Gordon “Gordie” Brown made his mark in education as an administrator, but some of his best work came far away from any office or classroom.
Brown, who died Thursday of cancer at the age of 75, became a high school track and field official in 1963, and his positive outlook on life touched athletes, coaches and fellow officials alike.
“Gordie was loud and boisterous, a really fun-loving guy,” said Shenendehowa assistant track coach Jim Zimmons, who first met Brown in 1980, and also worked alongside Brown during his time as an official before returning to coaching. “Track meets were always a good time when Gordie was around. He had a big voice and a big laugh, and he was great with the kids.”
Skidmore College sports information director Bill Jones also worked at numerous meets with Brown, before Jones stopped officiating in the early 1990s.
“He was one of those officials who always made the track meet exciting,” Jones said. “He was never in a bad mood. He loved working with kids”
In recent years, Brown taught classes to train new officials. His legacy lives on in the Big 10 conference, as the coaches’ award for the top athlete each season bears his name.
Brown, who grew up in Adams Center, outside Watertown, spent 32 years in the Lansingburgh School District before retiring in 1994.
After high school, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 to 1958, doing active duty in Korea, and graduated from SUNY-Cortland in 1962. He began his teaching career in elementary school in Lansingburgh, and never left. During that time, he also served as assistant football coach at the high school, and helped lead Lansingburgh to an undefeated season.
In 1970, he was named principal of the Whipple, Whipple Annex and Pleasantdale schools, and later became the first principal of Turnpike Elementary School.
Besides being heavily involved in Little League baseball, Brown was also instrumental in the formation of the Lansingburgh Youth Soccer program, and always adhered to a philosophy of “the kids come first.”
After his retirement, Brown was the curator of the Lansingburgh Historical Society, and proposed an “adopt a grave” program to encourage residents of Lansingburgh to become more involved with the Lansingburgh Old Village Cemetary, which is the home to gravesites of several soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
“Gordie was a great educator, coach, official and friend,” Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons coach John Broderick posted on his website, Section II Harrier. “I always knew it was going to be a good day when I arrived at a track meet and saw Gordie.”