Charles K. Brown III, teacher and Quaker leader

Charles K. Brown III
Charles K. Brown III
Posted: August 11, 2014

A memorial service will be held Sunday, Sept. 14, for Charles K. Brown III, 97, formerly of Westtown, a teacher and Quaker leader who died Wednesday, July 2, of pneumonia at a retirement community in Brunswick, Maine.

The gathering will be at 3 p.m. at Westtown Friends Meeting. The meeting house is on the east side of the Westtown School campus in Westtown Township.

Mr. Brown, known to friends as Charley, was born in Deposit, N.Y., on the west branch of the Delaware River, where his father ran the town pharmacy. The only son of an only son, he was doted on by his mother, three sisters, and seven aunts.

When he wasn't working in the pharmacy, he would hitch rides on the horse-drawn milk delivery wagon, or on ice floes on the Delaware.

Mr. Brown was a scholarship student at the Northwood School in Lake Placid, N.Y., and attended Hamilton College. He majored in mathematics and chemistry, was steward of his fraternity and captain of the ski team. He graduated in 1938.

After spending a year in New York City, he decided to pursue teaching rather than banking. In New York, he also attended his first meeting of the Quakers, the Religious Society of Friends.

He later told his family he was drawn to the society's peace testimony at a time of developing world conflict.

He enlisted with Civilian Public Service, a Quaker-sponsored alternative to military service for young men who were conscientious objectors to war.

When war was declared on Japan, Congress required conscientious objectors to serve.

Mr. Brown became a firefighter and surveyor of federal forest lands in the California mountains.

"These were camps of 30 to 50 volunteers, and people formed friendships," said his son C. Baird Brown. "This was the formation of a generation of Quaker leadership."

While he was there, Ellen Baily, a young Friend from West Chester, visited the camp for eight days. By the time she left, they were engaged.

"They were sitting in a lecture, and she noticed that my dad was getting nervous," said his son. "He turned around and asked her to marry him. She said yes."

To be near her, Mr. Brown arranged a transfer to Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry, where he was an orderly on a ward for incontinent mental patients. He joined other conscientious objectors in helping to ameliorate and expose the inhumane conditions the patients endured.

In March 1944, while Mr. Brown was still at Byberry, he and Baily married. They were together for 67 years until her death in 2011.

As a young husband, Mr. Brown volunteered for a final alternate military assignment as a human research subject for malaria. He was infected with - and cured of - malaria at Goldwater Memorial Hospital in New York.

Shortly after the war, Mr. Brown took a job teaching mathematics at Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school in Chester County. He taught with humor and insight for 35 years. He also served as dean of boys, and boys' college counselor. He coached soccer and led an intramural softball team called the Charley Horses.

"On the day of a math test, he always wore a red tie, and he always had a kind word for a student with a problem," his son said.

For 12 years, he was assistant director of the National Science Foundation Institute for Teachers of Mathematics, held each summer at Hamilton College. He served on the national committee that wrote the Advanced Placement mathematics exam.

Throughout his career, Mr. Brown was a leader in Quaker institutions. He served as clerk, or chairperson, of Westtown Monthly Meeting and in several leadership roles in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the Quakers' regional governing body.

He was clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for five years and in 1969 provided calm, thoughtful leadership when members of the Black Economic Development Conference occupied the Yearly Meeting sessions, demanding reparations. No reparations were paid, but "I think the process changed everybody," his son said.

He served as clerk of the Yearly Meeting's Committee on Worship and Ministry, and led revisions to Faith and Practice, the Yearly Meeting's guide for spiritual discernment and business practice.

Mr. Brown retired from teaching in 1982. He and his wife moved to Wiscasset, Maine, to be near her family.

In retirement, he served as clerk of the Executive Committee of Pendle Hill, the Quaker study center in Wallingford; held positions on the Worship and Ministry Committees of New England Yearly Meeting; and served as secretary of the Friends Committee on Maine Legislation.

He tutored inmates in the Lincoln County jail and gave thoughtful input at Wiscasset town meetings.

Throughout adulthood, Mr. Brown wrote letters to the editor, mostly on the topics of peace and military expenditure. Until just before his death, he enjoyed visits and e-mails from former students.

Although typically thoughtful, he also had a humorous side: "He was a serious maker of puns," his son said.

Besides his son, he is survived by another son, David S.; a daughter, Eliza M. Allison; four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and two sisters.

Donations may be made to the Westtown School, 975 Westtown Rd., West Chester, Pa. 19382.


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