Brown, Dave Jr.
by Katherine A. Brown, daughter
Dave Brown was known by those who loved him as “Brownie,” “Dad,” “Captain Dad,” or “Grandpa.” A third generation Juneauite, he was born to Daisy Lundstrom and Sinclair Brown on November 6, 1924. As a child, Brownie was very close to his Scottish grandpa, who taught him to play the bagpipes, as he had Brownie’s father before him. As a child, Brownie was a favorite performer at old Treadwell parties and family gatherings.
The family connection to Scotland was kept alive through stories told to young David and through a lively correspondence maintained through the years by the elder Brown and by young David after Grandpa Brown’s death in 1952. Brownie took three trips during his lifetime to visit friends and relatives in the old country. His daughter Kathy also traveled there on her own, at the age of twenty.
Brownie’s early years were also shaped by his Finnish Grandma Lundstrom, or “Aiti” which means mother in Finn. As the clan matriarch, Grandma Lundstrom tended to her family’s needs and ensured the development of good character in her young grandson. Brownie’s Aunt Etta gave birthday parties for Brownie and his schoolmates, many of whom remained friends throughout his life. His close childhood friends included Bill Spain, Joe Kendler, Kenny Thibodeau, Ted Smith and others. High school friends remember him as handsome, popular, a good dancer, and a lover of parties, music and naughty jokes.
Brownie always knew his future would be in aviation. As a child, he hung out on the docks and watched the airplanes landing and taking off. Brownie was first employed with Alaska Coastal Airlines as a teenager. During World War II he was stationed in Adak and Nome. After his discharge from the Army, he flew briefly for Alaska Island Air out of Petersburg until it was subsequently purchased by Alaska Coastal. It was during this period that Brownie was “adopted” into Petersburg’s Roundtree family, gaining two adopted brothers, Lloyd and Lyle in the bargain. He taught fifteen year old Lloyd Roundtree how to fly, and years later Lloyd became the owner and operator of a new Alaska Island Air out of Petersburg.
In the fall of 1947, Brownie enrolled in Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he earned his instrument and commercial licenses. Completion of his aeronautical training was substantially stretched out, due to the fact that he had met Nina Park in the fall of 1949. They became engaged almost immediately and a year later they traveled to Juneau so that Nina could see Alaska for the first time. Brownie always said he would never divorce and would never leave Alaska. It was imperative that she love his home state as much as he did. They were married soon afterward on July 12, 1950.
Brownie completed his aeronautical training in December of 1949, and accepted a pilot’s job with Alaska Coastal in Juneau in 1950. He was qualified on everything that Alaska Coastal and later Alaska Airlines flew.
Many years later, Ray Renshaw, Coastal’s Chief Pilot would write, “I will always remember Brownie’s good nature and careful, professional way in his flying. He was always one of the best. I shall never forget him.” After reading Ray’s pilot history of Brownie, Shell Simmons, Brownie’s friend and longtime ACA employer concurred, adding that “Brownie was one of the best but did not follow in my path, since he has no crashes to write about.”
Don Pegues shared one of his memories of Brownie from Tenakee, shortly after Brownie’s death in 1991. “They were all good times. One of the memories reflects the man. . .years ago Elsie and I were en route from Anchorage to Juneau. Boeing 727, Dave Brown in command. Elsie and I were sitting in first class. Shortly after takeoff, we encountered a few moments of extreme turbulence, probably the most uncomfortable I can recall. In due course, after we had reached cruise, Brownie came out of the cockpit and stopped by our seats. ‘How did you like that little ride?’ he asked. ‘Were you scared?’ Macho man Pegues replied, ‘Naw...nothing to it...a bump or two.’ With a twinkle in his eye and a voice loud enough for a few of the passengers to overhear, Brownie said, ‘Well, Donnie-boy, I’m sure glad you were calm and collected cuz it sure scared the shit out of me!’ With hat set at just the right angle, Captain Brown sauntered back into his cockpit and went to work.”
