Jackson County has been blessed to have an enormous amount of people who touch the lives of so many, making a difference one person, one team at a time. This past week, one such individual who stood tall in this elite group left a void in many, many lives. Charles Brown, aka Charlie Brown passed away last Friday morning, surrounded by so many not only present at Jackson Hospital but in the thoughts and prayers of everyone in Jackson County.
No one will be left with a bigger void to fill than his wife, Peggy and daughter Amber. Charlie and Peggy were married for 52 years.
Brown was well known in the county as the “State Farm Agent” but his legacy reached miles deeper than that. From the time the news of his death broke, calls, emails, and texts flooded this writer wanting to share memories of impact this man had on lives everywhere. He gave unconditionally of his time, energy, and money to those in need for one reason or another.
One of his accomplishments he never boasted about but would share with any sports enthusiast was his time on the fields and court, lettering in four sports at Marianna High School and the University of Florida. Football, basketball, baseball, and track were all a part of Brown’s many accomplishments.
A die-hard Gator fan through thick and thin days, Brown founded the Chipola area Gator Club and led that organization for many, many years where he worked hard for the club to provide scholarships for future Gators.
Another of Charlie Brown’s notable contributions to Jackson County was the “Charlie Brown Christmas” display in his yard on Bevia Drive. Brown, along with his wife Peggy, longtime friend Lee Williams, Bobby Hughes, and Alan Duffee began the yearly project in November to make sure it was ready for visitors on Thanksgiving night was even more festive than the year before. This past year was a little more special than previous years for this writer. Charlie visited the Times office early last year and asked what addition I would like as an addition to the “Charlie Brown Christmas” scene. With the addition of the Dough Patrol in Jackson County being ever so popular, I immediately said, “Cookie Monster”. A white-chocolate macadamia nut cookie lover himself, Charlie’s eyes lit up and asked, “Do you have a picture I can use?” I produced a picture and true to his nature, Charlie produced a Cookie Monster to stand right next to Big Bird. Charlie shared his story of the start of his display some 40 plus years ago with the Times, “I started with four characters from Peanuts. Charlie Brown and his dog Snoopy, Linus and Lucy. That was 42 years ago. We’ve always called it ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ It takes 84 man-hours of work to do the set up each year if there are no snags.”
Charlie Brown and Kenneth Anderson shared more memories than any two blood brothers could ever have hoped to share. Through seven decades, they have shared sporting events, two daughters who are like sisters, time in the service, and their love of anything Gator. One of the duos unselfish deeds came two years ago when they presented to Marianna High School some memorabilia they both shared from their years as a Bulldog in the 1950s. The two men donated a framed picture of the dynamic duo that remains displayed in the MHS Football Trophy case and will forever be a part of Bulldog football history.
Anderson had a bond with Brown that was stronger than brothers, “I was not always the bearer of good news for Charles. Years and years ago, they had found Charles’ mother dead in her house and I had the responsibility to go tell him. Then years later, I was living in Tallahassee and Peggy called and said Charles is over in Tallahassee at a State Farm meeting and I hate to do this to you but his daddy was found dead in his chair at his house and you’ve got to go find him and tell him to get him home. I knew where he was with the State Farm people over there. It was on a lake near Quincy and so when I walked in, he said, ‘don’t tell me because you wouldn’t tell me unless something was wrong.’ And that’s just what friends do. We have been friends for a long time. Peggy and Charles were just supporting us and she helped Julie plan the funeral when my wife passed away. When we were together in Europe, he was within a 100-yards of the crematory, the ovens. When I got my orders, I came and he met me at the train station and I spent the weekend with him before he took me to my posted duty which was nine miles apart. We were together for 18 months and we traveled throughout Europe, went over to England, Brussels, Switzerland and we just had a lot of experiences together. I came home and got married and he was not and about six years later he finally convinced Peggy to get married and I was his best man. When we had our first child, Julie, he was the State Farm agent. He had a new camera, the instant cameras, a Polaroid, and he was so excited, he was snappy picture after picture. Later he realized he had forgotten to put film in the camera.
