Jerry Ronald Browning
February 15, 1938 – November 6, 2015
Jerry was born in Covington, KY to Ben and Margaret (Sutton) Browning; he was the seventh of nine children. After a few years in Kentucky, the family moved to Crafton, PA and then to Kiona, WA so Ben could work on the Manhattan Project facility at Hanford.
Outside school hours, Jerry and his brother Larry helped their parents build a motel from the foundations up, which the family operated for many years. He loved yo-yos as a kid and went to the state yo-yo championships; he placed second after the spindle on his yo-yo broke during the Around-The-World manoever. He was athletic and spent many happy hours biking, playing sports, and swimming in the Columbia River.
In 1956, he graduated from Columbia High School in Richland, WA. He then attended Washington State University (Pullman), graduating with a Bachelor of Architectural Engineering, which was a dual degree in architecture and structural engineering. Shortly after graduation he was in a near-fatal car accident, surviving only because a doctor was in the first car on the scene. After a lengthy recovery, he hitch-hiked around Europe before heading to Hawai’i to look for work. He was hired as a structural engineer at the large architectural firm Wimberly, Whisenand, Allison and Tong. Not long afterwards he was encouraged by Kent Nixon, a close friend from university, to join the firm Fairbanks, Sawyer and Nixon in Cranbrook, BC. So Jerry traded the beaches of the South Pacific for the Canadian Rockies. He was soon made partner. He met his first wife, Heather Cameron, and together they raised a family at Moyie, BC.
Kent and Jerry purchased the practice and created Nixon and Browning, Architects and Community Planners. They built a flourishing business specializing in schools, health facilities, commerical and civic buildings for almost every community in the East and West Kootenay and several projects in southern Alberta. Their projects include the College of the Rockies campuses in Cranbrook, East Kootenay Regional Hospital, Cranbrook Public Library, the RDEK building in Cranbrook, new schools in Windermere, Golden, Invermere, Fernie, the Elk Valley, Canal Flats, Revelstoke and Castlegar, and renovations to many others, seniors care homes, drop-in centres, financial institutions, buildings for BC Hydro and Kaiser Resources, municipal offices, recreation complexes and post offices. They successfully completed more than 250 projects. They also operated a copy business and a sawmill in Cranbrook for a short time.
Despite his success as an architect, Jerry had a naive and recklessly optimistic side which led him into a long series of speculative side ventures; his charm, charisma, and persuasiveness led other people into these ventures with him. Though he never once stopped believing in eventual success, many relationships with friends and family members were irreparably damaged.
His marriage to Heather ended in the 1990s. He moved first to Tonapah, NV and then to Bow Island, AB to be near his brother Larry (wife Dorothy). Together they cared for their elderly father until his death. Jerry was a life-long seeker of spiritual answers and his quest took him in many unusual directions before finally finding the ROC Christian Ministry in Coaldale, which is how he met his wife Margaret. They had been married nearly 11 years at the time of his death. Together, Jerry and Maggie worked as greeters for their church and led the Good Times group for four years. They also nursed Jerry’s brother Larry during his illness with ALS.
Jerry was devoted to physical fitness. He ran many 10k and 15k races and several marathons. He spent a lot of time strength training and researching nutrition. Jerry loved music, particularly gospel, country and ‘50s and ‘60’s pop. Johnny Cash and Elvis were two of his favourites. He was a great dancer and a photography enthusiast. He had a distinctive sartorial style, favouring bright colours, cowboy boots, flashy blazers, bolo ties and Hawai’ian or cowboy shirts. He collected belt buckles and model cars. He loved kids and was always up for a game of Frisbee, a wrestle, or some Rummy-O, Monopoly or poker. He was a skilled fly fisher and enjoyed fishing on Kootenay Lake with his good friend Arne Olsen. He was a huge movie buff and watching them was a critical source of comfort during his final months. Some of his favourite memories were of road trips through the US, especially on his BMW touring motorcycle. He loved to laugh.
Jerry died eleven months after being diagnosed with ALS. He was predeceased by his parents, siblings Norma Wright, Larry Browning, Pauline Woods, Janet Noga, Phyllis Phelps, Michael Browning and David Gale Browning, niece Patty Wright and nephew Tom Noga.
Jerry is survived by his loving and dedicated wife Margaret “Maggie” Browning, his sister Nancy Allen, children Susan “Sioux” Browning and husband John Bradshaw, Steve Browning and wife Leona (Olivia, Liam), Jennifer Browning and husband Richard Baverstock (Jake, Ben), and David Grexton (Tanner, Abby), step-children Susan Kopp and husband Stacey (Alex, Tamara and Ashanti), Mary Blatz and husband George (Zoë, Esther), Ramon Peters and wife Carolyn (Sarah, Elijah), Pete Peters and wife Susanne (Blake, Melissa, Darryl), Lena Derkson and husband Rob (Hannah, Kaleb, David), Danny Peters and wife Wendy (Rachel, Haylie, Travis, Jorja), three great-grandchildren, many nieces and nephews, and friends.
Jerry’s family would like to thank the caregivers at Edith Cavell Care Centre, Dr. David Stewart and his colleagues at the Family Medical Centre, Dr. William Shields, Taber Home Care, the nurses and Palliative Care team (particularly Joy) at Chinook Regional Hospital, Dennis & Rockwell Pollock and their staff, Jane Rivest, Sue Monro and the ALS Society of Alberta, Dr. Soroceanu, Jonathan Davis at Taber RBC, and Joe and Eva Ellan.
A memorial service for Jerry will be held Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 2 pm MST (1 pm Pacific, 4 pm Eastern) at ROC Christian Ministries (1220 – 23 Avenue, Coaldale, AB). For those far away wishing to observe the service, it will be live-streamed at livestream.com/roccm (click on Jerry’s Memorial). A reception will follow at the Coaldale Gem of the West Museum (1306 20thStreet, Coaldale). In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the ALS Society of Canada.
Messages for the family can be left at www.mbfunerals.com.