HANSON — The town is mourning the death on Thursday, June 20 of Highway Surveyor Bob Brown following a brave battle with cancer.
After working for several years for the Hanson Highway Department in 2011, following in his father’s footsteps Brown was appointed Hanson Highway Surveyor. He served in many capacities, including countless committees, throughout his career.
Interim Town Administrator Meredith Marini, who posted an announcement of Brown’s death on the town website, extended sympathy to his family on behalf of the town.
“He was a great man who dedicated a good portion of his life to the town of Hanson and he’s going to be missed, both by the residents and by his co-workers,” said Tree Warden Dave Hanlon, for whom it is a double loss. He has worked with Brown for 18 years and considered him a friend.
“He was doing well,” Hanlon said of Brown’s recent prognosis. “It’s tough to deal with because not only was he my boss, he was my friend. He was my friend long before he was my boss.”
The Highway Surveyor’s pickup was parked in front of the Highway Department building and former police station on Liberty Street this week, the windshield draped in black crepe and Brown’s reflective safety vest draped over the brush rack on the front grille.
“He was a dedicated professional and worked tirelessly with other departments to achieve a common goal for the good of the Town, the Town which he loved,” stated Marini. “Rest in Peace, Bob. We will miss you.”
She added that it is always difficult for the town to lose an employee, but especially so of Brown.
“Bob was a great guy,” she said. “Everybody liked him.”
Fire Chief Jerome Thompson Jr. echoed that sentiment.
“He was instrumental in efforts to coordinate between the highway and fire department, along with the other departments. He will be greatly missed,” Thompson said, saying he was shocked at Brown’s passing. “He was an asset to our town and community.”
Police Chief Michael Miksch also found the news of Brown’s passing difficult to process.
“Bob was one of the first people I met when I came to Hanson,” Miksch said. “I quickly learned his gruff exterior was really hiding one of the nicest and funniest people I have had the pleasure to meet.”
Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett, said that when Brown became Highway Surveyor, she never feared driving on Hanson’s roads in the winter.
“I always knew when I was in Hanson, even if I didn’t look at the townline sign, because our roads were always eminently better than any other surrounding town and I felt safe driving on them,” she said.
But FitzGerald-Kemmett said she will also remember Brown’s dedication to helping community organizations in need of assistance on fundraising projects.
“Every single time I asked Bob if he could help in any way possible — before I became a Selectman — he would just say, ‘Yup, my guys will be there. Anything for the kids, anything for the community, whatever I can do,’ and I know there’s been a ton of people on Facebook sharing similar types of stories,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said, specifically noting the Hanson PTO for Brown’s assistance with the February Polar Plunge. “He stepped up for them … He just really loved what he did. He was very involved in the town.”
“Anytime I called looking for assistance there was no hesitation in meeting my request,” the police chief said. “His concern for the citizens of Hanson and their safety was evident with every approaching storm. He loved his job and he loved Hanson. I miss him.”
Hanlon also said he would most remember Brown’s love for the job.
“One of the big things with Bob was that he was very high on customer service, community service — do anything we can to help the residents, if it’s within our power,” he said.
Brown was also a devoted dad to his daughter Alyssa Brown Adams, said FitzGerald-Kemmett who performed the ceremony when Alyssa married Theodore R. Adams of East Bridgewater about five years ago.
“You’ve never seen a father more devoted to a kid in your life,” she said. “He was so proud of her and she was basically the light of his life.”
Selectman Kenny Mitchell also recalled Brown’s devotion to his daughter.
“He always talked about Alyssa, because he raised her,” Mitchell said.
He was also devoted to his job.
“Bob was a great man,” Mitchell said. He served on the Parks and Fields Commission with Brown for about seven years as well as the Highway Building Committee for four years.
“He was just dedicated to the town of Hanson,” he said. “That and his roads.”
Mitchell said Brown never missed a Highway Building meeting before becoming ill, and was frequently the first to arrive.
“He told me ‘I can’t wait to get back to my job, I love it, I really miss helping people,’” said FitzGerald-Kemmett about her frequent phone calls to touch base with Brown. “I think it was in his DNA because his dad was on Highway and it was just a family thing. He loved his job and it showed.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett also sent Brown notes of encouragement throughout his illness.
“I was shocked,” Mitchell said. “He really thought he could beat this.”
Mitchell, too, kept in contact with Brown as part of the town’s requirement that employees out on extended sick leave had to be contacted every 30 days and he was the Selectmen’s contact for Brown.
“It’s going to be hard shoes to fill,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “I don’t know if we’re going to get anybody with Highway in their veins like that guy had.”
In accordance with Brown’s wishes, all services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a cancer or animal charity of one’s choice.