Brother Robert Joseph Brown, CSC

August 28, 1929 – February 14, 2018

Brother Robert Joseph BrownThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Robert Joseph Brown, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, Br. Robert died in Notre Dame, Indiana, on February 14, 2018. He was in his 74th year of religious life in the Congregation.

Brother Robert Joseph Brown, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province, passed away on February 14, 2018 at Dujarie House, South Bend, Indiana. Born in Waterbury, Connecticut on August 28, 1929, he was the fifth of the eight children of Edward G. Brown and his wife, Roseline A. Caroline. Robert was baptized first on the day of his birth at St. Mary’s Hospital and a year later at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Waterbury, Connecticut. He received his educational foundation in his home town at St. Francis Xavier School and at Sacred Heart High School.

Upon graduating from high school in 1949, Robert attended Fairfield University for the academic year of 1949-1950. Desiring to enter religious life, he applied and, in September of 1950, was accepted into the Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Joseph Juniorate in Valatie, New York. He was received at St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana in February 1951, and made his first profession of vows on February 2, 1952. Brother Robert then went on to study at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

A call to serve in Holy Cross schools intervened before he was to finish his BA at St. Edward’s University. Brother spent one year teaching at Holy Cross School, New Orleans and then five years at Notre Dame High School, West Haven, Connecticut. The school year of 1958, he finished his undergraduate studies at St. Edward’s University. Brother Robert went on to teach at Eastern

Province schools in Warwick, Rhode Island; Flushing, New York; and Waterbury, Connecticut. He also participated in a one year Franciscan renewal program in Southern California.

While he was stationed at Holy Cross High School, Flushing, New York, he established a Fine Arts Club that provided the opportunity for students and teachers from the school to enjoy art events of the Big Apple: plays and musicals on Broadway, operas and symphony concerts at Lincoln Center, and visits to the New York Museum of Art. Brother Robert also established a student retreat program, taking students from the high school for a four-day experience on Shelter Island at the end of Long Island, New York. To this day graduates speak highly of having such experiences.

When he left the classroom, in 1991 through 2012, Br. Robert lived with Holy Cross communities, first at Hughes Avenue and then at Lorillard Place, both in the Bronx, New York. He volunteered in various church-related service programs, and during those years enjoyed the cultural events of New York City, especially the opera.

In December of 2012, Brother was diagnosed with cancer and received chemo therapy while living at St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York. In March of 2015, with continued failing heath, Br. Robert moved to Schubert Villa, an assisted living health care facility at Holy Cross Village, Notre Dame, Indiana. He later enjoyed the medical support he needed by moving to Dujarie House at the Holy Cross Village.

Robert was recently admitted into the hospital and released a few days later back to Dujarie House and hospice care was started. He passed on to new life with hospice care staff at his side.

Please join me in giving thanks for the life of our beloved Brother Robert, who faithfully served the Lord as a dedicated religious of the Congregation of Holy Cross for so many years.

Br. William Zaydak, C.S.C. Provincial Superior

Thanks to Brothers Harold Hathaway and Richard Critz for their assistance in preparing this obituary.


Opera Was His Super Bowl

My name is Kathleen and I am Brother Robert’s niece. I have many fond memories of Uncle Bob from over the years.

As a child, I remember him coming home to visit his mother on several occasions and he would clean her entire apartment in downtown Waterbury, windows included.

I used to love to hear him reminisce about trips he took with my grandmother while acting as her companion and tour guide. We all know that he adored his mother.

I saw my first ballet with him. It was Coppélia, and because he often mentioned “the Nutcracker Suite,” its huge Christmas tree and the beautiful New York production, we had to see that one too.

My dad took him sailing on our boat a few times. We would anchor out on Long Island Sound, and he would swim off the boat for hours. He could float forever. It was effortless for him.

One time my dad, Uncle Bob and I slept overnight in the boat’s tiny cabin. Can you imagine the stereo snoring that I had to put up with all night long with the two of them? Snore from my left, Snore from my right.

We shared a love of The Arts, and we would always compare notes on music. I wasn’t that into the opera at the time… a root canal seemed more attractive. We found common ground in discussing who the better tenor was…I LOVE tenors. Was it Pavarotti? Domingo? or Carreras? His preference was Domingo and mine was Pavarotti.

