Gordon Wesley Brown, 84, passed away on Monday, November 2, 2020 at the Iowa Veterans Home. There is a private family ceremony at Riverside Cemetery scheduled Thursday Nov. 12th. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Semper Fi Fund or Unbound (formerly CFCA) are appreciated. Anderson Funeral Homes in Marshalltown has been entrusted with the arrangements. Online condolences may be sent to www.andersonfhs.com
Gordon was born in Marshalltown in 1936, son of Ronald W. and Bernice E. Brown (nee Anderson). He survived several childhood accidents here: At age 10 he fell through the ice into the freezing cemetery pond, but was saved by a passing motorist. At nine he was hit by a car suffering a head injury. He would later remark 'he was a little slow as a result'; he remembered waking up in the hospital and "realized he wasn't as smart as he used to be". He wasn't joking, but it amused his family as he was still too brilliant to lead an easy or simple life. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1958 and worked in Intelligence. Afterwards, he went to Iowa State to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1966, working at Fishers during the summers. He lived in California for 30 years with a successful career as an Aerospace Engineer, having worked on several space programs (Skylab, Viking) and designing advanced systems, such as the precision-guided weapons that surprised Americans during the first Gulf War. He retired to Marshalltown in 1994. He later worked at JBS for several years until 2011.
Gordon joins his second wife Janyce Brown (nee Diggins) who passed away in 2011. He is survived by two sons, John and Dennis, of Sugar Hill GA and Riverside CA, and two grand-daughters, Julie and Joanna. His brother Dennis Brown and extended family still reside in and around Marshalltown.
I’ll share a few memories of Dad, or stories I heard. This is a mere sample of what I could share.
He mostly didn’t share his own memories and he didn’t boast or brag, but I don”t want to be so modest here.
He was a bit stoic. It was rare to catch him genuinely smiling in a picture. When I was maybe 6-7 he told me not to smile in pictures because ‘it makes you look insipid…’. I didn’t know what that word meant but it sounded bad (it’s dull or uninteresting).
It was Aunt Sharon who introduced my brother and I to the idea that there was someone new in Dad’s life… showing us a photo of Dad with Janyce in Marshalltown. I remember thinking ‘uh oh.. this is serious… Dad is smiling!”
Because he didn’t brag some people won’t realize how smart he really was. IQ isn’t an exact or perfect measurement system, but 100 is average and 80 percent of people are between 85-115 by design. “Genius” starts at 155-160 depending who you ask. Dad’s IQ tested in high school or college? at 176. He was almost always the smartest guy in the room… even in a room full of rocket scientists. ‘One in a million’ is right.
I don’t think he felt the need to belittle people or lord his “superiority” over you. I believe he understood better than anyone that being smarter didn’t make you a better person. It’s a double edged sword, it can hurt you as much as help. He really did believe he was ‘a little retarded’ after the accident at 9 years old when the car hit him and fractured his skull. Maybe he did have a TBI injury with long term impact.
Dad did his best to put up with us (normal non-genius people) but I can see why it could be a challenge sometimes. People that smart tend to be a bit eccentric (at best- just crazy or unstable at worst). Overall, good job Dad.
Dad told me that in a friendly game of chess at a party, he beat someone who had beaten Bobby Fisher (world champion Grandmaster and US prodigy - maybe best US player in 20th century).
Our parents divorced when my brother and I were little. Dad would pick us up on every-other weekend, holidays etc. I don’t think he ever missed a weekend, He would often have us 4-6 weeks a year total so I wonder now how he got all that time off.
Dad showed his love in his actions more than his words. He was often instructing, guiding, or correcting us. He was a huge part of his son's lives and we can’t imagine what our lives would have been without his influence. Scientists understand better today how important male leadership is for shaping the character of young boys and young men - but we always knew how blessed we were. He (and Mom) instilled their principles in their sons.
There’s a saying about most people generally being sheep, some wolves, and some sheep-dogs. Sheep dogs protect and lead. Dad was the elder son of 4 siblings. He was fiercely protective of family. He instilled in his eldest son John (me) the need to protect his little brother at all costs (telling me at maybe 8 years old to ‘hurt anyone who threatened him’). At 12 he told me how to kill someone with my bare hands. It felt like the Sean Connery scene in the Untouchables movie … “when they bring a knife, you bring a gun, when they put one of yours in the hospital then you put one of theirs in the morgue, that’s the Chicago way!”. He could be quite serious and intimidating at times. It made me a ‘guard dog’ and I can connect these dots to my joining the military and working on cyber security as a career etc. with roles in Intelligence community and law enforcement, etc.
I would later learn where that came from. The Depression was a hard time. Aunt Sharon told me that their father Ronald could occasionally get drunk and be abusive. At 12 years old Dad attacked his father with a 2x4 and growled “If you ever hit my mother, brother, or sisters again... I will kill you”. Grandma knew there was no bluff there and got the kids out of that situation immediately. That helped me understand where he was coming from. Dad would live with his father when he was in college but I don’t know how that was settled, Dad didn’t talk about it.
The one story Dad did tell us of his time in the Marines stands out in my memory is this. He did reconnaissance photo analysis of places like the Soviet Union and Cuba. It was an elite job, very demanding. This would have been 1958-1961, maybe 18 months before these revealed the nuclear missiles in Cuba that nearly triggered World War III. But that’s just background… here’s the story. He was at 29 Palms camp, out in the desert of California. Dad and his buddies went way out to Arizona somewhere and stopped in a little highway greasy diner, middle of nowhere. They went in but the cook barked at them that they didn’t serve Negroes, taking offense at 1 of the guys with them. Dad growled back he only saw 6 Marines… who were going to raze this damn place to the ground so that nothing was left more than knee-high if they didn’t get six hamburgers, fries, and beers. The Marines all glared at the cook and waitress… and like I said Dad wasn’t a bluffer. They got their food without further complaint.. That was the only story like this that he shared, but it illustrates what he told his sons many times… you judge people based on their actions and words not their race, creed, or ethnicity. Good people are good people, period.
We know good people now, don’t we?
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