In the early 1960’s, Coastal merged with Ellis Air of Ketchikan, becoming Coastal-Ellis, and then after a time, just Alaska Coastal Air. In 1977, Coastal merged with Alaska Airlines and lost the Coastal identity. After the merger with Alaska Airlines, Brownie trained on the Boeing 727, became copilot and was then upgraded to Captain. Alaska Airlines estimated that after 35 years with the airlines, Dad Brown had logged well over 31,000 hours or about three and one half years of nonstop flight. He retired as a senior captain on October 31, 1984.
When Alaska Airlines moved all of its flight personnel to Seattle, Brownie would not accept the ten days of paid moving time to change his residence. He said, “Seattle is not my home, it is only my domicile.” For a short time Brownie and Nina were forced to sell their primary Alaska residence, but retained a small cabin in Tenakee which they considered their true Alaska home. Five years before his retirement, they purchased a new home in Juneau and Nina moved back to Alaska. Brownie commuted between Seattle and Juneau until he was able to retire and settle back into his Alaska home for good.
Of all of his honors and titles it was that of Dad which gave him the most joy. He started calling himself Dad immediately after the birth of his first child and frequently referred to himself as Grandpa after the grandchildren came along. Herb Grisham of Seattle wrote, “I think I can speak for others as well as myself when I say we always looked forward to the month we would fly with Dave. We respected him and knew we could count on him during a tough approach to an airport that only Southeast Alaska could give. In a lot of ways he was like a father, you respected and listened to him always, yet he was always very jovial and friendly. I alled him ‘Dad.’ It caught on and soon he was known by all the pilots and flight attendants as ‘Dad’ Brown.”
Together, Nina and Brownie had three children, Katherine Ann, born July 30, 1951, David Park, born October 14, 1952, and James Sinclair, born August 19, 1956. All the kids learned to swim in the cold water and handle a skiff from the family boat, the Anna II. Brownie enjoyed family vacations with his kids every year in Hawaii and always spent Thanksgiving vacations hunting with his sons and Chuck Knipple.
Grandchildren include David’s daughters, Colleen Ann and Heather Marie and one great granddaughter, Claire Taylor Berry. Younger son Jim married Heather Hansen and provided three strapping grandsons, James Alfred, John Sinclair and Alexander Burton, affectionately referred to by their grandfather as “the sons of thunder.”
Both of Brownie’s sons became professional pilots. Dave Junior later owned a small flight service out of Juneau that was also named “Alaska Coastal Airlines.” Shell Simmons, owner and operator of the original Alaska Coastal Airlines was very pleased that a “son of Alaska Coastal” had resurrected the name.
Bert Faulkner, Brownie’s boyhood Sunday school teacher, planted the seeds of a lifetime interest in religion and history. Brownie often marveled that Faulkner was able to hold the rapt attention of fourteen and fifteen year old boys without benefit of audio-visual equipment. He later recalled that the children were so spellbound that you could have heard a pin drop. These lessons eventually lead to Brownie’s baptism into the Presbyterian Church, along with infant daughter Katherine in 1951. Brownie was a member of the Northern Lights Presbyterian Church and later became a member of the Chapel by the Lake. He was an ordained elder of the church and a member of the board of trustees. He was also a 33rd degree Mason and member of Gastineaux Lodge #124, Scottish Rite Order of FreeMasonry. Brownie’s brand of religion was loving and humorous. He often commented that his good flying record was due to the fact that God was his pilot.
Dad Brown was a member of the Elks Club, the Pioneers of Alaska, the Eastern Star and the Juneau Shrine Club and the Juneau Fire Department.
Brownie died in Seattle at the age of 66 on October 26, 1991. He was surrounded in death, as he had been in life, by his loving family.
Nina, Dave and Kathy Brown.
Brownie with cousin Ethel Young from Shourness, Orkney, Scotland, 1957.
Jim, Dave and Brownie.