Saturday, July 20, 2024

Benjamin N. Brown, Jr., 93

Benjamin N. Brown, Jr. (Bucktrout Funeral Home)

Everyone who knew Ben Brown said the same thing about him: “He was so polite and grateful for whatever anyone did for him, you couldn’t help wanting to do something more”. That characteristic explains his success as a marketer, diplomat, and friend.

He had many pursuits and hobbies. He played polo in Africa, the US, and the UK. He was an avid sailor and acquired a cruising yacht in the Virgin Islands and a daysailer for the Chesapeake Bay. He had a vast library on military topics of all eras since the 1700s and he was a recognized expert on military uniforms, being consulted frequently by auction houses and authors, He published his own books on uniforms and personal equipment of the American Revolution and of the European armies of the Victorian era. He was also a skilled painter of military miniatures and had a collection of over a hundred swords and dress helmets.

Benjamin Nields Brown Junior was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on 25 March 1931, the son of Benjamin Nields Brown, a real estate and trust attorney, and Rowan McHugh Brown. He attended Friends School in Wilmington and The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey (Class of 1948). He was admitted to the University of Virginia but departed to enlist in the US Army during the Korean War. After training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, he served in Japan as a radio intercept operator and cryptanalyst. Upon his return in 1953, he married Elizabeth Ettinger (“Betty”) Starke of Roanoke, Virginia. His Army skills attracted the attention of the newly formed National Security Agency (NSA) which allowed him to work part-time while enrolled at Georgetown University. He graduated from the School of Foreign Service in 1957, was appointed as a consular officer with the US State Department, and was assigned to Nigeria, accompanied by Betty and their children, Douglas and Elizabeth Dade.

The family split up upon their return from Africa in 1960. Ben had realized that he wasn’t the type to slog out a slow climb up the bureaucracy, and he was selected for a management training program with Singer Sewing Machines in New Jersey, where he experienced every role in the company. In 1963 he married Sandra Susan Stolich of Salinas, California, and he returned with her to Africa. He was the Singer country director for Ghana and then South Africa, where his daughter Rowan Alexandra was born in 1969. Ben was recruited by IT&T which took him to Brussels and London, rising to become the marketing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Sandra and Ben had divorced in 1970, and he found his life partner in Megan Joy Forman, of South Africa, whom he married in 1978 in the Virgin Islands. Her brother-in-law, Curt Goetz, persuaded Ben to become the marketing director for Rio Tinto Zinc and relocate to New York. Ben and Megan lived in Weston, Connecticut, with their golden retriever (G.R.) Seabrook, who curiously had several Letters to the Editor published in the New York Times. Connecticut governor Ella Grasso had met Ben and been impressed with his remarks about how US companies could expand their international presence and in 1983 she persuaded the US Secretary of Commerce to appoint Ben to the US Foreign Commercial Service to implement his ideas. He and Megan spent the 1980s and 1990s in assignments in Casablanca, Johannesburg, and Vienna.

He retired from government to a home in Millington, Maryland, that proved too peaceful for a world traveler, so he joined the International Executive Service Corps where he advised businesses in Zambia, Indonesia and again in South Africa. In 2003 he and Megan moved into a historic home in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, not far from his childhood home. We would later discover that it was also only a few miles from the home of Ben’s ancestors since before the Revolution. Megan’s remodeling skills created a showpiece yet a cozy home. Unfortunately, she died suddenly in 2007, but Ben’s many lifelong friends kept him active and involved for the next 15 years.

The combination of radiological treatment in 2021 and surgery in 2022 weakened him enough that he had to move to an assisted living residence. He came to live near his son’s home in Virginia, where he lived for two more years before passing away in his sleep on 15 April 2024 at the age of 93.

He is survived by his son, Douglas; his daughters Dade Bridgeman-Williams and Alex Ryan; and his grandchildren, Lesley Ann Brown, Maximilian and Theodore Bridgeman-Williams; and Olivia and Madeleine Ryan.

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