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William Edward “Bill” Brown, Jr., 97, died peacefully on Monday, October 30, 2019, at Brookdale Westover Hills, with his loving wife, Jo-Hal (Wofford) Brown and his six children at his side, attending him during his last weeks and hours here on Earth.
Bill was a kind, patient, fun-loving and humble man. He never met a stranger and unfailingly believed that everyone he encountered would have these same character traits. He often told a story of a time when, as a young newly-wed, one of his coworkers borrowed his car to go pick up dinner for Bill and himself, but instead, stole Bill’s car. On each telling, Bill ended this story laughing, and saying “He was the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.” Bill genuinely seemed to believe that about most everyone he met.
Born in Floydada on May 20, 1922, “Billy Boy” was the youngest child of his doting parents William Edward Brown, Sr. and Bernice Beatrice (Wolf) Brown. He was predeceased by his brother, Martin Edward Brown, and sister, Gladys Ruth Badgett.
His paternal grandparents, William Taylor Brown and Harriet (Fortenberry) Brown, were pioneers of Floydada who settled in town in the early 1900s and operated the ‘Brown Bros. General Store’ on Floydada’s town square – an enterprise that Bill remembered fondly and with familial pride. Many of Bill’s ‘Fortenberry’ and ‘Brown’ relatives populated Floyd and Lockney Counties throughout the 1900s and some remain in the Texas Panhandle today.
Bill attended Floydada schools, was a clarinet player in the Whirlwind Band, a FHS graduate, and after graduating, attended Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech) in Lubbock. At age 20, he became a member of the ‘Greatest Generation’ volunteering to enter the Army Air Corp on June 5, 1942 and requesting active service in Europe in November 1942. He became a pilot instructor at Ellington Field, prior to being deployed for overseas duty. His most demanding air battles in Europe were in the Battle of Ardennes and the Battle of the Rhineland and the Conquest of Central Europe. For his service in WWII, Bill earned the Air Medal, the Bronze Service Medal, as well as the European, African, and Middle East Service Medals. He returned to the USA when the war in Europe ended.
After his military service, Bill returned home and farmed with his father Edd in Floyd and neighboring counties, but his true love was always flying. He started flying at an early age and continued to fly well into his 70s. Anyone who flew with him agreed he was a gifted pilot. From the air he could see for many miles and he loved what he saw. He regaled everyone with photos of ‘patterns’ made by the farmed and planted fields, by cloud formations that resembled animals or people, and of the Panhandle’s subtle landscape of canyons and mesas. The excitement and wonder that Bill felt with what he saw in the moon, stars, sunsets and sunrises never flagged. As long as he was able, he carried a camera and filled boxes with photos of the beauty that he saw everywhere around him in the Panhandle of Texas and on his far-flung travels around the world with his beloved wife, Jo-Hal.
Bill and Jo-Hal were married in Plainview, Texas on August 2, 1948, and had celebrated their 71st anniversary just a few weeks prior to Bill’s passing. They were fortunate to be able to travel the world together, which was something they both enjoyed immensely. Through their enduring marriage, despite all challenges, they were inseparable and devoted to one another.
In addition to Jo-Hal, Bill leaves six children, Rande Brown; Jo-Christy Brown and husband, Clay Smith; Web [William E. Brown, III]; Cary Meiners and husband, Roger Meiners; Thiess Brown and wife, Gina; and Tracy Brown. Bill also leaves thirteen grandchildren, Christopher ‘Rocky’ Johnston, Nikki-Em LaCour, Katy Brown, Amy Brown, Callie Kent, Billy Meiners, Joe Meiners, Molly Meiners, Jennifer McAfee, Jessica McKesson, William Brown, Juliann Brown, Jadynn Brown. There are also eight great children to carry Bill’s legacy on for decades: Caden LaCour, Julien Johnston, Cora Kent, Catherine McAfee, Joseph McAfee, John McAfee, Marigold McKesson and Cora McKesson.
Bill and Jo-Hal moved from Floydada to Forth Worth in 2015 to be nearer their children in the Metro-plex area, but Bill never stopped wanting to return to his hometown. He was so determined to return to Floydada that he managed to purchase and have two cars delivered to his assisted living facility – for his ‘drive back to Floydada’, though he hadn’t driven in several years.
Bill’s desire to come home to Floydada was realized on October 4, 2019, at which time he was interred at the Floydada Cemetery. As he returned home, a breeze carried the refrain of ‘taps’ across the surrounding fields, a crop duster prepared for takeoff at the nearby Floydada airport – a place that Bill held dear – and his son, Thiess Martin Brown, led a brief graveside service for family and remaining friends. His absence will echo in our hearts forever.