Don Wilson Brown
October 26, 2022
Don Wilson Brown passed away peacefully in Billings, Mont., on Tuesday, Sept., 27, 2022, after a short illness. He was born on Dec. 5, 1935, at the family ranch with his Grandmother Gerda Rorvick as the midwife. He was preceded in death by his wife Carol Brown; mother, Astrid (Rorvick) Brown; father, Dalton Brown, and sister, Myrna Frye. He is survived by his daughter Tammie Brown Butler (Jeff), son Tracy Brown (Anna-Lena), and grandchildren Duston Butler, Nichlas Brown, and Emma Brown.
Don was born and raised on a rural homestead on Shade Creek in McCone County, the Quarter Circle DB. He attended grade school at Illmont School where his mom was the teacher. The two-room school house still stands, barely, as a reminder of an era gone by. To continue his education, he left the ranch to attend Wolf Point High School, graduating in 1953, while living in a boarding house under the care and supervision of Ruby and Melvin Lingle. Many an adventure came from his high school experiences and colorful stories of friendship, fly-ins, country school dances, and late-night excursions with a fair amount of mischief mixed in.
Over his life he worked many different jobs including construction, spray pilot, aircraft mechanic, truck driver and cowboy/rancher. Don strived to be an excellent "hand" at whatever job he performed but his true passion was flying. He was granted his pilot's license the day he turned 16 and proudly wore the badge of "youngest pilot in the state of Montana" for a time. He spent several years as a spray pilot before moving to Helena to attend aircraft mechanic school. This is where he met and married Carol in 1957 and where they lived and raised their family until 1991 when they relocated to Fort Peck to assist on the family ranch. The ranch is where Don was truly the happiest, as his heart was always in Eastern Montana. He would marvel at the sunrises coming over the buttes and would end his day listening to the mourning doves while sitting on the bunkhouse porch. He considered Willis Butte to be his church and would climb to the top to talk to God.
Don was a naturalist, and while living at and managing the ranch he strictly enforced a walk-in only policy for hunters and visitors. He would point out the mailman's route across the prairie from 80 years ago as an example of preserving the land and minimizing human disruption. It was this philosophy that propelled his active opposition to the Keystone Pipeline as it would have crossed several miles of the ranch property, causing significant damage to the range. He often said "farmers and ranchers were environmentalists before environmentalists had a name."
Don and Carol were best friends during their 64 years together, thoroughly enjoying each other's sense of humor and engaging in fun filled "Brown Banter." They lived each day with a deep love for one another and shared values of honesty, hard work, integrity, loyalty and commitment to family and friends. They were rarely seen without one another, unless it was quilting, playing poker machines, or shopping for bananas! Several friends have offered that Dad died of a broken heart, missing Carol so.
Don will be forever remembered for his sense of humor, his story telling, and his kind and generous heart. He was rarely seen without his cowboy hat and distinctive beard (often mistaken for Santa Clause by young children). He was proud of his heritage and would celebrate St. Paddy's Day with enthusiasm and recognition that the Brown's shared an Irish independence and orneriness, as well as his Scandinavian traits of common sense and frugality.
Memorial Services and celebrations for Don will be held in Glasgow and Fort Peck during the summer of 2023. In lieu of flowers the family has requested that donations be made in Don's name to the Rheumatology Research Foundation or the Northern Plains Resource Council.
Condolences may be made to the family at bellmortuarymontana.com.
The family would like to thank the community of Fort Peck, Don's wonderful friends and neighbors that he relied on in his final years, as well as the staff at Frances Mahon and St Vincent's Hospital for the care they provided in his final days.