Opera was his SUPER BOWL, and he would light up telling stories about the productions and performers he saw. I used to tease him: “Uncle Bob, with all of your passion for opera, why won’t you ever sing one note in front of me?” I’d play a Christmas carol on the piano and try to coax him. He always gave a different witty response. I guess he just had shy vocal chords…

When he retired from teaching, we helped him move into his Bronx apartment. My parents, my aunt Joan, my husband Matt and I drove to the Bronx several weekends in a row to prepare his new apartment. We replaced the ceiling tiles, washed walls, scrubbed floors, washed windows, degreased every surface in his kitchen with putty knives and degreasers and tackled the long-neglected bathroom. We transformed his new apartment into a very clean and organized living space. There was always an Italian dinner on Arthur Avenue that we all enjoyed afterwards. My uncle’s nieces and nephews gifted him with furnishings needed for the apartment. He was thrilled! And when he moved to his second Bronx apartment, my husband negotiated a UHaul trailer through the narrow streets of the Bronx to move his furniture and possessions. Uncle Bob was always very grateful for what his family did for him, and he often brought it up in conversation. The best part about all of this hard work was that I got to know him.

Matt and I hosted Uncle Bob in our home many times, as did many other nieces and nephews. I often made sure there was a New York Times available to him. He read it daily.

We discussed politics, our thoughts on: the Church, newly elected popes, is there a hell? what our world leaders should be doing, etc. We didn’t always agree, and he didn’t hesitate telling me his views. My son Michael used to love listening in on our discussions.

One summer while we were camping, we met up with him in Ocean City, NJ at the Brothers’ summer place. We spent a few days on the beach together, reminisced about the family, had some laughs and enjoyed many dinners out.

I want to share two classic stories about Uncle Bob.

By the way, family, Brother Mark gave me the OK to tell these stories and Uncle Bob I promise this is the last time I’ll tell them. (Wink, Wink)

Sooooooo…….

Brother Bob was enjoying an opera. When he got up during intermission, a button of his coat got caught in the hair of the woman sitting in front of him.

With one small turn on his way to the aisle, he succeeded in freeing the astonished woman’s hair from her head! She had been wearing a wig.

Brother Bob quickly returned the hairpiece to the woman and hurried to the lobby of the theater. There he remained, watching the rest of the performance on a video screen, too thoroughly embarrassed to reclaim his seat.

[For the following story,] we are thankful to Uncle Bob’s very good buddy, Brother Leo, who has since passed, for spilling the beans to us several years ago at my grandmother’s wake…I guess what happens in Flushing does not always stay in Flushing…

A Holy Cross student’s father dies suddenly. It was a real tragedy. And all of the Brothers in Flushing hopped in their van to go to the wake. The line was out the door and everyone was very somber.

Uncle Bob and Brother Leo finally enter the room where the casket and family are.

He and Leo both knelt down on the kneeler before the deceased to say a prayer. Leo finished praying before Uncle Bob and stood up from the kneeler. Immediately the kneeler turned into a seesaw with Uncle Bob falling off it onto the floor. The casket moved, causing the flower arrangements and water to spill all over the deceased in the casket, and the funeral home had to clean up the body.

The Brothers were horrified and tried so hard not to laugh as they went through the receiving line. Some needed to put handkerchiefs over their mouths to mask the laughing. A slapstick moment that was broadcast to the entire Holy Cross High School community in Flushing the next day by the students who witnessed the episode. Uncle Bob never lived it down.

Eulogy by niece, Kathleen Brown-Carrano
St. Joseph Center Chapel
Mass of Christian Burial
February 24, 2018


A Flavor-Filled Life

On behalf of the Congregation of Holy Cross, I want to extend our sympathy first of all to the family of Bro. Robert Brown. Kathleen, please assure the rest of the family of our prayers for them. Thanks for sharing some of your memories of Robert with us.

Even though it was the staff at Notre Dame who did the lion’s share of the work with him for the last several years, gratitude also goes to those here who cared for Bro. Robert and got to know him while he lived here. Thanks to Fr. Bob DeLeon, Bro. Ed, and everyone who took part in our liturgy this morning.

Lastly, thank you to all of you who were his Brothers and friends for coming today to celebrate the life of Robert and, in doing so, offer support to one another.

