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By LISA CONNOR
Special to The News-Democrat
Eldon Brown’s life began on Oct. 25, 1959 in Covington. He was born to Eldon and Janet Brown. Life for the Brown family was difficult, and it was especially trying to care for a child as rambunctious and as energetic as their little Eldon.
After a few short years, Eldon went to live with a new “big” family. His new home was in Somerset, at a place called Oakwood. They loved Eldon and cared for him in the best way they knew how. He lived with his friends at Oakwood until he reached his 18th year. This is where Eldon met and fell in love with a young lady named Darlene. The two kept in contact even after he left Somerset. After the passing of the love of his life, Eldon would continue to keep in contact with dear friends from his years in Somerset.
I met Eldon in 1979, when we both began a new chapter in our lives. I was in my second year of college and was given an assignment for my practicum. I was going to be working for the summer at an all men’s group home. That is where I met Eldon. Eldon was a tall, slender guy with a laugh that could knock you over.
Eldon had many new things to learn and to experience. First, he had to learn to live with a group of five men, all in the same household. This, I believe, would be a hard task for anyone. Eldon learned to do everything that most of us do on a daily basis. First, Eldon had to learn to ride the bus. What a task that was. This was not just a quick little ride. He had to learn to catch the bus in Ft. Thomas, transfer in Covington, and in the end, be in Florence.
With the first of many tasks accomplished, he needed a job. With Eldon’s gentle and quiet tone, he quickly acquired a job at BAWAC. Eldon continued to work at BAWAC for 20 years. The BAWAC family worked with Eldon, teaching him many lifelong skills.
Throughout those 20 years, Eldon had a tremendous amount of life experiences. He not only lived in Ft. Thomas, but also resided in several co-ed homes in Covington and Florence. Eldon became an expert at doing his own laundry, balancing a budget, cleaning the house, and enjoying life. Eldon has made great friendships in every place that he has called “home.”
Life for Eldon was obviously not all work. He has vacationed many places and probably laughed harder and louder than any of us ever have. During my years with Eldon, we have traveled to Mammoth Cave, the northern part of Michigan, enjoyed the sunshine of Florida and camped in the hills of Colorado, not to mention many other shorter trips.
Eldon has always loved to dance, and a dancer he certainly was. He attended dances at The Point at least four times a year.
The sad day came for Eldon to move on to his new adventure. Eldon was moving to Valley Haven, a home in Sanders, Ky., an area with not a lot of action. The one escape he had was to begin work at the Carroll County workshop. There he began to cultivate a new set of supports, many who have committed many years and have been a constant in Eldon’s life. Eldon continued to work, mostly part-time, doing work that sometimes was a bit boring for him and sometimes work that would fire him up all day. He worked alongside some of his good friends and enjoyed the events the workshop could provide.
A gentleman came into Eldon’s life at this time. Dr. Greg, as Eldon called him, saw Eldon’s picture in The Cincinnati Enquirer “Wish List” at Christmas time. According to the news article, Eldon was in dire need of a new set of teeth and there were no funds available for that. We made arrangements for Dr. Greg and Eldon to meet, and their instant friendship began. Dr. Greg covered all of Eldon’s necessary dental care, and for the last 11 years, it has been paid for from the love from his heart.
After less than a year, one loving staff person recognized Eldon’s potential, seeing that Valley Haven was not the right place for him. She made the contacts and arrangements for Eldon to move to his new, beloved home in Carrollton. She must have known the kindness and lovingness the Carrollton community would extend to him.
The big day came when Eldon moved to Carrollton Manor, the place he called “home” starting on Nov. 16, 2000. The residents and staff of the Carrollton Manor welcomed him with open arms. It did not take long before Eldon was out and about, making new connections again. While he worked at the Carrollton workshop during the day, he was scoping out the town in the early evening. I believe it took about 1½ seconds for him to make some newfound friends.
He began visiting the local establishments, trying to make a name for himself. He was determined to make Carrollton his home. He visited all of the local banks, because, as he told me excitedly, he needed to know “where to find the money.” He knew not to beg, but he also recognized that we all have a little extra change from time to time. I remember how he loved to visit his friends at Cornerstone Florist. He frequented the Speedway. To be honest, I believe he almost lived there. You see, he had his special seat at the Speedway. The bench located at this gas station is known as Eldon’s. That is where you knew you could find him.
Then there’s the Carroll County Courthouse. What can you say about the courthouse? Well, Eldon would visit there daily. His friends working inside, along with many others, saved spare change for him. As Eldon often reminded me, he appreciated the “big bills” too. The courthouse family took him in as one of their own. He called one loving friend his mother and became fast friends with everyone there.
The events that the Carrollton community provided for Eldon to participate in are too many to mention. He has told me many times about his favorites, “Easter on the Square,” and the times he won the jelly bean counting contest. He loved the DAW walk that he participated in. He loved the dancing and activities at the tobacco festival and the Christmas Carroll.
It was in Carrollton that Eldon was dubbed “The Weatherman,” and he enjoyed this prestigious title. “It’s going to be high of 68 today, Lisa,” he would remind me, as he entered my car. Minutes later, vibrations from the radio would inform us of an identical forecast. Eldon and I would look at one another, smiling.
Eldon was a God-loving man. He has been to more churches than anyone I know. He finally found the two most endearing to him, the Fellowship Baptist Church and the Carrollton Christian Church. Both places of worship have touched his life. The congregations have welcomed him with open arms and have made him a part of their families.
It has become apparent to me that Eldon has touched all of us in some way. I have never seen a group of people be so committed to one individual. I would love to be able to mention every person by name, but it would pain me to neglect someone by mistake. He had a special way of attaching people to him, didn’t he? He certainly never knew a stranger. He had a laugh we will never forget and a bear hug that would take the breath out of you.
As we approach mid-October 2009, it is hard to believe how quickly this year has gone. Really, it’s hard to believe how quickly my friend’s time on Earth has elapsed. Eldon would be 50-years-old on Oct. 25. I know he would want us to celebrate for him.
On the morning of the 25th, let’s all have a good hearty Eldon laugh, give some big bear hugs, and have a toast to him with a large, cold, diet coke. I am blessed to have known Eldon for so many years, and happy that he was able to touch so many of our lives.
After his passing, I discovered myself wanting to tell people that he was not a typical man, as he was so very unique and special to me. But before I could get the words out, people seemed to mention another distinctive characteristic or memory that defined Eldon for them. Whether it was his charming humor or his engaging personality, each person that came in contact with Eldon seemed to know that this was truly one exceptional, wonderful human being. I will miss him tremendously, and I am proud that he allowed me to be his friend.
Case worker Lisa Connor has been friends with Eldon Brown for 30 years. She and her husband live in Cincinnati, Ohio.