Robert Brown Leaves Young Daughter Behind
With the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn hanging together in the sky above, Robert “Rob” Brown passed into eternity on his back porch at the Knoll Motel homeless shelter in early August.
Those who knew Rob appreciated this gentle giant; his sense of humor, his vivid storytelling, his love of a good cup of Joe, and his enthusiasm for exploring the countryside.
Rob was born in Nashville, Tennessee, into a family that, according to Rob, “raised pit bulls for fighting” and had involvement in the Klan. Rob described his childhood as traumatic, with much time spent “running and hiding.” One redemptive aspect of his childhood was a grandfather who took Rob to Civil War battle sites and regaled him with vivid descriptions of the fighting that took place there.
As a young man Rob was arrested in Nashville with 30 pounds of marijuana in his backpack and was sent to prison. While in prison, Rob’s jaw was broken twice in fights. He was also attacked while sleeping.
Rob’s experience in prison led to a life-long inclination to sleep outdoors, preferably in a tarp based structure with no walls. It also gave him an appreciation of the freedom he found in exploring forests and travelling the open road.
Fleeing the dark elements that surrounded him in Tennessee, Rob began his life as a committed wanderer. Traveling the East Coast by bus, he would look for towns and small cities that he found friendly and pleasant to roam around in. Once he found such a place, he would explore the countryside on the outskirts until he found a suitable place to make camp. Rob loved making camps. They were always in secluded, thickly vegetated areas within walking distance of town. Rob would then spend a week or two enjoying the local cafes and parks before moving on. He especially loved Asheville, North Carolina.
About 10 years ago, Rob wandered up into New England and found central Vermont to be a place in which he felt at home. It was the support of Another Way in Montpelier that convinced Rob that Vermont was a compassionate and friendly place in which to raise a family. He convinced the mother of his infant child to move to Vermont. Before they arrived, Rob created a special camp in the woods, hiding stuffed animals in the trees around the camp for his daughter to find.
Once he became a father, Rob stopped his wandering (except for occasional short trips) and camping (except for his local weekend camps) and became a fiercely protective and loving father.
A few summers ago, while living in Plainfield, Rob built a day camp along the Winooski River where he could keep an eye out as his daughter and her friends spent the long summer playing in the river and hanging out on the big rocks. Throughout that summer, Rob got to live his dream as he was outdoors and raising his child at the same time.
On a recent visit to Connecticut, Rob made a side trip to Greenwich in order to look at expensive cars. He laughingly recalled that while in Greenwich all he had to do was “walk through downtown and the sidewalks cleared.” He further explained that “they’re just not used to people like me.”
Rob’s primary goal in life was to instill a love of the outdoors in his daughter. One week after his death, as his daughter swam and played in a mountain stream with the agility of an otter, it was obvious Rob had succeeded in that goal.
Vermont’s core values, a belief in common decency and mutual responsibility toward one another, brought a better life to Rob and his small family. To all the people who helped Rob and his daughter, informally as friends or formally through services, please be aware that Rob deeply appreciated the support he received while raising his daughter in Vermont.
Submitted by Montpelier resident Glenn Houston
A Go Fund Me site has been set up for Rob’s daughter: