Blogging my Facebook post from Monday, a tribute to my best friend, who left this life on Oct. 26, 2002:
Eighteen years ago tonight, I was working the 4-to-midnight Saturday copy desk shift at The Dallas Morning News when I got a call from my wife that stunned and shook me more than any I’ve ever received. It was the kind of sad news we all often get, usually about beloved family members, and it’s always painful to hear and difficult to process.
Kay told me as gently as she could that my best friend, Doug Brown, had died earlier that day, apparently of a heart attack. He was sitting in his favorite chair with a football game on the TV when his dear wife of four years, Melissa Brown, came home from running errands. She thought he was taking a nap after mowing the yard, so she let him sleep. She came out a while later to check on him and couldn’t wake him. Neither, shortly, could the paramedics.
Her sweet Doug was gone, already at the side of the God he worshipped so faithfully.
My DMN colleague Ed Sargent, who was in charge of the copy desk that night, let me finish the editing I was working on and go home early. I was in shock, unable to believe this had really happened. I bawled, yelled and cursed most of the way home, demanding that God tell me why something like this had happened to one of the most wonderful, selfless people he’d ever brought into this life.
Doug was only 45 years old. For 15 years, he had been my closest friend, my Fort Worth Star-Telegram colleague, my most trusted confidant, my fellow best man (he at my wedding in 1994, me at his in 1998), my golf buddy and my forever Astros-fan-in-arms.
I cannot fathom how it has been 18 years since Doug left us, and yet it seems like an eternity. I miss our long talks late into the night after work, our 18-hole walks (and his brilliant shot-making), the numerous sports events we attended together, and his deep love for, fascination about and knowledge of God’s creatures great and small.
Perhaps most of all, I miss Doug’s embrace of and compassion for all people with whom he came in contact. Those who know and love Doug, who loved them equally, remember his gracious and giving nature, and his willingness to offer his time, guidance and heart to anyone.
The son of a Presbyterian minister, Doug was an elder at his church in Fort Worth and had a calm, and calming, presence no matter the setting, whether on deadline at the newspaper or dealing with any of life’s challenges. His father, Allen Hawley Brown, had died only a month earlier at age 84 in Clifton, about 80 miles south of Fort Worth. I attended the service for Doug’s dad, and sadly, that was the last time I saw Doug.
Doug spent years as a docent (volunteer) at the Fort Worth Zoo, leading youth groups on tours and educating them about the animals there and many that weren’t. He went on photography safaris to Tanzania (two, I think) and graciously gave framed photos from his adventures to colleague friends as gifts (mine is a magnificent cheetah).
He led an interesting and full life, adding a beautiful complement to it when he married longtime FWISD kindergarten teacher Melissa Tate 22 years ago this month.
Although he loved all sports, baseball and soccer were Doug’s true passions. And though he tried, he never could get me truly interested in soccer. He even took me to the World Cup game played at the Cotton Bowl in the summer of 1994 (don’t ask me who played), weeks before Kay and I got married.
In the newspaper business, it’s tradition for longtime employees who leave or retire to be presented a “front page” of “stories” about them — mostly of the hilariously funny variety. I had already left for the DMN in 2000, but after Doug’s passing in 2002, newsroom staff at the Star-Telegram put together two pages of moving tributes they wrote in honor of him. All were homages and fond memories of our unforgettable friend and colleague, and I wanted to share a handful of them.
Here’s one by a good friend, former S-T copy editor/designer Robert Owens:
“I didn’t know Doug well, but I do treasure the memories I have of him.
“He always had a willing ear if something was on your mind, and he understood how a little sports chat can turn down the heat on a hectic night. He’d talk teams, players, franchises with anyone, but he didn’t trash talk buddies’ favorites the way many of us do in fun — it wasn’t his style.
“If I had a family or personal problem, I knew he always had a willing ear and a patient demeanor.
“His compassion for animals has been duly noted, but Doug also had a soft spot for young people; anyone familiar with his work as a zoo docent knows this.
“But these softer sides of him did not mask the seriousness and rigor that came into play when he edited copy. There’s no one else I would rather have handling something complex for one of my pages, especially if it concerned sports, zoo programs or one of his other areas of specialization.
“I’ll miss him. I feel lucky to have know him and worked with him.”
Here’s one by Maricar Estrella Hastings, another former S-T designer/editor, starting with a famous quotation:
“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” — William Wordsworth
“What I remember most about Doug is his kindness. When I came to the Star-Telegram six years ago, he was one of the first people to say hello. He made me feel comfortable. He never raised his voice even in stressful times, and he was always willing to help me even if it wasn’t his responsibility. I could always count on him to teach me about an animal I didn’t know about or a sport I wasn’t familiar with. I don’t have one memory of Doug; I have lots of small ones, and I will always be grateful for those.”
And here’s a touching remembrance from the late Paul Cline Jr., former S-T copy editor and one of our golf buddies, who also died all too young at age 54 in 2013 and was previously married to my dear friend and S-T and DMN colleague Sandy Guerra-Cline:
“Doug always shared animal-related magazines, Web sites and other information with my three children, who have grown up admiring Doug and enjoying his safari stories and other animal knowledge, along with the “neat” photos, toys, noisemakers and other stuff in and on his desk.
“Doug was a role model not only for my children, but for his peers as well. Whether it was his concentration and diligence on deadline in the newsroom or his honesty and sportsmanship on the golf course, Doug stood as an example of integrity for all around him.
“I hope that right now he’s playing an immaculate, beautiful, environment-friendly golf course through a cool green valley near a gentle blue sea, with the wildlife he loved so much lining the fairways, serving as his gallery.
“I’ll always think of Doug when I’m in a newsroom, on a golf course or at a zoo.
“I’m thankful for the nine years I knew Doug — but I wish there had been many more.”
There were so many more poignant tributes and stories in those two pages. We all have our lasting memories of Doug stored in our hearts and thoughts, which flow toward him often.
All I know is, no kinder person have I ever known. Even though my life is filled with wonderful people, there will always be a void because Douglas Allen Brown isn’t in it anymore.
(FYI, the 3 other ladies I’m tagging in this post are Doug’s big sisters, Doris, Eileen and Yvonne, who dearly loved their baby brother. On the day Doug passed away, it was Eileen’s birthday, and it saddens me that she’ll always be reminded of that on her special day. But I’m sure she has made it a day to celebrate both her amazing brother’s life and her own. Happy birthday, Eileen! 🤗)