The Walden community is minus one of its biggest supporters following a fatal head-on crash on Mountain Creek Road Nov. 19 which took the life of Henry "Leo" Brown Sr., 84.
"He loved his community and wanted to contribute to its well-being, and I think he did a good job," said neighbor and friend of 40 years Joe Robbins.
Brown was an active member of the Walden community who had served as an alderman for the town and was instrumental in the creation of the Bachman Community Center, for which he was a board member from its start in 1999 until the time of his death.
"If it hadn't been for Leo, Bachman would not be the vibrant community center that it is today," said Linda Collins, a neighbor and fellow member of the board at Bachman Community Center. "He was the gentle force that held it together."
From offering to pick up computers donated by BlueCross BlueShield to installing air-conditioning units, "no task was too small or too large," she said.
"He was our only honorary lifetime board member because he was a huge driving force in getting the school turned into a community center," said Lissa Goeltz, Bachman Community Center executive director.
She said the center's paperwork shows it was Brown who met with officials from the Hamilton County Department of Education and engineer Frank Atkinson to discuss the building's condition, and it was he who wrote the letters requesting it be turned into a community center.
"His wisdom and experience were so valuable to the Bachman mission to continue to serve the needs of the Walden's Ridge community and to protect the valuable building," said Collins.
"There was no personal gain involved - he just wanted to better the community," said Jim Douthat, a friend and fellow founding board member. "He was just an outstanding individual; very polite and a true Southern gentleman, and he had good business sense. He was fair, but he was firm. He was not a pushover."
A Red Bank High School and University of Chattanooga alumnus, Brown grew up on Mountain Creek Road and moved to the mountain in the '50s, Douthat said. He owned the land from Ayala's Mexican Restaurant, where his mother once operated a restaurant, to the Walden Ridge Service Station, as well as many other properties on Walden's Ridge.
Many remember Brown from his family's hardware store, Brown Brothers, which was located across from Timesville Road for 30 years until closing in the late '80s.
He was a founder and active member of the ROMEOS (Retired Old Men Eating On Signal) coffee group, as well as a founder and former president of the Signal Mountain Lions Club.
Brown also served the greater Chattanooga community as a longtime board member of CADAS (Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services).
"He was a selfless, giving person who helped a lot of people," said Collins.
At the time of the crash, the World War II Navy veteran was leaving Calvary Baptist Church, where he had just been honored for his service.
His wife Bea, 64, survived the crash.