My friend, Tom Brown, passed away on May 14 at the age of 90. Since he was a Navy veteran of World War Two, remembering him today seems especially appropriate.
Tom was the complete Baptist layman. He was one of the people who are an asset to a church and an encouragement to a pastor because his only agenda was to serve. His desire was always to encourage, support and inform. Tom knew the Bible but he also knew people and he loved both.
Tom was also a great father and husband. His wife, Helen, was the first woman elected by First Baptist, Murfreesboro, as a deacon. Tom was not only supportive of Helen’s selection but he felt it was long overdue. One of my earliest memories of Tom, as you might expect, is connected to Helen. When I was Baptist Student Union director at Middle Tennessee State University in the early 70’s, we organized a group of married students who met regularly on Friday nights. We invited Tom and Helen to lead the program one night. I don’t remember the topic, but I do remember the love and affection they had for one another as well as the way they communicated that to those of us present.
Father of five, grandfather of 13, and great-grandfather of 8, he knew that family life could be hectic but that it was worth the effort. At his memorial service, pastor Noel Schoonmaker shared this statement that Tom valued: “Family is a lot like peanut brittle; it takes a lot of sugar to hold the nuts together.”
Another comment shared at the memorial testified to the simplicity of Tom’s faith: “Truth is a person—Jesus Christ.” This is, after all, the most important part of our faith: our relationship with Christ. It takes time to nourish that relationship and relationships with others. Tom always seemed to have the time to invest in that work, whether with family, friends, or fellow believers. I think that is the gift he left to me.