Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

John Brown

June 3, 1947 - February 26, 2019
Grand Rapids, MI


Memorial Gathering

Sunday, May 19, 2019
1:00 PM EDT
Knights of Columbus
5830 Clyde Park SW
Wyoming, MI 49509

A variety of music and food will be offered as we gather to honor and celebrate John's life and impact in his community.


Life Story / Obituary


A man of many gifts and talents, John Brown made a significant impact in the world around him. He was a passionate man who was outgoing and had the ability to connect with people like few can. John was deeply devoted to his loved ones. A lifelong resident of the West Michigan area, he was well known and respected among many. Life will never be the same without John here, but he leaves behind a timeless collection of memories that his friends and loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.

With the end of WWII in 1945, America was making the shift to being a nation at peace once again. With manufacturing focused on supporting the war effort, the Great Depression had become a thing of the past. Hope was on the hearts of Americans in a big way during this transitional time. Amidst this exciting time was a time of great anticipation in the lives of Roy and Florence Brown as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as the beauty of summer appeared on the horizon in Greenville, Michigan, in 1947. Their wait was finally over on June 3rd when the baby boy they named John drew his first breath. He was the only child born to his parents, although he had half-sisters who were much older than he was. As a student, John attended local schools in Greenville.

It was while he was growing up that John’s love for music was born. His father was musical, and this was something he passed onto John. In the fall of 1953, John was playing his ukulele and singing on the stage of WOOD TV at the age of 6. He continued playing throughout his years in high school and also at local dances. Because his father had told him that he couldn’t sign a contract to play music until he had his high school diploma, John graduated on a Tuesday and then signed a contract to play at the Fordney Hotel in Saginaw the following day. Together with his friends, Al Vandetti on bass and vocals, Pat Sage on drums and vocals, and occasional guest drummer, Greg Stankus, they formed the John Brown Trio. Over the coming years they frequently played in Saginaw, at the Metrobowl in Lansing, and in Grand Rapids, often at hotels owned by Bob Sullivan. In general, they worked at each place for about three months before rotating to the next venue.

Over the years John became known as a talented artist in many ways. He was an amazing guitarist and vocalist who enjoyed playing rock. John also had a great sense of pitch that was always the truest to be on key. In addition, he knew a lot about the music business and had incredible sense of talent, knowledge of songs, and was good at knowing what would be popular. He learned to play music by ear, and he also had a fantastic sense of style as the band was always well dressed. John was not only talented, but an incredibly hard worker, too.

After achieving success at a young age, John was able to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He began collecting cars, building his collection up to 13 cars, which he even raced. John also collected guitars and had up to 17 at one time. Despite stepping away from his own music, he still supported friends who played. When he was asked to play for a niece’s wedding, it led to John beginning to play again. For the several years that followed, he played in both Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. He became a one-man band and was very good at it as his talent never waned. Through it all, he lived the life of a musician who had late nights and slept during the day.

When his father died before John was 40, he continued to live with his mother so she wouldn’t need to be alone. Even when his father was alive he enjoyed taking his parents for a nice drive. For years John and his mother lived in their home on Cogswell. They also traveled together, often to visit family around the state. When his mother began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, John cared for her for a while, and after she had a short stay in assisted care John knew that his mother belonged at home with him. He then brought her back home and took care of her. He was the sort of person who cared deeply for others, was generous, and was deeply genuine in his concern for others. John easily connected with people and it didn’t take people long to fall in love with him. As a result, John had a terrific memory for names and faces. No matter how long it had been since meeting someone, he could call them by name after a moment or two.

As his family and friends can attest, John never liked talking about his health. Even worse was going to the doctor. During the last few years his health began to decline, which left him in need of more care. John spent some time living at Covenant Village, and more recently he had been living at Vista Springs.

A hardworking, talented, and generous man, John Brown blessed the lives of those around him in such a special way. Outgoing and social, he loved using his gifts and talents to connect with his audience in and around the place he called home throughout his entire life. John worked hard for everything he had, and he lived life to the fullest. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.

John Brown, age 71 of Grand Rapids, passed away February 26, 2019. John was a talented musician whose electric guitar and vocals entertained many people beginning. His performances began when he was just six years old, and for many years, he had the John Brown Trio that performed in Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Lansing. John was preceded in death by his parents, Roy and Florence Brown; and by his half-sisters, Patricia Christensen and Sonia Hall. He is survived by his brother-in-law Marvin Christensen as well as nieces, nephews and numerous friends. Cremation has taken place. The memorial gathering will take place on May 19, 2019 at the Knights of Columbus hall in Clyde Park.