DONN RUSSELL BROWN
, son of Kenneth C. and Mabel (Higgins) Brown, was born 29 January 1933 in Erie, Pennsylvania. His father was vice president of Meadow Brook Dairy in Erie, a large regional milk distributor. After high school, he attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, interrupted his studies to serve in the U.S. Army in Korea from 1954-1955, and graduated from Brown in 1957 with an A.B. degree. He graduated from Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a B.D. (Bachelor of Divinity) degree in 1960. He was ordained a deacon in June 1960 and a priest in December 1960 by the Rt. Rev. John Seville Higgins, Bishop of the Diocese of Rhode Island. He was married to Elizabeth Hoctor, daughter of M. Frank and Elizabeth E. (Macdonald) Hoctor of Warwick, Rhode Island on 16 January 1954 in Providence, Rhode Island, shortly before he left for Korea. They had four children.
His first assignment in his lifelong ministry was as curate at Church of the Good Shepherd in Providence. Donn and and his wife Betsy volunteered many summer hours at the Episcopal Conference Center (ECC) in Pascoag, Rhode Island, a diocese-owned summer camp for kids. In 1962, he assumed the pulpit at St. Martin's Church in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. After a long struggle with cancer, Betsy died in December 1964, leaving him with four young sons. He married a second time, to Nancy Ruth Ferry, daughter of Henry F. and Vivian G. (Anderson) Ferry of Pawtucket on 22 May 1965 in Pawtucket. In April 1966, the family moved to Pascoag where Father Brown became rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pascoag, Rhode Island and vicar at the mission parish of the Church of the Messiah in Foster, Rhode Island.
In the summer of 1968, the Rev. Donn R. Brown succeeded the Rev. Mattocks at rector at St. Andrew's Church in Ayer, Massachusetts. He and his wife Nancy moved to Ayer with their growing family of six boys; a seventh son was born in 1971. Because St. Andrew's Church had changed very little in many ways since its founding, Father Brown's vision for this parish proved to be a huge challenge.
One of his first priorities was to upgrade and bring new life into the building. A planning committee was formed in 1970, working with parishioner and talented architect Bayard Underwood, who generously provided an ambitious design for both the interior of the church and a new adjoining glass pavilion to be known as the "Peabody Room". Construction started in August 1971 and the congregation met in the nearby Parish Hall until the work was completed in the spring of 1972. The dark wood ceiling gave way to bright white, with exposed beams and improved lighting. New carpeting, a new altar, the new meeting space, and a new walkway of cement squares were some of the many visible improvements.
About the same time, the Episcopal Church began to introduce major revisions to the Book of Common Prayer, unchanged since 1928. During the years of revision, Rev. Brown, like rectors throughout the Church, had to balance the wishes of his older, more traditional parishioners with those of his younger, more progressive parishioners. Although the changes were difficult, in his words,