Bob Browne: A life well livedThe life of Bob Browne, Superior City Council member who passed away Thursday, connected with many lives in our community.
By: Jan Conley, Superior Telegram
The life of Bob Browne, Superior City Council member who passed away Thursday, connected with many lives in our community.
His generosity and the legacy of the programs and causes he championed will continue to make him a presence in our lives.
Bob grew up in Superior with his four sisters. At a young age, he had a run-in with the law and was sentenced to serve time in prison. By the time, I met Bob almost 25 years ago, he had turned his life around. He had bought a home and was married and raising a family. He worked as a boilermaker and served as its union steward for many years. He was also a Sunday school superintendent.
I met Bob at a Lake Superior Greens meeting called to publicize a visit to the Twin Ports by Greenpeace — the purpose of which was to demand an end to dumping poisonous chemicals into Lake Superior. After the meeting, Bob approached us and said he loved Lake Superior and wanted to work to protect it. The meeting changed his life and ours.
This was when his environmental “career,” which spanned the rest of his life, began. Before long, we were exploring the idea of his running for office. It was then that he told us of his past and started the successful process to expunge his record.
He was elected to the Douglas County Board in 1992 serving until 2010. Among his many contributions in those years was his goal of having high school and college youth represented on the Douglas County Board. In 1993, he was also elected to the Superior City Council, for a two-year term.
Through the contacts Bob made, he served on many local and statewide groups and boards including the Lake Superior Binational Forum, a U.S. and Canadian group working together with the goal of protecting Lake Superior’s waters. This was where Bob came up with the idea for an annual Lake Superior Day. Despite ill health, he attended this year’s event at which he was honored for his work to protect the lake.
Bob was always involved in trying to make the lives of others better. Whenever he got an idea about a way he could help, he went for it. He knocked on doors and made calls until, most of the time, he got what he wanted.
Because he had come back from hard times, he arranged with the federal prison facility in Duluth to lead a group focused on encouraging others to turn their lives around.
He worked with the poor and the homeless, labor unions and workers, and victims of violence. He joined a motorcycle club that did fundraisers for various charities. He also put in many hours working on political campaigns.
Bob was optimistic, warm, loyal, determined and compassionate and these qualities were reflected in all of the work that he did.
He could also be a formidable adversary, and he told me once that he made his best speeches when he was angry about some injustice.
When Bob finally left the County Board in 2010, he planned to take some time for himself, buy a camper and do some traveling with his cat Buddy. That plan lasted until 2011 when he ran for, and was again, elected to the Superior City Council.
Bob was the rare friend who could be counted on any time you needed him. He greeted everyone with a smile and he loved to laugh. An excellent cook, he was known for sharing his homemade caramels. He was a wonderful dancer. He was an avid fisherman and spent many hours in his boat on the lake that he loved.
He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues, the community and Lake Superior.
Jan Conley of Lake Nebagamon is a former Superior teacher and long-time environmental advocate.