Martin K. Brown, 97, of Philadelphia, longtime principal of the Albert M. Greenfield School, dedicated community volunteer, travel consultant, inner-city neighborhood stalwart, and Army veteran, died on Monday July 11 complications from dementia in her grandchildren. house in West Chester.
Revered for his welcoming and charitable spirit, his passion for education and community, and his ability to connect with others, Mr. Brown was beloved by alumni of Center City and Greenfield Schools, leaving an indelible mark on many young lives.
“He hasn’t forgotten,” said Mr Brown’s daughter, Karen Brown Vellucci. “He really knew the name of every kid in his school, every year…He really went out of his way to get to know not only the students, but also their parents and their family circumstances.”
Mr. Brown was quick to offer a job reference, career advice, a joke or a listening ear to his former students, said Vellucci, many of whom also lived in the neighborhood and stopped to catch up and tell stories of their time. in Greenfield. For decades and long after his retirement, Mr Brown exchanged birthday cards every year with a student who shared his date of birth, February 28.
Born in Philadelphia in 1925, the fourth of eight children, Mr Brown spent most of his youth in Haddon Heights, NJ He attended the University of Pennsylvania – the first in his family to go to college – but his schooling was interrupted when he was drafted into the army in 1943.
Mr. Brown served as a medic in the US Army, 91st Infantry Division, in Italy until the end of World War II. He received two bronze stars – one for heroism and one for meritorious service.
He would end up return to Italy with his family, walking the path he traveled during the war, paying tribute to his fallen American comrades and visiting the Italian families he had stayed with. For years, he exchanged Christmas gifts with some of these families.
After the war, Mr. Brown returned to Penn to complete his education. There he also met his future wife, Rita Giordanowho will become director of the Girard school.
In 1954, Mr. Brown was selected as principal of Center City School, the predecessor of the Greenfield School, where he served for 23 years. He also ran the Youth Study Center on the Benjamin Franklin Drive, a facility for young people awaiting court hearings.
In 1970 he became the first principal of the new Greenfield School. There, Mr Brown advocated for the school to include a lower secondary education and celebrated teaching students from diverse backgrounds and with special educational needs.
In Greenfield, Mr. Brown left behind his beloved garden and his longtime home in Delaware County to live in the town near the school. Because he resided on the same block as many of his students, Vellucci said, “it was like he was a 24/7 principal.”
“He always felt like he was Mr. Brown,” Vellucci said, adding that it was not uncommon for parents in the neighborhood to ask the principal to have a chat with their children if they were misbehaving. “He wouldn’t take out the trash if he didn’t have a tie.”
Fran Danish, a longtime eighth grade English teacher at Greenfield, recalled how during the teacher’s observation, Mr. Brown would not sit at the back of the class and silently take notes on his performance. Instead, she said, Mr Brown would join her on the board, teaching alongside her, “always with more humor”.
He invited students to his office to check their homework daily or sometimes to play a game.
“He was 120 per cent invested in every single person at that school,” recalls Seth Bach, a Greenfield student who grew up next to Mr Brown and saw him as “a second father”.
A neighborhood staple, Mr. Brown and his wife were known to work the food stand at the annual Fitler Square park fair, tossing hot dogs, burgers and lemon sticks.
He later coordinated volunteers for 11 years at WinterShelter through Trinity Memorial Church, which provides home-cooked meals to homeless men.
After Mr. Brown retired from Greenfield in 1982, he led the Philadelphia school for two years before changing courses again.
Wanting to spend more time with his young grandson, Vincent, and feed his passion for exploration, Mr Brown became a travel agent – a business he continued until he was 93. Mr Brown and his wife have visited a total of 52 countries and circumnavigated the globe twice, often bringing friends on their adventures.
These trips included visiting various sites dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, his favorite historical figure. At one point his license plate read “H2OLOO” – Waterloo – in honor of the French military leader.
Mr. Brown loved to read history and recite poetry, especially “If” by Rudyard Kipling — which contained advice he lived his life by, Vellucci said. He always arrived early, loved to make silver jewelry, and loved to painstakingly recreate movies from Spider Man at RoboCop with Vincent.
In addition to his daughter and grandson, Mr. Brown is survived by another family, including his great-grandchildren, Lilliana, Elle and Lucie.
Services were held on July 16, and he was buried with a small statue of Napoleon at his request.