Charlie was a good athlete and he had some college offers but he was more of a student even though he lettered in four sports. He was a big golfer too. It was a friendship where Peggy and JoAnn got to be best friends and then our daughters are like sisters and they are in the same sorority. A lot of times, it will be husbands or wives, or children but all three good friends. It was a good family relationship. I went to see him every Friday when he was in Panama City and every day when he was here.”
Bobby Hughes shared years of friendship with Charlie Brown, “We were pretty close. I moved to Marianna in 1953 and he was a member of the First Baptist Church back then and I’ve known him since then. He was a big Gator for sure. He always recognized I was an Alabama boy and he didn’t try to knock my Alabama boys down. He was the type of guy that always wanted to try to help somebody. You would be surprised at the mail he received from organizations all over and he contributed to everyone and I always admired him for that. I helped him with his Christmas stuff and he always appreciated it and he said to me that I was like the brother I didn’t have coming up and that meant a lot to me.”
Keith Williams took over the State Farm Agency from Charlie Brown. They had a friendship that went deeper than the transition of a business. Williams said of Charlie Brown, “This past Friday, Charlie Brown went home to be with the Lord Jesus Christ. He lived a long and impactful life that has been already outlined by some good friends whose focus was with his public accomplishments. This was fitting and proper. At the same time, he had many less well known feats that were nonetheless important. These consisted, in the main, of quiet acts of kindness toward people who could not repay him. However, for those receiving his generosity, he made the difference between success or failure, survival or defeat, provision or poverty. I was honored to witness Charlie’s charity to others for the last 26 years or so, and this shapes how I will remember him. When families were left devastated by a house fire, Charlie was there to quietly offer clothes and furniture. When families faced financial ruin because of an illness, Charlie raised funds to help bridge the gap in their finances. When abused women were trying to escape to a new life, Charlie helped provide the means to start over with dignity. When young adults were looking for the money to attend college, Charlie helped to connect them with scholarships and letters of recommendation. I never observed Charlie to pass over the opportunity to show mercy to people in need. Our world needs more merciful people like Charlie Brown. Charlie was pleased to offer his fellowship to everyone. Without respect to the station of the person, Charlie loved to visit with people. If you knew Charlie you know he loved to engage in conversation. Over time I noticed how much this meant to many whose only opportunity to have a good dialogue in a given day was with Charlie Brown. Charlie would not always agree with the sentiments of others, but he was no respecter of persons when it came to fellowshipping with them. In fact, he was so amiable in his conversation it was nearly impossible for people to stay cross with him, even when he took a position in opposition to their own. What’s more, Charlie would be willing to exchange points of view at such considerable length that those with opposing views generally conceded he might be right if for no other reason than he just kept smiling while disagreeing. Our country needs more people willing to exchange ideas in friendship like Charlie Brown.”
Williams continued, “Most of all, I enjoyed watching Charlie Brown promoting his community. He enjoyed it too! He loved sharing good news about Marianna, Malone, Sneads, Grand Ridge, Cottondale, Alford, Graceville, Bascom, Dellwood and Jacob. He became excited when he was given the opportunity to promote Jackson County and its people. He was proud of his home. He was proud of his county. Charlie identified as a Jackson County man and wanted everyone in it to love it just as much as he did. If you knew him you know this is not an exaggeration. He loved promoting his County because he saw it as promoting his neighbors. And Charlie thought of his neighbors as the type of people who deserved to be promoted. Jackson County needs more people who love their neighbors like Charlie Brown.” In closing Williams said, “If you want to honor the memory of Charlie Brown, be kind, be merciful, be friendly, and love your neighbors. God bless you Charlie Brown!”
