Robert Brown
Robert Brown
  • January 23, 1931 - September 20, 2017
  • New Orleans, Louisiana

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Robert “Bob” Brown, also known as “Bobby” and, in later years, “Coach,” died peacefully of kidney disease on September 20, 2017, in New Orleans, LA. He was 86 years old.

Bob was born January 23, 1931, in Shreveport, LA, the seventh of eight children born to Jesse McConnell Brown and Martha Isabelle Brown (nee Holladay). The couple had moved to Shreveport from Arkansas around 1919. Jesse worked as business manager of a small oil refinery and coached various church and ballpark teams in his spare time.

Aside from the death of his younger brother, Jimmy, when Bob was 6 years old, Bob recalled an idyllic childhood, marked by a large, loving family. However, life changed in 1941 when two of his brothers, Glenn (age 16) and Lewis (age 21), enlisted to fight in WWII. Glenn, who served in the Navy, eventually came home. Lewis, who served in the Army Air Corps, was killed when his plane was shot down in August 1944 over northern Germany.

The family was devastated by news of Lewis’s death. To make matters worse, Jesse died of heart failure in June 1946. Thus, by the time Bobby turned 15 years old, he had lost a younger brother Jimmy, his brother Lewis and his father.

Bobby remembered being close to his dad but often said, “Lewis was my hero.” Before leaving for the war, Lewis had instructed his mother that if he did not return, some portion of any insurance money the family received should be used to send Bobby to college.

“I probably would not have gone to college if not for Lewis,” Bob said many times over the years. “He wanted that for me and I felt like I owed it to him to try to make something out of myself. Because of him, I was the first person in our family to go to college.”

While still in high school, in December 1946, Bob met his future wife, Norma Jean Weeks, in a biology class. “I still remember the first time I saw her,” he recalls. “She was the new girl in school, long dark hair and beautiful blue eyes. She changed my life.”

The two married in July 1953, initially settling in Shreveport, where their two children, Robert Jr and Cindy, were born. Jean earned an undergraduate degree as a Med Tech. Always an athlete, Bob earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education, with a focus on Athletics.

In 1964, the family moved to New Orleans when Bob was hired as the first coach of the fledgling LSUNO, now UNO. He remained there for 36 years, serving in many capacities, including football coach, golf coach, director of the intramurals program and assistant athletic director.

Bob was extremely devoted to UNO and to the athletic program he helped build there. Professionally, the highlights of Bob’s career include coaching two UNO golf teams that won NCAA Division II National Championships in 1971 and 1972; being named NCAA Division II Coach of the Year in 1971 and 1972; and starting and coaching the UNO club football team and intramural programs throughout the 1960s.

Bob loved to compete and he loved to win. But when asked what he loved most about coaching, he would always reply, “the relationships.” He truly believed in the power of sports and education to improve the lives of young people. “Sports teaches you to get up when you get knocked down,” he often said. “It teaches you the importance of being part of a team… of working together… of helping one another… of always showing up…. you have to persevere and keep showing up….”

Throughout his life, Bob also had an avid interest in music. He began playing drums before high school and he traveled with various small bands while in college, as well as during his service with the US Air Force in the mid-1950s. After he moved to New Orleans, he played drums part-time with various local groups, and he also played for the band at his church after retirement. When he was 82, he and Jean moved to the Poydras Home, where – despite being totally confined to a wheelchair and suffering from cancer, kidney disease and other ailments -- he bought a small drum set and performed regularly with many of the bands that visited the nursing home.

Bob was a genuinely happy, loving, unpretentious, funny and faithful person. He was a long-time member of Suburban Baptist Church in New Orleans East, as well as of First Baptist Church in Mandeville, LA. His love of life and his love of others were testimony to his faith.

Bob is survived by his two children, Robert Jr and Cindy (Anne Rolfes); his five grandchildren, Tasha, Alyssa, Nathan, Maxwell and Myla; his sister, Imogene Crump; and his brother, Glenn Brown (Lorraine). He was recently preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Jean Weeks Brown, who passed away on December 8, 2016.

All are welcome to attend a celebration of Bob’s life at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home on Wednesday, September 27. Visitation will begin at 9:00 am, followed by a service at 10:00 am. Interment will follow at Abita Springs Cemetery No. 2. Flowers will be accepted at the funeral but, in lieu of flowers, friends and family are encouraged to donate to the Poydras Home Employee Fund (5354 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA, 70115) in the name of Coach and Jean Brown.