Seventy-two years after the attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the United States into World War II, The Robert H. Jackson Center launched its Defenders of Freedom Project.
For the next four years, Phil Zimmer and Greg Peterson collected firsthand accounts of World War II veterans, ordinary citizens and war victims-most of whom were in their 80s and 90s- who survived the battlefields, air raids and concentration camps and preserved their memories and experiences for future generations. The project was completed exactly four years after it began, Dec. 7, 2017.
One of the early interviews featured Al Brown, a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, and Zimmer’s former boss. Following his discharge, he enrolled at Syracuse University in January 1946 and earned his bachelor’s degree and doctorate in social science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 1952.
When Brown was appointed the third president at The College at Brockport State University of New York in 1962, he recruited Zimmer to the college to serve as director of news services.
“Al was a great man, and I was indeed fortunate to have worked with him,” Zimmer said. “I remain indebted, and still somewhat awed, by his intellect, tireless energy, and his humility.”
Although Zimmer only worked with Brown for a little over a year, he remained in contact with Brown through the years and cherished his insights and advice.
In 1981, Brown and his wife, Marge, retired, and the couple relocated to Stow. Back in Chautauqua County, Zimmer and his wife, Mary Ann, would often visit and, over the years, built a lasting friendship.
When Marge passed away in 2008, Brown stayed in Chautauqua County and remained active in his community. A member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, he served as a warden and vestry member and on numerous committees. Brown was also a lifetime member of the Chautauqua Blind Association.
In April, Brown passed away at the age of 95.
Recently, Zimmer and Mary Ann created a fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to host an annual speaker series in memory of the Browns.
The Al and Marge Brown Speaker Series/Robert H. Jackson Endowment Fund will provide annual funding to bring two authors to the Jackson Center to discuss their books on WWII related topics.
One author would represent a book on military components of war while the other would feature an author of a non-military related book.
“Naming this speaker series in his and Marge’s name at the Jackson Center is but a modest reflection of how much my career was molded and influenced by this man,” Zimmer said. “Al was a very bright comet who brightened my life and the lives of all around him. He and his equally charming wife, Marge, were exceptional.”