First United Methodist 'pillar' dies at age 97

COSTA MESA — Chisholm Brown, the oldest surviving member of Costa Mesa's first church, died Friday in his sleep. He was 97.

Remembered as a "pillar of the church," Brown rarely missed a service or an opportunity to participate in his nearly 90 years as a member of First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Julie Elkins said.

"He was so dedicated," Elkins said. "He would do anything for his church and family."

Brown not only served on "every church board and committee possible," but also was active in the church choir well into his 90s.

"Music was very important to him," said Brown's daughter, Barbara Ramos, 65.

Brown and his wife of more than 60 years, Helen, sang together on the church choir and often sang duets at funerals and weddings.

Ramos said the two often sang at home to each other as well.

In addition to exposing his son, Stan Brown, 63, and daughter to a diverse musical education, including trumpet and piano lessons, Brown wanted his children to learn about the world first-hand, Ramos said.

The family took many vacations together, including an overnight camping trip to the Grand Canyon, which Brown would frequently reminisce upon up until his death, Ramos said.

The trip stood out in particular because of the unique experience of journeying to the bottom of the canyon followed by sleeping under the stars, Stan Brown said.

In following with his love of new places and experiences, Brown was always seeking out opportunities to meet new people.

"He was very outgoing and eager to talk to anyone," his son said. "He was not in the least bit judgmental."

Brown was born Los Angeles in 1913 and spent his early childhood in China, where his parents were missionaries, before coming to Costa Mesa in 1922.

His father served as the reverend for the Community Church, which was later expanded and renamed First United in 1928.

Elkins said Brown has become such a fixture in the congregation that she can't help but plan parts of her weekly service with his likes and dislikes in mind. He had a steadfast spot five pews from the front of the church.

"It's been so strange without him there the last two Sundays," Elkins said.

He is survived by his two children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Aug. 28 at First United, 420 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa.

One of Brown's favorite hymns, "Precious Lord, take my hand," by Thomas Dorsey, will be performed by the choir.

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