Tom Brown, Educator, Passes Away at Age 81

Thomas Brown

Thomas Brown, Tom, passed away peacefully at home on Dec. 31, 2022. During the preceding months, when sleep was difficult, he would sit at his computer and compose his autobiographical obituary. The sentences in quotes are his words. 

“Mark Twain said ‘Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.’ I think I might be finding out the wisdom of that statement along with ‘all life is terminal.’  Since I am no longer walking around on the surface of this mudball called Earth, I suspect I have found out the wisdom of those thoughts.  Although I made many mistakes, gaffes, and screw-ups during my tenure amongst the living, I had a wonderful life, full of adventure, love and caring.”  

Tom was born on Dec. 30, 1941, 23 days after Pearl Harbor, in a blacked-out hospital in Bremerton, Washington. In 1950 his family moved to Seattle. Tom starred in football for the Sealth High School Seahawks. (Yes, he was an original Seattle Seahawk.) Upon graduation he attended the University of Puget Sound on a scholarship. As he wrote: “I soon discovered that not only were there bigger, faster and smarter players out there, I was expected to study.” 

Tom then attended Olympic Junior College and the University of Washington, U Dub. While at U Dub Tom became reacquainted with a former high school classmate, Susan Hook. “It was kismet, fate, luck, you name it, but my life took a surprising turn for the better.” They had their first date on New Year’s Eve, 1962.

“That fateful date began our courtship and a year and a half later, June 20, 1964, we were married. I still can’t imagine my luck at finding a ‘life mate’ so easily.”

Tom earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1965 and was hired as a special education teacher in the Federal Way District in Washington. In 1969 not only did Tom earn a master’s degree in education at Central Washington College, he get accepted into the doctorate program at the University of Oregon, but he became a father for the first time. Daughter Sally was born on Thanksgiving.

“As I told her later, she was the best turkey we’ve ever had on that particular holiday,” Tom wrote.

Three years later Tom graduated with a doctorate of education in special education and welcomed another daughter, Mary, into the family. He then took his young family to Saipan in the Marianna Islands for a position with Trust Territory of the Pacific. Living in a tropical paradise was very enjoyable, but the government job was terribly boring. 

After one year in Saipan the Brown family found their true home in Alaska when Tom accepted a job as the director of special education in 1973. In 1974 a son, Kenneth, was welcomed into the family. “Life is grand.”

The family moved to Hoonah in 1978 when Tom accepted the position of superintendent of schools. He held that job for 12 years before moving to Sitka in 1990 to serve as assistant superintendent for the Sitka School District. Sitka was home. After three years with the district, Tom became the business manager for Mt. Edgecumbe High School, and later was acting superintendent for a short period. After a brief retirement he spent one year teaching at Sheldon Jackson College.  

In his retirement years Tom kept enjoyed cooking for friends, learning about and becoming skilled creating beautiful pottery, and cheering for the Seattle Mariners and Seahawks. He joined the Elks Lodge, served as a trustee, and worked on three cook crews. He was a member of the Baranof Island Artists Co-op, the Island Artists Gallery, served on the Sitka Community Hospital Board, and made many bowls for the Brave Heart Soup Event. “I truly enjoyed the camaraderie amongst the potters in Sitka.”

In recent years he also srved as a volunteer at the White Elephant Shop.

Tom was extremely proud to be a member of the following Masonic organizations: the Sitka Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite, Knights Templar, Shrine Club, and the Royal Order of Scotland. He was honored by his fellow Masons by being elevated to the 33rd degree. “It would be hard to find a more rewarding organization that strives to make its members’ word, handshake, citizenship or confidence in the truth an everyday occurrence.”

Tom loved Alaska and enjoyed hunting, fishing, spoiling his grandsons, Cael and Cameron, and traveling the world with his wife and soulmate, Susan. 

Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Guy and Gladys Brown; brother, Donald Brown; and daughter, Mary Elizabeth Brown.

He is survived by his loving wife, Susan of Sitka; daughter, Sally Brown and her partner, Adam Jones, of Seattle; and son Kenneth, daughter-in-law Meghan and grandsons Cael and Cameron Brown of Juneau.

He will be dearly missed by all his family and friends, his family said.

A celebration of Tom’s life will be held in June, on a date not yet determined.

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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






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Photo caption: Fire engines and ambulances shine in the sun outside the new fire hall Saturday during an open house. Hundreds turned out to look over the $4 million facility, which is twice the size of the building it replaced. It features a state-of-the-art exhaust system and much larger offices and a large training room.


March 1974

The Sheldon Jackson Museum will have a special showing of replicas of ancient Tlingit hunting weapons. The replicas were made by A. P. Johnson, a Tlingit  culture instructor and metal arts teacher at SJC.


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