.


More to come…






Red Wing III: This is Becoming a Habit

Robert Earl Keen, July 10, 2015

Robert Earl Keen performs at Red Wing III

The inaugural Red Wing Roots Music Festival in beautiful Natural Chimneys Park held out a great deal of promise as The Steel Wheels pulled together friends and musical heroes for a wonderful three days of music in 2013.  So I returned last year for Red Wing II, and found that the festival had grown and built on that promise. Naturally, Candice and I returned this weekend for the third annual Red Wing festival with our friends Margaret and Oakley Pearson from Staunton.  This is becoming a habit. The signs of the festival’s growth and increasing popularity are everywhere, beginning with the size of the crowd. Then the line-up gets stronger, as bands and musicians learn about this wonderful, small (compared to Merlefest and Telluride), and welcoming festival with knowledgeable fans.  (Folks in the Shenandoah Valley know their music.)

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival (photo credit: Elephant Revival website)

Candice and I were late arriving (don’t ask…part of it had to do with sitting still on I-66 for 20+ minutes), so we missed the first band I was hoping to hear – Mandolin Orange.  I enjoyed their music at an earlier festival, and Oakley said they were equally captivating in 2015.  We did arrive in time to hear the Colorado-based Elephant Revival, and they were a revelation.  Bonnie Paine on washboard, musical saw (thankfully, only one tune), and lead vocals was amazing – leading the band through its blend of Celtic, folk, roots indie music.

Chatham County Line 07 10 15

Chatham County Line at Red Wing III

The bluegrass band Chatham County Line was up next.  I’ve heard their music over the past couple of decades, but had not had the opportunity to see them live.  They began with the beautiful Sound of the Whippoorwill, and continued through an engaging hour-long set.  For an encore, they brought out members of Mandolin Orange – one of those nice moments that festivals can produce. A change in the line-up brought the band Matuto to the main stage.  Their music is described as an Appalachia-gone-Afro-Brazilian sound.  Well, I didn’t hear much of the Appalachia piece, but guitarist Clay Ross and accordionist Rob Curto exchanged some mean licks in extended jams, all underpinned by a steady bass.  This would be a great band in a New York club (where they are based).

The Travelin' McCourys

The Travelin’ McCourys

The Travelin’ McCourys – along with special guest Andy Falco of The Infamous Stringdusters – hit the stage hard and kept the pace up with their blend of traditional bluegrass and more progressive sounds.  These sons of legend Del McCoury know their traditional music, but they shined while playing some Dawg music, progressive bluegrass, and other tunes outside the boundaries of their dad’s bluegrass.  It was especially nice to hear the Tony Rice version of Old Train as played by the band.

Jason Carter 07 10 15

Jason Carter of The Travelin’ McCourys at Red Wing III

I’ve heard Jason Carter play his wonderful bluegrass fiddle before, but he has a great lead voice when singing that’s seldom heard (at least in my experience) when he’s playing with the Del McCoury Band.  All-in-all a very satisfying show by Ronnie, Rob, Jason, Andy, and bassist Alan Bartram. Which then led to the night’s headliner…the inimitable Robert Earl Keen.

REK at Red Wing

Robert Earl Keen and band at Red Wing III

We were flagging after a very long day, but Keen’s music and breezy, boozy style (he couldn’t remember the name of his “bluegrass drummer” until about three songs into the set) soon won us over.  Keen clearly has a huge following, and the quality of the songwriting shows why.  When he explained that he had to search to find a “bluegrass drinking song” for his new Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions album (because “all my songs are drinking songs”), he then tore into Hot Corn, Cold Corn.  His band was all acoustic for this set, and the addition of Kym Warner of The Greencards ensured some hot mandolin picking.  We packed it in before the end of the set (Saturday’s music promises to run over into Sunday morning, so we have to pace ourselves)…but it was a good start to a weekend of satisfying music. More to come… DJB

It’s a Wonderful Life – A Special #91 for Tom Brown’s 90th Birthday

Tom Brown at the Franklin Theatre

Tom Brown

Wednesday’s post about my father’s upcoming 90th birthday brought nearly 500 views (huge in my world) and elicited all sorts of comments from family and friends.  I heard from the head of the Heritage Foundation in Franklin who said she was “feeling proud that the Heritage Foundation not only saved his beloved Franklin Theatre but the Bearden House too!”  (They rescued the house after the city had let it fall into serious disrepair.)  A long-time musician friend said he had seen my father earlier in the week and, “He was truly excited about his upcoming birthday celebration.”

