Lucky in the First Place
I attended a funeral a couple weeks back. Such a journey is never pleasant. It wasn’t family, but it might as well have been.
A gentleman I’d known for over thirty years passed away. He’d had some health problems over the years, but he’d always managed to overcome them. We expected him to do so once again for to so many of us, he was indestructible.
They say the worth of a man is measured by the love his friends and community have for him. There’s no question in my mind of the truth of the platitude for I have never seen such an outpouring of love and gratitude for one man as I witnessed Friday, March 6 for Harvey R. Brown, a doer and shaker state-wide who happened to live in Mid-County.
No, ‘happen’ isn’t the right word. It’s almost as if the good Lord sent Harvey to Port Neches with a challenge to make the community a better place for people to live and to raise children. And that he did.
With an eloquence I do not possess, others can speak of his influence beyond Mid-County, but to me and thousands of others in our community, he was instrumental in helping provide us a solid foundation on which to live our lives.
Back in the early forties, his dad had been working at one of the refineries for a couple years, leaving young Harvey with his mother and sister up in the small hamlet of Hudson fifteen miles west of Lufkin.
Harvey came to Port Neches when he was fourteen from Hudson, Texas only to return upon learning he could graduate from high school a year earlier in back there. Time was precious for the young man, and looking back over the years God permitted him to be with us, he wasted not a moment.
My first meeting with him was in the early seventies when I taught sophomore English at PN-G. He dropped by on open house. I instantly took a liking to the big, friendly man who made you feel like family. Being a school board trustee hadn’t gone to his head.
And, to him, we all were family.
Over the years, I came to truly appreciate the affable gentleman who would stop whatever he was doing to help me solve a problem. And once I had reached a solution, one to which he guided me, Harvey would lean back and laugh and say, ‘What’s the next problem?’
And I gave him a few to chew on. In the grand scheme of life, I don’t suppose the problems were earth-shaking, but to me, a teacher and later a lower-tier administrator in the school district, they were serious. He had a knack for cutting through all the fluff and nonsense to focus on the real problem.
I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I can unequivocally say I’ve never known a man so involved with not only his family, but his church, his community, his county, his state, and his country.
Harvey loved politics. A staunch Democrat, his opinions were highly valued throughout the area. On more than one occasion after disagreeing with one of my columns on local politics, he’d give me a call, concerned that perhaps I had been misled by the ‘other side’.
Harvey’s son, Ray, and Judge Brad Burnett delivered eulogies that brought tears to the eyes with an eloquence that can only be engendered by soul-baring emotion.
I don’t know how many folks attended Harvey’s funeral. The sanctuary was packed, the activity room was full, but I doubt there was a solitary soul present who couldn’t relate stories of how Harvey had given them a hand.
When I was a youth up in the Panhandle, my friends and I had a swimming hole at the creek surrounded by trees, one a towering oak from which earlier generations of frolicking young farm boys had strung a rope swing.
A storm felled the tree. We hung more swings, but they weren’t the same. My grandfather pointed out that we were lucky to have had the swing in the first place.
So that’s how I perceive old Harvey’s passing. We were mighty lucky to have him in the first place.