Ralph E. Brown, 83, postal official, Liberty ship volunteer

March 22, 2006

Ralph E. Brown, a retired U.S. Postal Service and American Red Cross official, died of pneumonia Thursday at Peninsula General Hospital in Salisbury. He was 83.

Born in Allen, Wicomico County, and raised in Salisbury, Mr. Brown was a 1942 graduate of Wicomico High School.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and served as a gunner in the Atlantic aboard two tankers and later the Liberty ship SS Thomas Nelson Page. He later was assigned to an air squadron at Pearl Harbor and was discharged in 1946.

Mr. Brown began his career with the Post Office in 1953 as a rural mail carrier and was later promoted to director of customer services. He retired in 1980.

"He was in charge of customer services at post offices from the Bay Bridge to the Virginia state line," said his high school sweetheart and wife of 60 years, the former Norma Murrell.

In 1983, Mr. Brown began a second career when he became the executive director of the American Red Cross' Lower Eastern Shore region. He retired a second time in the late 1980s.

A lifelong sports fan, Mr. Brown played baseball and in the late 1940s was a semipro football quarterback.

At the time, the Salisbury newspaper described him as "Mr. Five by Five," who was a "small packaged ball of fire."

He was a member of the Eastern Shore Baseball Foundation and the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame.

Since 1990, Mr. Brown had been a volunteer and active member of Project Liberty Ship, which owns and operates the SS John W. Brown.

A man of many hobbies and interests, he was 50 when he took up scuba diving. He also was an accomplished carver of ducks and liked making models of ships.

"He had a nice full life," his wife said.

Mr. Brown was a member of Union United Methodist Church in Salisbury.

Services were Monday.

Also surviving are two daughters, Constance Brown Fries and Jane Ellen Brown, both of Salisbury; a sister, Eunice Brown Burkett of Salisbury; and two grandsons.

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