Of course, major birthdays are not without their traumas in our family, and Dad’s 90th is no different.  On the day I posted my celebration of all things Tom Brown, he slipped on his patio and dislocated his shoulder.  My sisters and brother again came to the rescue, seeing him through an ER visit where they popped it back in place.  He’s now in a sling and moving a bit slower, but still ready to celebrate.  We’ve spent the past two days with him, and are looking forward to the rest of the weekend.

Of the many comments made about my blog post, one touched me as especially thoughtful and in a way that captured Daddy’s generous spirit.  It came from a Facebook post by my nephew Kelsey, as he shared my post with his friends.  With his permission I’m sharing it with readers of More to Come in its entirety.

My Uncle David wrote this wonderful post about my Granddaddy. I’d really recommend everyone who knows me to take the time to read it.

Today the loudest voices of bigotry, in particular regarding race and LGBT issues, are associated with Christians and people from “the South.” My Granddaddy embodies all the best parts of both those groups. He is kind, liberal, and a good man, not in spite of his Christianity or southern-ness, but because of them. I hope that one day, everyone who identifies themselves in such a way is more like my Granddaddy than the people spewing hate on the news.

In honor of my Granddaddy’s 90th birthday, I’d like to add a #91 to David’s list:

91. When I came out as transgender to him via email, I got a simple message back “This is an area in which I am not familiar, so I will have to read up on it. Just rest assured that I love you.” When I went to visit him a few months later, he told me that he appreciated my email, and while it was outside his realm of experience, he still loved me. We went out to dinner later that day, and the waitress commented on him being out with his son and grandson, and Granddaddy smiled at her and told her we were visiting for the weekend.

I can only hope to grow into the kind of man my Granddaddy is. The world could use more men like him.

I couldn’t have said it any better.  I am so proud of my father, and I am so proud of Kelsey.

More to come…


It’s a Wonderful Life (For Tom Brown on his 90th Birthday)

My father is celebrating his 90th birthday on Sunday, July 5th, and the night before fireworks will be set off in his honor all across America!

Daddy told me recently he didn’t think he would live past 73. So while he may not be a very good prognosticator, he still has much to recommend him. That got me to thinking, and in the spirit of my 60 Lessons from 60 Years, I’ve pulled together 90 things about the wonderful life of Tom Brown on the occasion of his 90th birthday.  Just like George Bailey in the movie of the same name, life for so many people would be much the poorer if Tom Brown had not lived these 90 years (and counting!).

These are all true, even if they aren’t all factual.  If you have others you would like to add, please list them in the comments section below.  (And thanks to Candice, Claire, and Andrew for their contributions to this list.  Besides being a pretty terrific dad, he’s an amazing grandfather and father-in-law.)

1.  Rode his bike to work when biking to work wasn’t cool.

2. Still in love with the woman he married 65 years ago yesterday.

Helen and Tom Brown, 1950

My parents – Helen and Tom Brown – in 1950

3.  Rewired our house on Main Street by himself.  (I didn’t get those genes, as I can barely screw in a lightbulb!)  Of course, Daddy’s college degree from Vanderbilt was in electrical engineering, and his entire work career was with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), so maybe that’s to be expected.

4. Gave up smoking cigars 60 years ago on March 4, 1955 – my birthday – saying that he “couldn’t afford two expensive habits at the same time.”  I always thought that was a great line.  However, when he was more reflective, he would say that the real reason was that he wanted to set a good example for his children.

5.  Is a voracious reader, and passed along his love of books to (most) of his children.  He is also a great “gifter” of books (if that’s a word). If he thinks you’ll enjoy one, he’ll just give it to  you.

6.  Drove around in a VW microbus before Arlo Guthrie and Alice’s Restaurant made them cool.

7.  Served our country in WWII.

Navy portrait

Navy portrait from 1945

8.  Will always welcome a stranger.

9.  Has a great smile and uses it often.

10.  They know what he wants to eat the second he walks in the door at the City Cafe.

11.  When he gives his grandchildren cash for birthday or Christmas gifts, he will add the admonition, “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

12.  We saw many a power station and power-generating dam on family vacations.  And you could pretty much count on him telling you where the 500 KV line you were driving under at any point both originated and ended.