Alan Duffee was ‘the young one’ of the Charlie Brown Christmas scene and will be quick to tell you that Charlie Brown didn’t let his age deter him from his goals. Duffee says of Brown, “The world is a sadder place with the loss of Charles Brown on Friday. There are many words that can describe this great man, but none do him justice. He was a loving husband and father. He was married to the love of his life, Peggy Brown for 52 years. Their life together was an adventure, but anyone could see it was a fun one. Anytime he talked about his daughter Amber, his face lit up with pride. All parents are proud of their children, but Charlie Brown carried that statement to the next level. She was without a doubt, the twinkle in his eye. He was a great citizen. Not only for his country as a member of the US Army, but also to this small community. His work in and for this area will never be forgotten. He enjoyed his work with local civic clubs, his church, Gator Boosters, and economic development. He was instrumental in bringing business and opportunities to this area, but more importantly, he was instrumental in developing community leaders. He believed leadership leads to opportunity and he lived that every day of his life. He was a great business man. He started with a small insurance agency and over the years he turned Charlie Brown Insurance into a household name in Jackson County. He did it the old-school way. With hard work and integrity. And finally, he was a great friend. If we are judged in life by the number of true friends we have, none will be judged higher than Charlie Brown. Some friendships started in his early years that stayed to the end as these same friends were by his side in the last hours of his life. Some, like myself, may have started later in his life, but the bond of friendship was just as strong. He always encouraged everyone around him and you never left him without feeling better and having a smile on your face. I used to kid him about things all the time just to hear that infectious laugh of his. My favorite was how thin he could slice cakes at our church dinners. I would always tell him they were so thin I could read the paper through it. He’d just laugh and say well I hope it’s a good story. There aren’t enough words to describe Charlie Brown’s life or the impact he had on so many lives. As I struggle to try to summarize it, one thing comes to mind. Years ago someone said that the highest compliment one man can say about another is to say that they were a gentleman. That being said...Charlie Brown, you were without a doubt, a gentleman!”
Margaret Miller Curtis learned of Brown’s passing through a classmate and contacted this writer, “It hurt to hear that sad news, because Charles was such a good person, and an important one in my life. Mother wasn’t keen on my “going steady” with anybody until I graduated from college, but she liked Charles a lot, and partly because of that, I dated Charles more often than I ever dated anyone else. Even so, our first date, a movie date, was a disaster. Like my Dad, I wasn’t all that materialistic, and paid little attention to what kind of car my escorts drove. As we came out of the Ritz Theater, Charles spotted an old buddy, “Hammerhead” Hamilton, who was on leave from the Navy. Charles wanted to visit with Hammerhead a bit, and as it had begun to rain, he told me to go ahead and get in his car, which was unlocked, and he’d be there “in a minute.” That minute stretched on and on until finally, Charles’ very white face appeared in the car window. “What are you doing in there?” he yelled. “THAT’S NOT MY CAR!” Charles had been driving a white car, so I had just hopped into the first, unlocked white car I saw. Obviously, it was not the right, unlocked white car. “You don’t need a date,” he mumbled. “You need a keeper.” I don’t remember exactly when Charles decided to forgive and forget, but it was quite a while before he asked me out again. After that, though, he became a fixture in my life until he was sent to Germany to serve sometime in the Army. By the time he returned, I was engaged to Dan, whom I met through mutual friends. At that time, I was just three months away from graduating from FSU, and Dan was in training to be a fighter-jet pilot in Bainbridge, Georgia. Charles remained an amiable friend, and must not have been too hurt by my engagement, because he soon began dating my younger sister, Marilyn. As it turned out, he did eventually marry a Margaret, one much prettier than me, who is better known in Marianna and loved as ‘Peggy.’”
From this writer’s perspective, I have lost an awesome friend. He would brighten any day by walking in the room, office, or yard with his million-dollar smile and the twinkle in his eyes. I’ve never heard a negative word come out of his mouth and never met a man more appreciative of the smallest of acts. Charlie Brown loved God, his family, his country that he proudly wore his red, white, and blue, his friends, the Florida Gators and helping anyone in need. Those are trademarks associated with very few men. Making white chocolate macadamia nut cookies will bring a smile to my face and tears to my eyes because they truly were his favorite and the smile when he saw them coming is way would brighten the saddest of days. God Bless his family and friends as they adjust to life on earth without Charlie Brown. And as I said in the headline, “Good Grief Charlie Brown, you left us way too soon.”