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Winston George Boyd Brown — a man of many hobbies

Sunday, July 27, 2014    

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THOUGH he sat nonchalantly in a retractable chair at Eulice Utton Home for Seniors in Mandeville, Winston George Boyd Brown, who celebrated his 100th birthday on March 10, was, in his early years, a very active man who contributed immensely to the government service as well as his family's success.

George Brown joined the civil service at the age of 19, and in 1960 was appointed postmaster general of Jamaica, a position he served in for more than 10 years.

"Amongst his many accomplishments as postmaster general was the reorganisation of the delivery of physical mail (letters and parcels) throughout the island," the centenarian's son, Winston Alan Boyd Brown, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview last Monday.

"This reorganisation made it feasible for mail to be delivered on the next working day anywhere in the island. In some instances mail was delivered on the same day," a proud Alan Brown explained.

George Brown was born in Brown's Town, St Ann to Eustace Roland Brown and Clara Boyd Brown in 1914. He was the second of five children — three boys and two girls. All have predeceased him.

George Brown's first job was working with the United Fruit Company of Jamaica, but he left to enter the government service. After serving in various areas, he joined the postal agency and worked himself up the ranks.

But though he was focused on his job, George Brown was not indifferent to the charms of Iris Maud McKenzie, whom he met as a youngster and with whom he fell in love.

And, of the many stories and accomplishments throughout his lifetime, George Brown's marriage could easily be placed at the top of the list. The couple was married for more than 70 years. His wife predeceased him five years ago. She was 99 years old when she died.

The union produced three sons, two of whom unfortunately passed away within a month of each other in 2006.

"He was a superb dancer, as was my mother," Alan Brown said. "The two of them were excellent ballroom-type dancers and they loved dancing, and even up to 2008, on New Year's Eve, they just danced the whole night away at a party that they attended with us. At one time they were the only people on the dance floor," Alan Brown recalled.

The proud son explained that his parents were the founding members of Church of the Ascension in Mona Heights, where they lived for many years.

After he retired in the 1970s, George Brown became a very active amateur (Ham) radio operator and was joined in this hobby by his wife. Amateur radio is a popular hobby for licensed operators (hams) to operate communications equipment.

"In later years, he became a Ham radio enthusiast along with my mother who had telegraphic skills," Alan Brown said. "And between them both they qualified for their Ham radio licences and they would speak to people around the world, make friends via their shortwave radios and eventually managed to visit some of these people in different countries because these people would visit when they came to Jamaica."

But Ham radio operation was not the only hobby George Brown had. The others included precision woodworking and electronics.

While living in Brown's Town, George Brown's home was equipped with furniture he designed and built with his own hands. To support his creativity, he maintained a woodwork shop next to his home that was considered state-of-the-art for an amateur woodworker. He would also make furniture for friends.

During his retirement, the couple lived for several years in Toronto, Canada and became very active at the Church of St Thomas in Scarborough, Toronto where they made many lifelong friends.

The couple returned to Jamaica in 2007 to live in Mandeville.

Today, George Brown is a resident at Eulice Utton Home for Seniors in the part of the island he and his wife enjoyed so much.

And while his life impacted others, it also paved the path his son chose.

"I learnt an awful lot about electronics from him, and became an electronics engineer as a result," Alan Brown, who is managing director at MODOFFICE by EHC Industries Ltd, said. "My love for electronics engineering came from working at his side," he said.

He spoke proudly of his father's enthusiasm when it came to electronics and of how he used his expertise to repair radios and amplifiers for himself and friends.

"He was always involved in doing something useful. He had extremely worthwhile hobbies, so when he wasn't at work he would be engaged in a hobby — whether woodwork or electronics. He was also relatively strict about behaviour and showing respect to elders and things like that," Alan Brown noted.

He also described his father as an expert motor car driver who taught them all to drive, including his wife.

"And he was very difficult to please," the younger Brown said with a laugh. "You didn't dare grit gears, and you didn't dare cause the car to jerk when you changed gears. He would say 'that is not how it should be done' or he would groan. And he allowed us all to drive on the road under his supervision long before we had our licences.

"He would allow us to drive if he was a little tired, especially if it was at nights. So we always looked forward to that. We always looked forward to going anywhere at all with him," Alan Brown said. "He was always teaching and educating us on different things."

His father, he added, was a practical and pragmatic person.

"He was an extremely principled person; for example, if somebody gives me change and gives me too much I would return it. That comes from the pride and self-esteem and the values that he ingrained in all of his children," Alan Brown said.

"He was not a wealthy person, so frugality was something that we also learnt from him. It was not necessarily beaten into us, but it was something that we noticed and acquired along the way," he said. "We were fortunate enough to earn scholarships in different areas, which thrilled him to death. And he showed his pride in us on those occasions."

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