500 KV Lines

500 KV Transmission lines (photo credit: Wikipedia)

13.  Has amassed an impressive theological library.

14.  Is a good friend and stays in touch with people.

15.  Swims every morning at the YMCA…and then has a doughnut and coffee with the crew and other patrons.

16.  Has great looking legs.  Might have something to do with #15.

17. Shamelessly flirts with nurses and physical therapists.  That’s a good thing, because it is a sign he’s feeling better.

18.  Can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but has always enjoyed great musicians such as Lena Horne and Teddy Wilson.

19.  Can float on his back for hours.

20.  Took a two-year sabbatical from his long-time church while in his 80s to attend the local Black Baptist Church, because he thought it had more spirit and “showed a little emotion.”  He had to leave after a couple of years because he couldn’t keep up with the gymnastics that are part of a truly participatory church.

21.  Had great hair as a kid, and didn’t mind it when his children kidded him about it after he went bald.

Tom Brown

Tom Brown as a child

22. Even as he is growing older and is hard of hearing, he is just happy to be among family and friends.

23.  Fell on his kitchen floor, ended up with two broken legs, and waited several hours for someone to find him. How did they know something was wrong? He hadn’t made it to Sunday evening church services!  I told him he needed a better story than he simply tripped while walking toward the sink.

24.  Does the crossword puzzle everyday. Usually in ink. It is a habit that both Andrew and Claire have begun.

25.  Has an awesome collection of suspenders…and wears them.

Daddy's Suspenders

Daddy’s suspenders

26.  Is aging gracefully, and doesn’t burden you with stories about his health or illnesses.

27.  Lent his car to his grandchildren before they had a license so they could practice driving in a mega-church parking lot.  I was glad to learn that those suburban mega-churches are good for something.

28.  Allowed all five of his children to grow into the people they are, instead of trying to force us into any preconceived molds. The consternation we each caused our parents in different ways and at different times (except for Debbie, who was always the perfect child) must have been hard to live through. But he stuck with his principles.

Tom Brown Family

Debbie, Joe, Carol, Daddy, Mom, Steve, and DJB around 1974…the country-rock band era

29.  Took out his first subscription to Mother Jones magazine while in his 70s.

30.  Really understands the importance of the separation of church and state, and writes killer Letters to the Editor on the subject, to help educate his neighbors in Middle Tennessee.

31.  Does the right thing without telling anyone of what he’s done.

32.  Keeps his mother’s memory alive by sharing stories and sayings that he remembers from his childhood.  One of my favorites (which I remember Grandmother saying to me on occasion) was “Make yourself useful as well as ornamental.”

Mary Dixie and George Brown

Mary Dixie Bearden Brown and George Alma Brown – my grandparents

33.  Still follows his mother’s advice and takes his hat off while indoors.

34.  Has modeled how to be a wonderful husband and father. So many things I do in both roles, I learned from Daddy.

Daddy and DJB, 1955

Tom and David Brown, 1955

35.  Loves to read funny stories from the newspaper out loud to his family at the dining room table.

36.  The Rev. Will B. Dunn is among his favorite Baptist preachers.

Will B. Dunn

The Rev. Will B. Dunn as featured in Kudzu by Doug Marlette

37. Ensured that his children addressed the two African-American cooks who worked for our Baptist church in Murfreesboro as Mr. and Mrs. Smith – and not by their first names as so many others did.  This sign of respect came from his parents. Although he grew up during a time in the South when the races were segregated and his parents were part of that culture, he has written that he never heard them speak insultingly to any black person.  His neighborhood was in the old part of Franklin and was an integrated neighborhood, and some of his playmates were black boys in the neighborhood.

38.  Was the ticket taker and back-up projectionist at his hometown theatre while growing up – and he returned there in 2011 as the local Heritage Foundation was beginning a restoration. I remember hearing those stories when I was young. Candice and I were delighted to buy a seat in his honor as part of the restoration.

Tom Brown at the Franklin Theatre

Tom Brown at the Lighting of the Marquee at the Franklin Theatre

39.  Isn’t afraid to tell his own story honestly.  He once sent the following out to his family:  “When I was young I had a poor self-image.  I was skinny, not athletic, wore glasses and was not really accomplished in any area.  I did fairly well in my studies.  As a result I compensated for this by criticizing others.  This bad attitude was called to my attention in a peculiar way while I was in the Navy.  One day a man said to me, ‘Brown, why do you think everybody but you is full of shit?’  He expressed it very well.”

