The Family of Harvey Brown is left with all the love and memories of a life well spent. Harvey passed away on April 6, 2023 at Fairview Health Complex at the age of 71.
Harvey Robert Brown was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, to Edwin (Ted) and Ethel Brown. His father was a man of many jobs and interests. Harvey spent a few of his early years in the Pine Pass while Ted worked on the powerline, and that may be where Harvey’s lifelong appreciation for the mountains began. Ethel was a schoolteacher who loved to take Harvey in her car and drive, sometimes all day, to see the new dam or test a new highway. The Browns moved permanently to Valleyview to farm and teach when Harvey was still small.
Harvey excelled in school. He once ran all the way to Ridge Valley in a school competition, and he and his friends ordered parts from a catalogue to build lasers. With the second-highest score in physics in the province, Harvey achieved the opportunity to attend The Royal Canadian Institute Summer Science Program at Lakefield College in Ontario. It was there, in the midst of an epic canoe battle, he said to the girl he had spotted on the first day, “If you don’t stop tipping my canoe, I won’t like you anymore.” From that moment on, Judy Harris was on Harvey’s team. For six years, they corresponded across the country as they continued their education, Judy at York University and Harvey at the University of Alberta.
Harvey and Judy were married in North York in 1975. After a little more time in Ontario, as Harvey finished his MSc at York University and BEd at Western University, he and Judy were happy to move back West. Harvey had a job at Wanham School, and they found a house in Spirit River. Like a lot of people, they thought they would stay for a couple of years and move on, but it only made sense to stay when Harvey got a job right across the street at Spirit River Secondary School teaching Physics, Math, and Computers. Two years became 45, and two Browns became four when Robert and Carolyn came along.
Home computers came along, too, and Harvey taught himself how to program, build and fix them. He started a small business, Software Spirit, that specialized in practical software for teachers. The Teacher’s Marksheet was praised effusively, particularly at report card time. His Touchtype was one of the first word processors for personal computers.
Harvey taught for 28 years. He saw students of all sorts pass through the halls, and sometimes generations of local families. He was always pleased to hear from former students and learn they had become engineers, nurses, farmers, and parents. Many of them will have reached middle age, still approaching problems using Mr. Brown’s method: draw a diagram, preferably involving a cart, stick man, and arrows, then solve what you can in small steps. And have a caramel cube or a cup of hot chocolate to help you think.
People doing what they enjoy made Harvey happy. In 2006, he realized his greatest calculation – that he and Judy could retire comfortably at age 55. After all those years of school bells and a windowless classroom, Harvey spent as much time as possible outside. Anyone who saw him working in the yard saw a contented smile. Harvey was thinking about something good. He liked to have a lot of tools and parts on hand to fix things or make them. He had a lifetime supply of seismic wire from a student summer job at the Valleyview power plant, and it was his trademark fix-all. Harvey’s family might have thought he was trying to kill them with extension cords, rakes, and soldering irons, but he just had a project or three in the works. His garage looked like a constant physics experiment: what is the probability of ending up in a state of higher entropy versus ending up in a state of lower entropy? The answer was always: the garage gets messier and the projects come out perfectly. Harvey’s carpentry and welding were as neat as his handwriting and as square as his code of ethics.
Anyone who knew Harvey met a man who could be depended upon to think things through. He was considerate and fair and always thought the best of everyone. His phone calls to students’ parents were a pleasure to him and probably a surprise to some of them. His favourite sport was curling, a game of skill and calculation but also of teamwork and friendship. He was proud to win the National Stick Curling Championship twice with teammate Jason in 2010 and 2020, as well as several other awards for curling, but teaching kids the game was equally rewarding for Harvey. He was a man of deep thought and incredible patience, and he had a knack for simplifying complex concepts into elegant thoughts. If you could see things the way Harvey did, you could have elegant thoughts too.
Harvey helped foster Robb’s interest in science and computers and chaperoned his science fair trips. He was pleased to see Robb follow in his footsteps studying at the University of Alberta, and to be affiliated with Eastern Canadian universities, but no doubt it was Robb’s decision to work on his own terms that was most impressive to Harvey. He got to shake Robb’s hand when he received his PhD, and he got to see the prototype for the microscope Robb invented, designed, and built, just as they both used to build computers way back when. He was proud to wear his jacket and hat with the ShadowLabs Research (Robb’s company) logo.
Carolyn’s shorter career in physics and math was much less pleasant, but Harvey’s patience and expertise endured through a few years of homework until she turned to art instead. Harvey’s honesty was never compromised when critiquing art. He was happier to build drafting tables or storage for Judy and Carolyn, but he was always ready to yank nails, straighten frames or try cutting glass. Although he suffered from artshow-itis, he was always available to carry paintings and tables. It was Harvey who started Carolyn’s interest in genealogy, and Harvey who decided she would write a book.
In a journal full of references to motorhome circuitry and oil change dates, one entry from 2015 stands out: “Joshua!” Harvey was proud to welcome Joshua into the family, and to walk Carolyn down the outdoor aisle.
And Judy. Whatever Judy was interested in, Harvey was helping her accomplish. Whether it was freezing while camping on spring breaks, reading paperbacks while Judy shopped, Christmas trips to see family in Ontario, dance recitals, craft sales, fundraisers, art shows, tutoring, or assorted volunteering ventures, Harvey was there to make labels, do the driving, look after the dogs and the kids, carry things or test the baking. Together they put thousands of hours over nearly fifty years of community-minded thinking into Spirit River. Harvey and Judy are lifetime partners, and their legacy will last long into the future.
Harvey did not want people to mourn his passing. He would say, “I think we should take the motorhome out for a jaunt.” He would put a chocolate bar in his pocket to share, stop for a smoothie at McDonald’s, and keep going until he could smell the mountains. He would do something that made him happy, and he would wish the same for you. With this in mind, Harvey’s family is planning a Celebration of Life at a later date.
Care entrusted to Peace Valley Funeral Home, Fairview, 780-835-3306.