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Mar. 5, 2021 | Friday
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Obituary: Jim Brown, 83, was a true NOTL golf legend

 

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake lost a literal golfing legend last week with the death of "Downtown" Jimmie Brown.

The Garrison Village resident, a fixture at the NOTL Golf Club, who was officially recognized in 2010 on the club's Legends Championship trophy, died Friday morning at age 83 after a brief battle with liver cancer.

Born on Christmas Day in 1937, the affable Scotsman, who loved art and jazz, also was an active member of Grace United Church. He and his wife Helen immigrated to Canada after visiting Expo 67 and they eventually settled in Niagara-on-the-Lake where they raised their daughters Cathie and Nora.

They laughed about how, years ago, Brown was involved with Block Parents in town and would march in the annual Christmas parade dressed as "Sergeant Blockie," with an enormous box over his head. He couldn't see where he was going so he had to be guided along the route, his daughters said.

He was a great role model, "a feminist before that was a thing," Cathie Pennington said in an interview.

Her sister, Nora Vedress, echoed that sentiment. "Growing up, we were taught that we could do anything, be anything we wanted. There was never any kind of thought that, you know, we couldn't do something just because we were girls."

Pennington is a school principal in York Region and Vedress is a United Church minister in Saskatchewan.

A trained draughtsman, Brown was a mechanical engineer for Provincial Crane in Niagara Falls. Well-respected in his field, he designed the moving parts for the retractable roof on Diamondbacks Stadium in Arizona.

He was known for his exactitude on the golf course as well.

Doug Garrett, 93, another NOTL golf legend, said he teamed up with Brown to win many competitions.

"He was a single-digit handicap, a very talented golfer," Garrett said. "He was a fierce competitor, but fair. And, boy, did he know the rules."

Brown did two years of national service starting in 1959, serving with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. Garrett said he joined the Legion annually for the NOTL Remembrance Day service.

Garrett and Bill Katrynuk, another club veteran, said whenever someone had a question about some of the arcane rules of the game, Brown was the one they would turn to. His knowledge was encyclopedic.

He served as club captain for several years and later helped out other league organizers, Katrynuk said.

In the 1984 club championships, he came the closest anyone ever did to dethroning 30-time champion Mark Derbyshire, who won the title every year from 1976 through 2005.

They were tied after 33 holes, but the talented Derbyshire hung on for a dramatic, one-shot win.

However, his daughters said Brown found the positive in the loss, thereafter declaring he was the "1984 Almost Club Champion."

They said he shared with them many life lessons through the game of golf. Maintaining a positive attitude was a big one.

Whenever things weren't going well, his advice, drawn from years on the links, was always, "Play past it."

NOTL Golf Club pro Billy Simkin said Brown was an "important friend and member of the club. His constant involvement in member leagues, events and the support of the junior program was incredible."

Ben Berti played several times with Brown in the annual junior-senior competition, a fun day that teams young golfers with club veterans.

“He was a great partner during those junior-senior years and an even greater guy and mentor,” Berti said.

Associate pro Ricky Watson recalled, "I used to love when he would come into the shop on Sunday mornings and we would talk football (soccer) and he would tell stories about being back in Scotland, as well as the old days at the club."

"Jim was a wealth of knowledge about the history of the NOTL Golf Club and I always enjoyed his stories," Watson said.

Simkin said that even when Brown had health problems, he was a staple around the club."

"He would wait for his usual playing partners to come join him for a drink after their game. Jimmy was one of the good guys and he will be missed."

He is survived by his wife Helen, daughters Cathie (Derek) Pennington and Nora (Derek) Vedress, and grandchildren Isobel, J.D., Grace and Luke.

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