40.  While he self-identifies as a blue-dog Democrat, in reality he is a die-hard liberal by today’s standards, and he is not afraid to speak his mind.

41.  Repaired our washer and dryer by himself rather than calling Sears.  My long-time friend (and now preservation colleague) Van West said that every time he came to our house and entered through the back door, Daddy had the parts of the washer or dryer spread out across the floor.

42.  Proud graduate of Vanderbilt University and a lifelong Vanderbilt sports fan (which can be difficult in the Southeastern Conference).

Graduation from Vanderbilt - 1949

Proud Vanderbilt graduate

43.  Has donated blood all his life…and has the t-shirts to prove it. (And by the way, he irons those t-shirts.  Who does that?!)

44.  While we were growing up, Daddy could play two songs on the piano:  Body and Soul and the St. Louis Blues.  To this day, those are two of my top ten favorite songs.

45.  Has long been a nuanced thinker about political and social questions, and loves engaging in civil conversations around those questions.

46.  Loves all his grandchildren for the people they are…and they are very different!

Christmas Eve 09 at the Ghattases Daddy with Grandchildren jpg

Tom Brown and a group of his grandchildren on Christmas Eve 2009

47.  Slept in small, wet tents on the hard ground just so he could be out with his sons as assistant scout master of Troop 416.

48.  Has a very high respect for women and always treats them as equals.  One of the things of which Daddy was most proud was the fact that Mom was the first female deacon in the history of First Baptist Church.

49.  For years he cooked a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast five days a week for the entire family, before heading out to work.  To this day, when I think of breakfast, that’s the meal that comes to my mind, and I always picture it being made by a man.

50.  Hiked muddy, wet, and hot trails at Shiloh and Franklin battlefields during the Civil War centennial of the 1960s because he knew of my love of history.

51.  Spent many a Christmas Eve (and spilling over into Christmas morning) putting together bicycles and other gifts for his children.  I never understood what love this was…until I was up late on Christmas Eve putting together toys for Andrew and Claire.

DJB on Christmas morning 1964

Christmas morning 1964

52.  Hates University of Alabama football because they beat Vanderbilt by a score of 71-0 in 1945. (The year before, Alabama filled out its team with 17-year olds and young men who were too injured to serve, but not – presumably – to play football.  By the time 1945 rolled around they had a year’s experience on everyone and went 10-0.)

53.  Is a good man.

54.  Always has a positive outlook on life.

55.  Has a spreadsheet to remind him to take his pills that only an engineer could construct.

56.  Drove to Franklin each week in the summer so he could visit with his mother while I mowed her yard.  I think Joe took over as I got older.  All in all it was a win-win-win.

Bearden-Brown House

Bearden-Brown House in Franklin, where my father grew up and where I mowed the yard during the summers.

57.  Likes being out with people. These days that is usually at church gatherings, but years ago he liked to go to the theatre, concerts, and similar places. He is just plain sociable.

58.  Is friends with his children.  At some point in life, he stopped “being the father” and was very comfortable treating his children as adults who had interesting lives.

59.  Enjoyed playing games with his family.

Tom Badminton

Getting ready for a game of badminton, circa 1950

60.  Gail Collins and Molly Ivins are two of his favorite political commentators. Just reading that, you know he likes a little fun – or perhaps devilment – with his op-ed pages.  I can’t imagine him reading a stick-in-the-mud such as George Will.

61.  Comfortable in his own skin.

62.  When he laughs, he has a cackle that leaves the Wicked Witch of the West in the dust.

63.  Went out in terrible storms in the middle of the night to ensure that homes in our community had power.  Whenever I hear people complain about the local power company not getting their lights on immediately, I think back to my father’s work ethic and sacrifice, and have a great deal of sympathy for those men in the crew.

Tom Brown at Sewanee

Tom Brown at the power station at Sewanee, TN

64.  Even when he has something negative to say, he does so in a way that doesn’t condemn others.  Sometimes he’ll just say, “Consider the source.”

65.  Has made wonderful choices for the “next third” of his life, so that he has lived an active, intellectually curious three decades since retirement.

