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Remembering Mr. Brown

Retired Bluffton High School teacher died on April 25, 2023




Mr. Gary Brown, 84, long-time teacher at Bluffton High School, died on April 25, 2023. Click here for his obituary.


By Fred Steiner

Pardon the following recollections. They may be hit-and-miss, because as M. Twain claimed “The older I get, the more clearly I remember things that didn’t happen.”


Funny how you continue to address your high school teachers as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Miss,” long after your own graduation in the world of adults.


Mr. Brown – also known as Gary Brown – is a perfect example. This past winter I saw him in the bank, and said, “Hello, Mr. Brown,” as our conversation began. I’d never considered, “Hello, Gary.” That would have broken the unwritten rule number one between student and teacher. At least in my day.


Despite that, here’s what enters the adolescent caverns of my mind when recalling the “Mr. Brown file.”


First, he was unconventional. Junior high students appreciated that. He could joke with us, with a down-to-earth-like honesty.


He once told us that he’d prefer having a black snake in the house to keep the mice at bay rather than using mouse traps. That captured the class attention. Was he telling the truth? We believed so.


He also told us that, just for fun, he once chased a rabbit, caught it, let it go, chased it again, caught it, let it go…this story goes on until the rabbit stopped running because it was exhausted. Then, Mr. Brown said, he and the rabbit parted ways as friends.


This story concluded with his character laugh. This chortle should be bottled and handed to any future Bluffton High School teacher who hopes to succeed when earning high-rated student evaluations.


In eighth grade Ohio history he told us stories about Simon Kenton and the things he did that weren’t written in the official history book. There were several “ughs” heard throughout the classroom following this. But, history when taught by Mr. Brown was memorable.


Catch me in the downtown coffee shop for some of Mr. Brown’s Simon Kenton stories. One story may make you wonder about the raw taste of native American kidneys.


In science class, as I recall each Friday our assignment was to pose science questions to him that puzzled us, as we awaited his answer. One memorable question involved, “is it possible to slice an object with the result of that object having only one side?”


He took a piece of paper, cut it into a long strip, taped it in a twisted wheel shape. He passed it around the room. Each student studied the creation realizing that, yes it had only one side, from beginning to ending.


I may not have explained this properly, but his example was accurate.


Mr. Brown often sat on the table – instead of standing behind it – while lecturing in the science room, at the time located in the basement of the 1933 wing. His shoe (boots) rested on the end of the student desk nearest the table. This was commonplace.


Gary Brown, former BHS teacher


Once, Mr. Bremer, the principal, walked into the classroom unannounced, with a representative of the North Central school accrediting association. We all gasped, thinking the worst. You know, there goes Bluffton High School’s accreditation.


Mr. Brown didn’t blink (I don’t think he cared) and kept on lecturing. The two visitors stayed for a while then, without comment left. I’d love to have read the NCA report.


For me, the most memorable Mr. Brown teaching moment was the afternoon JFK was killed. Sitting in his science class, Mrs. Lewis, office secretary, suddenly and loudly, announced over the PA system the tragic news.


A kid in the back of the class who was usually asleep made a comment rejoicing in the news – it was the first time he had ever talked in class – Mr. Brown stopped his science lecture and immediately and loudly informed the student to mind his manners (I’ve sanitized this entire incidence).


To this day, I don’t know which was more shocking, the announcement from Mrs. Lewis, the opinion of our classmate, or the immediate verbal castration by Mr. Brown.


The BHS class of 1968 invited him as a guest to our 50th class reunion. He and his wife attended. His participation was the life of the party that evening.


For a generation of Bluffton High School students, Mr. Brown was the life of the party, as a personal friend, coach and most of all a teacher.


Post script - We've not even mentioned his motorcycle.












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