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Former Village Trustee Harold Brown Dies at 92

Harold and Rose Carol Brown
Harold and Rose Carol Brown when they were inducted into the Park Forest Hall of Fame in 1997. (Photo: Park Forest Historical Society)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Former Village Trustee Harold Brown has died at the age of 92. Village Manager Tom Mick made the announcement as part of his report to the Village Board Monday night.

Mr. Brown was 92, Manager Mick said.

Harold served the better part of two terms on the Park Forest Village Board. He resigned in October 2006. His resignation became effective on Monday night, October 23, with the swearing-in of Trustee Georgia O’Neill. 

Mr. Brown announced his resignation in September 2006, citing at the time the recent deaths of his wife, Rose Carol, and daughter, Sheila. 

Both Harold and Rose Carol were members of the Park Forest Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997. According to the induction testimony on the Park Forest Historical Society’s website:

Harold and Rose Carol Brown moved to Park Forest in 1955, raised five children, and found time to be active in almost every phase of community volunteerism. When Westwood School was built across the street from their home in 1956, Harold joined the many parents who helped supply basic necessities (e.g. coat hooks) and the elbow grease to install them. He says he was “hooked” then and hasn’t let go since! He became chief fundraiser and later PFA president and then served as a member and president of the school board for both Districts 163 and 227 for a total of 14 years.

The Browns have sponsored annual Non-Partisan Committee coffee forums in their home for 41 years.

Harold also has served as committee president. But their recent involvement with the village’s Mediation Task Force has kept them as busy as ever. Originally trained by the Justice Department, the Task Force has since written its own manual to train replacement members and the Justice Department has referred three other communities to Park Forest for their training. Harold and Rose Carol are also Hearing Officers for the village’s Administrative Adjudication program.

Park Forest Historical Society
Trustee Harold Brown in 2006.
(Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Residents lined up at that 2006 meeting to bid Trustee Brown well in his retirement, and to thank him for his years of service to the people of Park Forest both on the Village Board and in other capacities.

Judy Lohr-Safcik said at that meeting, “Harold, my mentor, my friend, you will be missed. The village is a much better place to live and play in since you gave so much of your time in one capacity or another.” 

Lohr continued her remarks recognizing Brown’s service on school boards: “I was fortunate to succeed you on the District 227 board. You and your colleagues made us look good because of your foresight. I then gained more appreciation for your level-headedness while working on the Traffic and Safety Commission and the Non-Partisan Committee. I am glad that, although you are moving to Arizona, I will be able to see you when I am there visiting my extended family. We love you and will miss you.”

Lohr was followed by resident Suzie Brown, who remembered Brown’s dedication to Park Forest, “You name it, Harold has done it for the Village of Park Forest. If he hasn’t done it, Rose Carol has. During his fifty-plus years in Park Forest, Harold has given a tremendous amount of service for the betterment of the community. He has served as a Village Trustee for nearly two terms and served fourteen years as a member and President of School Districts 163 and 227. In addition, he has been President of the Park Forest Rotary Club and was one of the original mediation trainers.”

Suzie Brown then reflected on Trustee Brown’s dedication, “He listens to everyone and brings all the facts, plus his broad business experience, to bear before coming to common-sense decisions.  His sense of humor has many times added a chuckle to the proceedings.”

Suzie Brown recognized his other honors, “In addition, he received the Cook County Medal of Honor for Volunteerism and the Park Forest Jaycee’s Distinguished Service Award. All of this was done while helping to raise five children, swim regularly in his pool, attend nearly every Park Forest function, and carry on his model airplane hobby.”

She concluded her remarks, “Harold, you are a pretty amazing person. We thank you deeply for all you have done for Park Forest. We know when you move to Phoenix it won’t be long before you are involved there, as well. We wish you all the best and only ask that you come and see us whenever you can.”

And this writer spoke at that 2006 meeting as well, noting Mr. Brown’s good nature, “I remember some knock-down, drag-out discussions, sometimes about signs, sometimes about other things like direct criticisms of staff or policy. You made sure at the end of the meeting, if there was any ill will or strong words, you got up, sought the person, and shook hands or gave a hug. With you, the person always came before the issues.”

Trustee Brown affirmed the direction the Village of Park Forest was moving in his closing remarks as an elected official, “I think we’re going in the right direction.  We’re just at the edge of success,” he said, “I really do feel that this is the time to be here.”

On a personal note, I can say with the passing of time my memories of Harold still bring a smile. It was my honor to serve on the Village Board with Harold. Before I was elected in 2003, Harold and a former trustee got into a tussle during an executive session. Word of their disagreement leaked out from the closed-door meeting. Harold or the other trustee had shoved each other’s chairs, as I recall.

I wrote a letter to a local paper on behalf of an organization I helped found chastising Mr. Brown and the other trustee for the way they behaved. Saw then-Trustee Brown at the dedication of Logan Park a short time later. He came up to me and said, “I read your letter to the editor.” He paused and took my hand to shake it. “You were right,” he said.

Hearing of his death, former Village Manager Janet Muchnik said, “Harold was such a lovely, gracious, kind man. I served with him and am so sad to hear this news.”

Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, Rabbi Emerita at Temple Shir Tikvah in Homewood, knew Harold well, “So sad to hear this. He was President of Congregation Beth Sholom in Park Forest and worked hard for the Jewish community, as well as for the general community. His memory is truly a blessing.”

That moved and humbled me.

We had many more conversations after I won a seat on the Village Board, but I’ll always remember that one.

Once, sitting in his kitchen, he described how he learned that his home on Wilson Street had been double-assessed. He and Rose Carol had an indoor pool and somehow, a good portion of the home had been measured twice, and Harold discovered that he was paying property taxes on a home almost one-and-a-half times larger than the one he owned.

It took some work, but Harold managed to make sure the assessor saw the light.

After he resigned from the board and before he departed for Phoenix, we had breakfast at a restaurant in Flossmoor. We chatted Judaism, Village politics, and enjoyed some light conversation. Harold didn’t mince words, neither at a meeting when he was upset and had a strong point to make, nor when he was taking a softer approach, speaking as a friend.

Learning of his death tonight took me back. I guess that breakfast was the last time I saw him. Shook his hand and gave him a quick hug.

He has Rose Carol now, and Sheila.

We have memories of a giant, while perhaps small in stature, great in heart and deed.

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