Columbus, Ohio USA
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Short North mourns the loss of neighborhood activist,
Lawrence Glenn "Larry" Brown (1950-2008)
by Jennifer Hambrick
August 2008 Issue
Larry Brown, 1985
Longtime Italian Village resident Lawrence Glenn “Larry” Brown, known among Short North volunteers as a concerned and committed neighborhood activist, died May 30 of kidney failure.
“He was just the kind of person you wanted to put in your pocket like a lucky stone,” said Brown’s friend Susan Orlos, co-pastor of St. Luke Mission, Brown’s former parish within the Reformed Catholic Church (RCC). “He’s been a quiet and gentle voice and has changed the life of everyone here in the Short North.”
Brown, 57, had suffered serious kidney problems for more than a decade, and heart and circulatory problems for almost a year. He is survived by partner Michael Koza, parents Patsy and Charles Brown, daughter Patricia Collins, siblings Patricia and Richard Vesper, Sue and Steve Richards, Rick and Jeannie Brown and many nieces, nephews and friends. He will be buried in Mound Hill cemetery in his native Gallipolis August 10.
While a teen, Brown moved to Upper Arlington with his family. He graduated from Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., with an associate’s degree in food service administration and a minor in horticulture.
Brown worked in food service for Long John Silver’s in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He returned to Ohio in 1978 after his daughter, Patricia, 30, was born, and served as food service director of the University Inn in Athens.
After returning to Columbus in the early 1980s, Brown worked in food service and horticulture for many organizations and enterprises, including Meals on Wheels, Verick the florist, Plantasia – an interior plantscaping company, and the former Inn Town Restaurant and Roadhouse Annie’s.
Brown moved to Italian Village in 1985 and served in numerous neighborhood organizations. He joined the Italian Village Commission in the late 1980s and was the commission’s vice chairperson when he stepped down in 2004. While on the commission, Brown helped bring about the construction of the New Village Homes on Summit Street.
In the late 1980s, Brown spoke out against the construction of a McDonald’s restaurant – designed to have its parking lot displayed prominently out front – at the corner of High Street and 1st Avenue. Steve Hurtt, who served as chairperson of the Italian Village Commission for more than a decade and proprietor of Urban Order Architecture, came to the Short North after the McDonald’s episode, but believes Brown was right to fight the hamburger giant’s bid.
“Putting a suburban McDonald’s at the corner of 1st and High is just not an appropriate solution to the neighborhood,” Hurtt said, “and I think Larry got that early on.”
While on the board of the Italian Village Improvement District Association, Brown helped get a grant from the Columbus Foundation to create a park at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Mt. Pleasant Avenue. The park was installed in 1998 and has been maintained by the Martha Walker Garden Club, which Brown also served as a board member since the early 1990s.
“Larry volunteered many hours in that park to weed and mulch and clean up and sweep and empty the trash,” said Christie Nohle, who designed the park at 2nd Avenue and Mt. Pleasant.”
As a concerned Italian Village resident, Brown worked with his neighbors to get funding to create the I-670 cap, and, in the early 1990s, to give his neighbors on Mt. Pleasant the option to have magnolia trees planted in their front yards.
Brown received the Short North Neighborhood Foundation’s (SNNF) Community Leadership Award in 2004 (the current Short North Foundation), more than a decade after going on dialysis and about six years after undergoing a kidney transplant which, friends say, compromised his health and eventually failed.
“What impressed me most about Larry wasn’t just the level of his (community) participation, but the fact that he did it while suffering what turned out to be a fatal illness,” said Andy Klein, a friend of Brown’s for 15 years and a past recipient of the SNNF Community Leadership Award. “He had an organ transplant in the middle of all this participation. He continued to work for the betterment of the neighborhood, even when he was undergoing dialysis. The average person would have been discouraged and perhaps retreated into a shell facing his health issues. Larry was just the opposite. It seemed like his community efforts expanded as his health declined. It’s very inspiring to see that kind of dedication to the neighborhood.”
As an active member of the St. Luke Mission, Brown volunteered to collect woolens to give to the homeless in winter and for Project Mary’s Open Arms, a ministry that prepares and delivers meals for the homeless in Columbus’ Downtown and Hilltop areas.
“We would make sandwiches for the homeless shelters Sunday morning and then deliver them,” Orlos said. “(Brown would) be so sick sometimes after making sandwiches. He was there with everything he had until there was nothing left.”
The RCC’s Archbishop David Frazee, who created Project Mary’s Open Arms, recalls Brown as one of that ministry’s first and most dedicated volunteers.
“In all the time I’ve known Larry, he was just very down to earth, very humble,” Frazee said. “He would look for areas that he felt fit him the best and then that’s where he would go and apply his talent – whether it be community issues, he was very much into social justice. He really tried to stand on justice for all people.”
Brown had recently been ordained a subdeacon in the Reformed Catholic Church. He had hoped to finish training for the deaconate when his health permitted.
“(St. Luke’s) was basically his life,” Koza said. “He believed in giving his heart and his soul to the Lord and helping others. Larry’s whole goal in life was to help others and be there for people in need.”
Brown’s daughter, Patricia Collins, 30, says others on Mt. Pleasant Avenue were grateful for his concerned presence in their neighborhood.
“I heard a lot of his neighbors say that they could have called him at one o’clock in the morning and he would’ve lent an ear. He would have done anything for people,” Collins said.
“We really miss having him on the street,” said Mt. Pleasant resident Judi Moseley. “It’s a big loss for all of us.”
© 2008 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.
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