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Brown, James Philip

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James Philip “Jim” Brown, died peacefully of natural causes in the early morning of April 5, 2020 at Adventist Health Sonora Hospital with his daughter by his side. Brown was 83. Born on April 27, 1936 in Palo Alto, Mr. Brown was the son of Annette Eleanor Cardoza, of Fresno and George Edward Philip Brown, of Toronto, Canada. The eldest of eight children, Mr. Brown has been a resident of Tuolumne County since 1969.

Jim Brown was born into the printing and newspaper business. His father and mother, who taught him the trade from his early years, settled in El Centro in the Imperial Valley of Southern California in 1952 after purchasing the Imperial Valley Weekly. Along with his siblings, he played a major role in running the newspaper and in-house print shop for the family, often missing school to get the paper out on time. He left El Centro High before finishing his senior year to work as a printer at the Los Angeles Times. His mother, who oversaw the print shop, persuaded him to come home and finish high school.

After graduation, Brown moved 10 miles away to the small town of Holtville where he met his future wife Dorothy Lee (Slater). They were married three years later in 1958 in the home of his in-laws Thomas and Dolly Webb. “Jimmy,” so nicknamed at the time, wrote love letters to Dorothy on a Linotype machine at the newspaper where he worked as a typesetter, hand-delivering them late at night after his shift.

“The Linotype was the staple of newspaper publishing for a century – using hot molten lead to form the letters and punctuation marks and put them in place for printing. It was replaced in the 1970s by ‘cold’ phototypesetting equipment,” Jim once told Jeff Jardine, reporter for the Modesto Bee in 2010. “I suppose I was the last of the hot-leaded lovers, pouring out my innermost thoughts and romancing Dorothy Lee in 9-point Times New Roman font,” he said. He always proclaimed that the Linotype did more than provide his passion and a livelihood: it helped him get his girl.

Dorothy Lee saved the love letters he wrote during their courtship: “Darling, I am very thankful for the times we’ve been able to have this past week,” Jim Brown wrote 64 years ago. Another read, “To my precious sweetheart (with a heart of gold).” They shared an enduring love for each other throughout their lives, and many were deeply affected. The couple adopted Nancy Lee (Burrage), a little girl who needed a home. Ten years later, in 1967, Lauralee was born into the Brown family.

In the Spring of 1969, they moved to Tuolumne County, where Brown became essential to the printing of The Union Democrat, and the in-house printshop, then edited and published by Harvey McGee. A pressman there for 11 years, Brown made many lifelong friends. McGee, however, was exceptional. He became a mentor and father figure to Brown.

Brown’s passion for printing showed in every corner of his life, including mentoring others, giving them the gift he had so beautifully mastered. He had a sharp and clever sense of humor. Brown and his youngest daughter amused each other by scrutinizing every menu, brochure or business card they came across with an expert printer’s eye. Nothing escaped his gaze. It became a habit he and Lauralee shared to the end.

Over the years, Dorothy Lee never left his side. From the time they met, she dedicated her life to him, often taking jobs that allowed them to be together, even at work. In 1981, the Browns purchased and ran Wilder’s Print Shop on Stewart Street downtown Sonora, renaming it Gold Rush Printing. They lived in a flat above the print shop where they raised Lauralee.

Brown started a Kiwanis Club chapter in the county in 1985. He and his wife were lifetime members of the Kiwanis Club International, serving as chapter president and secretary respectively. The Browns spent many hours volunteering, including manning the Kiwanis food booth at the county fair and clearing trash from sections of Highway 49.

Affectionately, calling himself “James Brown of Jamestown” the two moved into Independent Living at East Garden Apartments, Jamestown, in 2013. Twice a week, they rode the Tuolumne County Transit bus to the DeFerrari County Archives, where they volunteered. After Dorothy’s passing in April 2018, Jim continued his work there, fulfilling his passion for Tuolumne County. Brown’s project involved the transfer of historical citizen information from early county resident rolls. He read from century-old handwritten records, chronicling demographic information from past residents into the online system.

The Browns raised their family in a Christian home. They both were dedicated to their faith, giving their daughters a lifetime path to follow with the message that no matter how difficult life can get, they always had hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Jim remained a resilient spry and charming man until his passing. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a smile for all. His unexpected passing fell on the two-year anniversary of the death of his wife, Dorothy. They had celebrated 60 years of marriage.

He is survived by a daughter, Lauralee Brown; his siblings, Mary (Brown) Walker, George Brown, Anne (Brown) VanGieson, Jerry Brown, Lonnie Black, Jean Brown, and Antone Brown, his grandson Jason Wayne Anderson, and many special in-laws, niblings (a great-grandchild, nieces and nephews) and close friends. Brown was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy Lee, oldest daughter Nancy Lee, a younger brother, John Brown, and his parents.

A memorial service will be announced and held later this year.

Terzich & Wilson Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

  • Date of Death: 04/05/2020
  • Age: 83
  • Residence: Jamestown, CA
  • Services: A memorial service will be announced and held later this year.