Alan was the first of two sons born at home in Sioux Falls, So. Dakota to Alma Sophia Iverson Brown and Lyell Raymond Brown. The family moved to Minneapolis in 1932, where Alan lived until he entered the Navy. Throughout his life, Al maintained an unwavering positive attitude and exceptionally strong work ethic. He was a gentleman, and extremely well-liked by everyone who ever met him.
Al entered the Minnesota School of Mines in October of 1940, but his college education was interrupted when, on August 6th, 1943, he reported for active duty at the Naval Air Station in Minneapolis. He trained to be a carrier-based fighter pilot.
Alan completed fighter pilot training on July 8th, 1945, and although VE Day in May had ended the war in Europe, it continued in the Pacific with the Japanese Kamikaze attacks. In the later half of July, Al was assigned to VF-17 (fighting squadron 17, known as the Jolly Rogers). VF-17 continued flying every day until the war ended. Following the War, Al elected to remain on reserve status and go back to school, earning his BS degree in Mining Engineering in June of 1948. Also, in 1948, Al completed his active Reserve duty flying Vaught Corsair F4U’s, Grumman F4F Wildcats and Grumman F6F Hellcats. He was a test pilot and ended with approximately 1400 hours of flight time. He then accepted a job offer from the Anaconda Company. Thus, began his 30-year mining career in Butte.
It wasn’t long before he was introduced to Marion Boyle, a registered nurse, and eldest child of long-time Butte residents, Albert and Yvonne Boyle. Al and Marion married in St. Patrick’s Church in May 1949. Together they spent the next three decades raising their 7 children. Al laughed about volunteering to help with the Boy Scouts and suddenly finding himself solely in charge as the Scout master. The family took many wonderful summer vacations, and amazingly, Al still made time to do a little “moonlighting” as a consultant. This involved re-opening and working a silver mine known as the Joe Dandy in the Elkhorn Mountains just west of Toston, Montana, while also helping design a prototype machine for “extruding plastic material especially applicable for injection molding”. Work on these two projects continued for years. The Joe Dandy never prospered, but the prototype plastic extruding apparatus was patented in January 1965.
Before his mining career in Butte ended in 1979, Al held numerous positions, including Underground Shift Boss at the Badger, State, and Lexington mines, and General Foreman at the Leonard, Anselmo, and Lexington, and Berkeley Pit General Foreman. He was responsible for designing and implementing engineering solutions to increase safety and productivity and worked on ways to make the new surface mining operations profitable.
Butte had turned from underground mining to open pit mining. Surface mining technology was completely different than underground, so, although his responsibilities did not change, Alan needed to develop a totally new set of engineering solutions. Al was tasked with designing and implementing cost-effective methods for removing and hauling ore uphill, as opposed to day-to-day operations concerns. He studied truck haulage and development of a formula which for the first time incorporated the element of vertical lift in analyzing and comparing haulage profiles, and he also studied the relationship between drilling penetration rates and the then optimal hole spacing and explosive quantity required. This responsibility included working with manufacturers and soliciting cost proposals for delivering equipment modified specifically for open pit mining and hauling rock uphill. Al published two articles in prominent industry magazines. He eventually became Senior Mining Research Engineer and thereafter, Corporate Manager of Field and Operational Purchasing. He recorded an oral history for the Butte Archives in Aug 2018 which can be viewed at www.verdisgritproject.org/oral-histories/alan-brown-underground-miner-and-pilot
Al and Marion moved to Denver in January of 1980, where Al continued working for ARCO as Corporate Manager of Investment Recovery until early retirement at the age of 60. He then accepted a job in New York City with C-Tran, where he worked as a mining equipment supplier providing equipment to the People’s Republic of China. After four exciting years in Manhattan, Al retired permanently and he and Marion returned to Denver.
Upon their return to Denver, both Alan and Marion were heavily involved in The Denver Assistance League for many, many years. They also enjoyed retirement to the fullest, traveling through all fifty states and to over 40 countries. Al carefully documented their trips in journals and on videotape, which he later transferred onto CD’s! Al returned to Butte in 2018.
Alan was preceded in death by his brother Stanley Brown and Stan’s wife Lois and their son Wayne. He was also preceded by his wife of 68 years, Marion Boyle Brown, son David Brown, and daughter Marcia Brown Hansen. He is survived by sons and daughters -in-law: Charles and Becky Brown, Jeff and Marilee Brown, and Jerry and Marcia Brown, and by daughters and sons-in law: Janice and Brandt Thomas, Natalie Brown and Scott Wolfe, and Mike Hansen. Additional surviving family members include his grandchildren: Lana, Lyell, and Leon Brown; Emily Harstad, her husband Adam, and their children Grayson and Theo; Sophia Brown; Michael Casagranda; Joseph Hansen and Jackson Wolfe. Also, his brothers-in law: Ken Boyle of Butte and Brian (Susan) Boyle of Alexandria, Virginia; his brother’s children and their families, and many other cousins and relatives whom he’d met in the U.S. and Norway.
Al’s cremains will be placed alongside Marion’s cremains in Holy Cross Cemetery in Butte following a service to be announced later. If desired, memorial contributions may be made to the Denver Assistance League, Butte Public Archives, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
The family wishes to extend special thanks to Dr. Robert Rifkin in Denver, Colorado, Dr Marwan Massouh and the Cancer Treatment Center staff at St. James Healthcare, Big Sky Senior Living, and Frontier Hospice for their exceptional care of Alan.
Alan was a pilot, proud Norwegian, innovative engineer and beloved father, husband, brother and grandfather. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Please visit below to offer the family a condolence or to share a memory of Alan. Axelson Funeral and Cremation Services has been privileged to care for Alan and his family.
Read the thoughts and memories, then feel free to add your own.
Kathy Bowman says
Remembering fondly the friendship my own dad had with Al. My condolences to your family for your loss.
Ruth Hadzor says
Ruth McDonald Hadzor and Speed Hadzor (deceased)
Marion and I started 1st grade together and kept in touch over the years – by email, phone.careers, births, deaths,
moves, and infrequent visits. Al and Speed became friends because they had no other choice really.
Your Dad was such a lovely man , so talented and so nice , too. I will fondly remember him always. My sympathy
goes out to all the family
Ruth Hadzor says
Janice B Thomas says
1823 WALL ST
Janice B Thomas says
Kathy and Ruth, thank you for your nice notes! I well-remember stories about Red and Ann Bowman! And, Ruth, you have been a dear friend of my parent’s for so long. My Dad (and Mom) embraced life to the fullest, and knew the best sorts of people! The fact that you both made this connection here with our family is just so uplifting, and again, I really thank you for taking the time to do it. It means so much.