Joseph Brown, 70, chief of NIH housecleaning unit, benefactor

August 02, 1996|By Kaana Smith | Kaana Smith,SUN STAFF

To his wife, Joseph Brown was a patient listener and caring mate. To his friends, he was often the first one they turned to for help.

"Joe was the kind of guy that if you needed something, the next thing you knew, you had it," said the former Beulah Weeks of Randallstown, his wife of 16 years. "His concern for others was probably the thing everyone knows most."

Mr. Brown, 70, died Sunday of heart failure at Manor Care Nursing Rehabilitation Center in Towson.

Seated at her dining room table, Mrs. Brown remembered the gentle, quiet man she married; the man who after he retired in 1992 spent his time building bookcases and closets for her.

He was always prepared to help family and friends in trouble, helping his sister buy winter clothes for her children and sending money to his niece to help her through college.

"He helped assist my parents in purchasing a home when we were younger," said his niece, Jane Jones-McCray of Fort Washington. "He was always there, always doing something for someone. I don't know what we would have done without him.

"He was jovial and fun-loving," Ms. Jones-McCray said. "He was so easy to talk to."

More than once, family members attest, Mr. Brown accepted collect calls from jail when his friends were in trouble. He offered money for bail and a shoulder to lean on -- and, although he often threatened not to help the next time, he invariably did.

"Joe was the kind of person who believed in giving everybody more than a chance to clean themselves up," said Walter Moten, who was Mr. Brown's boss in the housekeeping department at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

Born and raised in Orangeburg County, S.C., Mr. Brown moved to Washington after World War II and then to Baltimore in 1980.

After working construction jobs while in his 20s, he joined the housekeeping staff at NIH in 1958. When he retired, he was chief of operations of the housecleaning and fabric care department, overseeing a staff of about 250 people.

After he retired, Mr. Brown taught himself carpentry and used the new skill to transform a carport into a den and built closets and bookcases.

"If Joe couldn't be found in the house, he was somewhere tinkering and the next thing you knew, there was something built," said Dechelle Gregory, his stepdaughter.

Mr. Brown was proficient at math -- family members said he could compute complex equations in his head -- and his mathematical bent probably was the reason for his meticulous organizing.

In a backyard shed, tools neatly line a workbench or hang on the walls. In his closet, his clothes are neatly organized: his starched shirts line the racks next to his blazers, organized by seasons.

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Mount Moriah Baptist Church, 2201 Garrison Blvd. in Baltimore.

Other survivors include a daughter, Jacquelyn Barclift of Washington; three sisters, Martha Jones of Bowman, S.C., Mary Gilmore of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Geneva Ashby of Washington; a grandchild; and two step-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 8/02/96

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