St. Ignatius said if you want to know what God is saying to you, pay special attention to the people you’ve encountered. It seems that everyone I have spoken with since Bro. Robert Brown has died has a story about him!

He was an uncle, a Brother, a teacher for many years. He was a lover of the arts and especially the opera. He was, sometimes, an unintentional clown. Hilarious. At times, he was exasperating. He was very kind if he saw you suffering. There were times he loved to talk about God.

Bro. Bill Zaydak, who had Bro. Robert as a teacher, said that within the first few days of World History class, he would tell them he had “spies” among the class. If they talked about him, he would know about it. And especially, he said, if they called him “Bobo,” he would find out about it. Bill said that the students sat there and said to themselves, “Hummm…Bobo? So that’s his nickname!?” They learned about his nickname from him, before hearing it from other students.

Needless to say, everyone found ways to call him Bobo from that moment on. In fact, when he took busloads of kids to Lincoln Center for “Fiddler on the Roof,” at the end of the performance all the Flushing kids began shouting “Bobo!” instead of “Bravo!” He ran up and down the aisles at Lincoln Center like it was a study hall at Holy Cross, Flushing, red-faced and yelling. The rest of the audience, Bill says, had absolutely no idea what this madman was doing!

But, Bill points out, there were things you have to give Bro. Robert recognition for…students planning to go to a performance were required to show up after school, and he would tell them the tale of the play or opera, the history of it, etc. Also, Bill said, you have to acknowledge that he brought hundreds of kids to Shelter Rock Island for a retreat, year after year. He must have had a real concern and conviction to do that for so many years. The letters we have from students at Flushing attest to the positive impact his activities had on their lives.

As I said earlier, St. Ignatius taught that if you want to know what God is saying to you, pay special attention to the people you’ve encountered. One story among the many that I heard was that when he lived here at Valatie, he would begin a lot of meals by reaching for the salt shaker. But he wouldn’t shake it over his food. He would unscrew the top on the shaker, and pour it on his food. Now, almost nobody at Valatie is supposed to be eating extra salt – including Robert! But, sitting in front of that burger or chicken or pasta, he didn’t care!

We are told in the Gospel that we are salt for the earth, and as long as we keep our flavor, we are useful to God. If we lose our flavor, we might as well be sand. One thing we can say for sure: Bobby Brown never lost his flavor!

At every passing of one of our Brothers – and there have been so many lately! – we pause and reflect.

It doesn’t take too long for us to see that Brother’s life as evidence of our loving God, right here, among us. The stories of Robert’s antics will be making us laugh and shake our heads as long as we can still tell them. We believe that Robert is now with all the saints (God help them!) and standing alongside his parents and other family members that have passed on, praising God. We see aspects of his flavor-filled life as a gift, and we are grateful.

Robert, Brother in Holy Cross and colleague to many of us, family member to some of us, may you rest now and enjoy the most magnificent choral opera of the afterlife with God. If our lives ever look like they are losing their tang, may our memory of you, and how you savored life, and how you seasoned our days, remind us of what’s really important.

Along with our other Brothers, rest in eternal peace, watch over and protect us. Amen!

Eulogy by Br. Mark Knightly, CSC
St. Joseph Center Chapel
Mass of Christian Burial
February 24, 2018


Brother Robert Joseph Brown, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1954-1956 Teacher, Holy Cross School, New Orleans, LA
  • 1956-1956 Student, St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX
  • 1956-1961 Teacher, Notre Dame HS, West Haven, CT
  • 1961-1966 Teacher, Bishop Hendricken HS, Warwick, RI
  • 1966-1986 Teacher, Holy Cross HS, Flushing, NY
  • 1986-1987 Sabbatical
  • 1987-1989 Convalescing, Holy Cross HS, Waterbury, CT
  • 1989-1991 St. Louis Community, West Haven, CT
  • 1991-2002 Volunteer Ministry, Hughes Ave. Community, Bronx, NY
  • 2002-2004 Volunteer Ministry, Lorillard Community, Bronx, NY
  • 2004-2011 Semi-Retired, Notre Dame Apartments, Bronx, NY
  • 2011-2014 Retired, St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
  • 2014-2015 Resident, Shubert Villa, Notre Dame, IN
  • 2015-2018 Resident, Dujarie House, Notre Dame, IN