The ground water industry lost one of its finest members with the death of Harry Brown, MGWC, at age 77 on Aug. 7, 2011. Harry had waged a courageous battle with cancer and other afflictions over the past few years. We understand that he passed on with his loving family nearby and in relative comfort.
Harry Brown was born in Osceola Town-ship, Mich.,
near the town of Howell
on Dec. 21, 1933. He was the son of Ronald Brown and Helen Browning-Brown.
Ronald Brown himself was a water well driller. Harry graduated from Hartland High School in 1952, and, in 1953,
married Ingrid Hasenbusch, who was from Howell. Harry then served a two-year
hitch in the
U.S. Army, stationed in Germany,
and, upon returning, became associated with Brown Drilling Co., started by his
father and uncle in 1927. Shortly after his return, he purchased Brown Drilling
Co., operating since then from a Howell address.
Under Harry’s leadership, Brown Drilling Co. became one of the larger drilling
contractors in the state of Michigan.
The company has drilled wells of all sizes and types – many domestic wells, a large
number of commercial wells for motels and other establishments, and a number of
really high-capacity industrial wells for irrigation, hospitals and
municipalities. Harry had experience drilling almost every type of water well
drilling method – jetting, hollow-rod, cable-tool, mud rotary, air rotary,
casing hammer, down-the-hole hammer, auger and other methods. He had drilled
wells from as small as 2 inches (yes, there still are quite a few 2-in. wells
and they work very well) up to and including 24-inch wells. Brown Drilling also
installs and repairs pumps of all types, from domestic jet pumps and
submersibles up through large lineshaft-types used for irrigation and municipal
water supply. The company also provides water-conditioning equipment, and has
built a number of large pump houses for various uses.
Perhaps the largest and most successful well Brown Drilling ever completed was
done near Brighton, Mich., a few years ago; it was started with
a 24-inch casing, and completed with 60 feet of screen in sand and gravel. This
writer was privileged to see that well test-pumped, and it was being done at a
rate of 6,000 gpm. This was an awesome sight, with two 14-inch discharge pipes
from a large lineshaft-type pump driven by a Detroit Diesel. The twin 14-inch
pipes were equipped with circular orifice plates, and the 10-inch to 12-inch
streams of water exited six feet aboveground, and hit the ground some 60 feet
away. After a successful test pumping, the hydrogeologist on the job determined
that the well’s real capacity was more like 10,000 gpm, but the pumping was
limited to 6,000, due to the pump capacity. Originally intended for a
subdivision, this well was sold by the owner to the local township for a
In the mid 1950s, Harry joined the then Michigan Well Drillers Association
(MWDA), today known as the Michigan Ground Water Association (MGWA). He had
remained a member to his death, and, in fact, was a lifetime member on that
occasion. He served a couple stints on the MWDA board, including serving as
board secretary and other offices. He was named Well Driller of the Year – the
highest MWDA award – during the 1990s. He attended many, many MWDA/MGWA
conventions, and enjoyed the educational seminars, business meetings and
exhibits. He enjoyed visiting with other drillers and the exchange of ideas
when these fellows got together.
Shortly after joining the MWDA, Harry joined the then National Water Well
Association, now known as the National Ground Water Association (NGWA). When
this group introduced its driller certification, Harry became a master ground
water contractor, and maintained that designation to his death. He was very
proud of being a master ground water contractor, and attended a whole bunch of
NGWA conventions, where he enjoyed the educational events, exhibits and
exchange of ideas, just like he did at the Michigan shows.
In the 1970s, Harry worked as a consultant in the United Arab Emirates, Yemen,
Saudi Arabia and West African countries, including Upper Volta. He told this
writer that operating a drilling project in Africa
was “an interesting experience.”
In addition to his drilling activities, Harry was a backpacker, camper,
gentlemen farmer, sportsman, sports fan, gardener, hunter, fisherman and pilot.
He especially loved Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior,
where there are absolutely no vehicles, and backpacking by foot power is the
only way to get around. He was a guest of this writer at numerous University of Michigan
football games, and we, along with our wives, attended the 1989 Rose Bowl game
whereby, miracles of miracles, Michigan
beat USC 22-14. He was an experienced traveler, and enjoyed several trips to Germany, the
birth country of his wife, Ingrid.
In addition to Ingrid, Harry is survived by his daughters, Darlene Coghill and
Linda Brown, and son Stanley Brown, who has managed Brown Drilling Co. for the
last several years, and his wife, Kimberly. He also is survived by two beloved
granddaughters, Emily Coghill of Grand
Rapids, Mich., and
Carolyn Coghill-Schyck and her husband Paul of Manhattan, Kan.; as well as his
sister Dorothy Bourassa and brother Richard Brown.
Harry’s life was memorialized with a visitation at MacDonald Funeral Home in Howell, Mich.,
on Aug. 14. His funeral, with a crowd of about 300 present, was held at
Waldenwoods near Hartland, Mich., on Monday, Aug. 15. This event took
place outdoors on the shores of a pretty lake, and Harry would have loved it,
having worked at that facility when he was a teenager. His daughter Linda
delivered a beautiful eulogy, and this writer added some short remarks about
Harry’s life and career.
As you probably have figured out by now, Harry was a close and dear friend of
this writer, and will be greatly missed. All his friends offer their deepest
sympathies to Ingrid and his other survivors. The world seems a little colder
place that he is no longer walking in it with us.
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