Slug Brown, the ‘real deal,’ passes on
August 5, 2003
The moment Donald Allen Brown exited the womb he was a character. Just after Brown was born, his mother asked his father what her son looked like. His father’s response: Sluggo, the rotund, nearly bald character from the comic “Nancy and Sluggo.”
From that day, most people called him “Slug.”
Brown – who was known for his volunteerism, caring nature and one-liners – passed away Aug. 3 at age 60 after a long bout of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
Despite his difficult four-year battle with the disease, Brown never let the illness bring him down, said his wife, Irene.
“Living with him was so much fun, you wouldn’t believe it,” said Irene, who had been married to Brown for 15 years. “I can’t remember a single bad moment.”
Brown was born in Reno Dec. 4, 1942, to Melvin and Jo Brown. Two years later they moved to Truckee and opened Brown’s Cafe where Brown was a cook, dishwasher and co-owner. The Browns opened Coffee And in 1964.
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They were one of the first families to attend the Truckee Old Timers’ Picnic, which celebrated its 23rd year last month.
Brown went Truckee High School and served in the US Army from 1965 to 1967. He was active in various community service groups, such as the Nevada County Fair Board and American Legion Post 439. He was on the High Sierra Senior Citizens board from 1977 to 1999.
Brown cooked at senior center’s monthly pancake breakfasts and Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners. In 1984, he met Irene while she was volunteering for a pancake breakfast.
“He has probably volunteered more hours than most of us have been alive,” Irene said. “We never had a holiday dinner at home during that time.”
The Truckee Rotary Club gave Brown the Paul Harris Fellow Award for his work in the community.
Brown also had a long-standing history with Sierra Pacific Power Company. For 29 years he worked on the line crews and in the warehouse. Earlier this year Brown retired from Sierra Pacific.
“I always liked Slug,” said Phil Carrillo, a planner at Sierra Pacific. “He was vary caring. He always had a joke to tell or a wisecrack to make.”
Brown was also known for writing the bi-weekly column, “Truckee Tales,” in the Sierra Sun. Brown started writing the column on Dec. 23, 1982, after his mother, who had been writing the column for several years, passed away.
“He had his thumb on the pulse of the old Truckee,” said Barbara Barte Osborn, who asked Brown to take over his mother’s column. She knew Brown for 25 years. “Just the other day, I read what I now realize was Slug’s last ‘Truckee Tales’ column, smiling at his tongue-in-cheek humor, the outspokenness that occasionally got the Sun in trouble.”
At first, Brown was hesitant to write “Truckee Tales,” but he eventually agreed to do it.
“For a guy who hates to write, I sure must love to chew on boots,” he wrote in his first column. “But a couple of the gals at the paper offered to correct the spelling and try to make sense, so bear with me…”
In “Truckee Tales,” readers would find the latest Truckee gossip, birthday and anniversary announcements, and a guaranteed one-liner (see sidebar “Slugisms”) in each column.
Jim Porter, another longtime Sierra Sun columnist, said Brown’s death is a loss for the community.
“He’s definitely the real deal,” he said. “There are no more Slug Browns in this world.”
In 1999, Brown was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Since then he was on oxygen 24 hours a day.
“He’s a poster child for not smoking,” Irene said. “[The disease] is just so difficult. It just takes you by inches.”
Except for a two-year hiatus from 2000 to 2002, Brown wrote Truckee Tales right up to his death. His final column appeared in last Friday’s Sierra Sun.
In addition to his wife, Brown is survived by his sister, Barbara Wells of Chugiak, Alaska; his son Ronald Allen Brown, daughter-in-law Patty Brown and grandchildren Nicole and Kara Brown; stepdaughter Rhonda Upchurch, son-in-law Quentin Upchurch and grandchildren Gracie and Christian Upchurch; stepson Michael Watts; nephews Fred Coates and Randy and Dennis Silva; niece Debbie Higginbotham and numerous cousins.
A memorial service for Slug Brown will be held at Assumption Catholic Church in Truckee on Thursday, Aug. 7 at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer contributions to the American Lung Association.
‘Slug-isms’ from the Sierra Sun archives
“Christmas is really just like a day at the office. You do all the work and the fat guy in the suit gets all the credit.” Dec. 19, 2002
“Old age doesn’t creep up on you, it pounces,” July 2, 1987
(On people’s reaction to Jim Porter’s anti-war column) “…quit picking on Jim Porter. He’s a lawyer. We’re not supposed to like him anyway.” April 10, 2003
“Can you believe it? Monica Lewinsky turned 28 last month. It seems like only yesterday she was crawling around the White House on her hands and knees.” April 24, 2003
“Do you know how to tell when you get old in Truckee? When you got your first snowblower, you shoved it around like a tank. Now you use it like a walker.” Jan. 31, 2002.