He was a fixture at the Chamber’s Business Breakfast. First to arrive. Wisest to speak. On top of the hottest business or leadership news of the day.
A feisty teenager who refused to go past high school, an educational frustration to his parents, he went on to have kitchen table discussions about a college for Barrie. He served on its board of directors. Last year he spearheaded the largest individual donation in the college system in the entire province. He saw the need for skills training for local businesses to hire. He worked tirelessly with his old General Motors buddy, James Massie, to help found Georgian College’s Canadian Automotive Institute.
A champion of those ‘lucky’ people who work hard, the person who helped a woman launch a pet product by getting it into a chain of store, the man who listened to plea after plea of business ideas… on and on and on.
A visionary who saw opportunity in the FM radio band, he helped to found CHAY FM 93.1.
A retailer who believed in ‘legendary’ customer service. A store owner who founded Profit Sharing among his employees, who headed up the Profit Sharing Council of Canada, and the Retail Council of Canada.
Arch Brown, who 14 years ago celebrated his retirement by giving this community its annual entrepreneurial award of excellence, died Monday night at 7:15 pm. He was 81.
With his death comes wave after wave after wave of legacy for this community. From education to health to culture to business to service to friendships to commitment, Arch’s interests knew no boundary and he didn’t suffer fools lightly. He had a ton of time for a person with a good heart and a good idea. He had the capacity, with a few words of encouragement, to fan a spark of an idea into a full blown bonfire.
He was also a common man. And perhaps it is this commonness that gave Arch his approach to people. He had the capacity to meet anyone and find out who they were, where they came from, where they were headed. Genuinely interested in people, he was what you would call “a connector.” If he couldn’t make it happen, he could connect you to someone who could. He had a gift of pulling the very best out of people and when he hit a brick wall of resistance, he didn’t spend much time trying to get his own way… he just went around the wall and started out on his own.
He was an enormous supporter of Canadian Forces Base Borden and saw that huge population as an important extension of Barrie. How excited he was to be named Honorary Colonel in 1998. And how much more excited he was to turn over his colours to the new Honorary Colonel, Jamie Massie.
A recipient of the Order of Ontario in 2004. A recipient of the Order of Canada in 1995. A recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary International’s highest honour.
When a community like Barrie loses an icon like Arch Brown, it’s normal to feel that he is irreplaceable, that there will never be another like him. And, that’s true. There will never be another Arch Brown. But, Arch has been sowing seeds of legacy for a long time. Sprouting up, ready to take their place in business, education, medical, political, financial, cultural leadership are new, young leaders who have Arch’s imprint already in their DNA.
I believe that Arch watched his legacy develop after every Chamber breakfast, at every business awards ceremony, at each Georgian College convocation, at the opening of the University Partnership Centre. I believe also that in his giving to this community, he has heralded a lifestyle that others will want to emulate. And that is one of the riches that makes Barrie the remarkable community that it is.
Thank you, Arch. Thanks for your leadership. But more important, thanks for getting in the back and pushing!