66.  Has email correspondents all over the world, and sends out notes to connect with them all on a regular basis.

67.  Taught driver safety at the local retirement community…when he was more than 70 years old!

68.  Opens up his house to a group of teenage boys from church each week so they can have a place away from their homes to have pizza and talk as a group.  Of course, the teenage boys think it is pretty neat that they can go to the home of someone who is almost 90 years old and find a warm welcome.  They probably also appreciate the fact that he can’t hear a word they say!

69.  Knows his family tree as well as anyone, and still makes all the family reunions.

Bearden Family Reunion

1966 Bearden Family Reunion

70.  Made the decision on his 70th birthday that he was going to get in shape and stay in shape…and he has stuck to that decision now for 20 years.  (Do you see a pattern of making decisions on major birthdays?)

71.  Has a wealth of great sayings, such as when you call and ask if he’s doing anything, he’ll reply, “No, just the usual sixes and sevens.”

72.  Has been known to drive the 30 miles to Franklin on his wedding anniversary, visit the church where he and my Mom were married, and sit and reflect on their life together.

Franklin, TN

Franklin, TN, my father’s hometown

73.  Has a great memory, but says that his “Central Processing Unit (CPU) runs slowly.”

74.  Did you know he paid more for his last car than he did for his first home?  (Just one of many stories and sayings I’ve heard all my life.)

75.  Likes to make “remarks” at family gatherings.  He’ll usually type out what he wants to say and will read it aloud when the entire group is gathered.  These are among the ways he gives blessings to his family.

76.  Co-signed the bank note so I could buy my Gibson mandolin when I was in college.  Has always loved hearing his children and grandchildren play music together.

Playing music with the Browns

Playing music with my brother Joe (left) and my nephews

77.  As an early riser myself, I often walked in on my father reading his Bible and praying in the morning before he would wake up the family and cook breakfast for us…and still make it to work by 7 a.m.  It was how he remained centered through the day.

78.  Because he went to work so early, he was always home by about 3:30 in the afternoon.  That meant he was available for baseball games, school plays, dinner…you name it. He was a very active father.

79.  Never differentiated between a “man’s work” and “women’s work” around the house (or outside the house, for that matter).  He was our chief cook growing up. He would wash and iron clothes regularly. Especially when my mom began to work outside the home, he did more than his share of the housework.

80.  Moved his family to a bigger house (on East Main Street) and brought his mother in to live with us in the rear apartment.  He explained why she had to come and live with us, but I suspect he knew that we would all be blessed to have our very wise Grandmother living in the same house. Looking back, that was a wonderful time in my personal growth.

81.  Always had a “home improvement project” underway on the East Main Street house.  It was a big old house that was lived in, but also well-loved.  As they got older, my brothers Steve and Joe made major contributions to these projects.

Main Street

407 East Main Street, Murfreesboro – The Old Home Place

82.  Is a very good patient.  Whatever the doctor tells him to do, he does.  He is on his second generation Primary Care Physician in Murfreesboro, as he now sees the daughter of his long-time physician.

83.  Doesn’t think of himself as old.  But he does say that “Growing old is not for wimps.”

84.  The Brown and Bearden families had “good names” in Franklin, where he grew up, but he never “got above his raising.”

85.  Must have at least 150 pictures of family – present and past – hanging in his house.  I always loved this one of Pappy Bearden – my father’s grandfather.

Pappy Bearden

Thomas Bruce Bearden – Our Andrew’s middle name is Bearden, which was my Grandmother’s family name

86.  Gives freely of his time, money, and possessions.  Things do not mean much to him, but relationships are everything.

87.  Gives love freely.

88.  Lives with a wonderful understanding of grace.  He told us at one point that his mother’s favorite Bible verse was “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that is not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Ephesians. 2:8-9.  In the note to our family, he said that his mother often quoted it to him, and it had the most impact on his life.

89.  Is a holy man.

Tom Brown at the Franklin Theatre

Tom Brown – Thank you for your wonderful life

90.  Writes thank you notes for every gift he receives.  He’s done it for years. This is our thank you note back for 90 wonderful years of life – 60 of which I’ve been privileged to share with him, 33 for Candice, and 22 each for Andrew and Claire. We can’t imagine a more wonderful father, father-in-law, and grandfather.  Happy 90th Birthday, Tom Brown!  Love, David, Candice, Andrew, and Claire.

More to come…