By Gord Bowes, News staff
Over 700 people turned out Dec. 22 to share their stories about and say their final goodbyes to Paul Brown, a gentle giant of a man who touched all their lives.
Brown, a popular teacher, football coach and role model, died suddenly on Dec. 17 at Sir Allan MacNab high school, where he was a teacher. He was 49.
"Always a positive attitude,” is how MacNab athletic director Dan Clark described him. “Always someone who was happy and engaging with the kids.”
Brown genuinely loved his football team and the chance to coach them, said Clark. He would talk with the Mountain News before games about how proud he was of the progress his players made each week.
The Lions, which wasn’t expected to win a game this past season, went all the way to the finals. Even though the team didn’t win the title, the players and everyone else at the school still felt like champions, said student Akehil Johnson, who spoke at the memorial service.
“We didn’t need a trophy to prove it,” he said.
Ben Brown, 18, who recently learned he earned a football scholarship to the University of Waterloo, was a key member of his dad’s team.
Becoming head coach this year was out of his dad’s comfort zone, said Ben, but he stepped up in order to make sure the school could field a team.
While his teammates listened intently, many with tears in their eyes, Ben recalled that his father told him he was proud of him, but “I don’t think he knew I was 10 times as proud of him as he was of me.”
“It was nice they had this last season together,” said Alexandra Brown said of her husband and her son.
She said she was comforted in the days after her husband's death by hearing stories about him. His friends sharing their memories taught her a lesson about what made him tick.
“It is now obvious to me how Paul was able to stay in that state of constant enthusiasm — because he got it all from you.”
Mel Laforme, who taught with Brown at Delta, said his friend always had a warm greeting and big bear hug — “a Paul hug” — for everyone.
“He easily related to the students and they respected him for his tough, no-nonsense approach,” he said. “But really, Paul was a gentle giant. He would offer help to anyone he could.”
His brother, Richard Brown, said that’s the way his brother was — always going above and beyond.
He said he recently talked to a woman who told him Brown saved her daughter from committing suicide.
“She said Paul was the reason her child didn’t take her life.”
Andrea Barty, a former Delta student, said Brown helped her and many others through rough times.
“I got through some of the toughest years of my teenage life all because of the words Paul said to me,” she said.
Alexandra Brown had the final word for the students, telling them to do what her husband did throughout his life.
“Don’t just let life happen to you," she said. "Make life happen, just the way Paul would.”
A trust fund for Brown’s children’s education has been established and donations can be made at any TD Canada Trust branch.