SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
PLEASE, SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Thank you for visiting the memorial website for our beloved Damon, Sarah and Duncan Brown. Here is a space to leave your condolences or to share a memory or story with us.
It is a gift to hear from each and every one of you — our family deeply appreciates your kind words.
To submit your thoughts: Fill out the form below. Your entry will be visible after we have reviewed and posted it.
Thank you for being a part of their lives.
THOUGHTS & PHOTOS SHARED BY FRIENDS AND FAMILY…
Oct 10, 2019
Karen has kindly asked me to post my memorial opening here: should others be interested in seeing them.
Thinking of you still and always, Damon, Sarah, and Duncan.
29 September 2019
Thank you so very much, Karen, and also especially Frankie, for bringing us all together, and giving me the honor to open with a few of my own thoughts about our dearly departed family and friends.
So let me begin in the traditional way and say: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together to honor, celebrate, and recollect – re-collect — the precious lives of Damon, Sarah, and Duncan Brown”: to share our memories and our loss, and to take from this moment our collective understanding of how important each of them was to each of us, and they together were to each other.
And in anticipating this moment today, I began to think about those phrases “dearly departed” and “dearly beloved,” and that singular word “dear.” And what do we mean when we say people are “dear to us”?
The word is so common: we use it daily to address those close to us, and those we don’t know at all. We use it to speak kindly to those we love, or to soften exchanges with those with whom we are in conflict. We use it deeply sincerely or wholly sarcastically.
We use it to express affection or to express condescension. We use it to mark a special relationship, or to assert superiority, especially in age. So, as I’ve gotten older, I find myself saying to complete strangers – behind sales counters, or helping me with one or another (usually technological) problem on the phone – “thank you, my dear.”
And I used a form of it in my memories of Sarah on Karen’s brilliant memorial website: “dearest one.” And afterwards I was sorry I didn’t say “dearest, dearest one” because only that word seemed to capture my profound love for her.
Being an historian, I naturally thought: where did that word come from and why do those phrases “dearly departed” and “dearly beloved” – so apparently old and so simple – resonant the way they do? And why do we use it in such contradictory ways, as I described above?
So, off I went to the Oxford English Dictionary. Here I found a long paragraph on whether or not the word familiar to us was related to the animal word – d-e-a-r versus d-e-e-r (apparently not) — but then I discovered this quite amazing thing:
“Dear” did not mean what we now so commonly use it to mean. In its oldest sense – beginning in Old English in about the year 1000 – it meant “brave, bold, strenuous, hardy”; OR “hard, severe, heavy, grievous”.
And then there’s the second meaning, also from about the year 1000: “At a high price”; “at great cost.”
And then definition #3 (surely, I thought, now it will say “beloved, cherished, treasured” but instead we have a verb that means “To make dear or expensive.”
Only at the very end and very briefly, do we hear about “dear” in the form “to endear” (from 1603) and “dear” as a form of address (way late, in 1816).
One in fact has to move on to “dear-LY” – the adverb — to get the sense of the word to which we are so much more accustomed: “in a precious, worthy, or excellent manner; worthily, choicely, finely, richly.”
But two things came to mind here, that I think you’ll already have recognized:
One is that the original meaning of the word “dear” – “brave, bold, strenuous, hardy” – captures the essence of the Brown family – and our loss of them feels “hard, severe, heavy, grievous”; and does so “at a high price; at great cost.”
The other is that when the word becomes “dear-ly” – that is, when its meaning as bravery or grief or cost – becomes a word of action, it means that we are valuing something precious, worthy, excellent, choice, fine, rich.
So our family and friends aren’t just departed they are “precious, worthy, excellent” – dearly — departed; and we here today are not just beloved of them, but we aim to be worthy – dearly beloved” — of them.
EXACTLY BECAUSE they were brave and bold does their loss comes at great price and their gifts feel all the more precious for that.
And when we say someone is our “dearest,” we mean she, he, they are all of those things together: precious, worthy, excellent, the finest, the choicest, the most rich to us.
So, dearly beloved!
I know the other speakers today and those of you out there will have much to say about their memories and experiences and love of Damon, Sarah, and Duncan, and of the Browns’ remarkable achievements. The website and memories on display here are already so beautiful and rich with reflections that I don’t need to repeat the extraordinary lives that the 3 Browns lived, and so often lived together.
Of Damon’s love of the outdoors, of sailing, of the Olympic sport of target shooting for which he won a Distinguished Rifleman Badge, and of course, of flying; of his years learning earth sciences and geology at UC Santa Cruz and Colorado State; his many accomplishments and certifications as a professional geologist, including Partner and then President of EBA Engineering; of his certifications as an engineering geologist, hydrogeologist, and professional geologist in California, Arizona, and Wyoming; of the selection of his work on the construction of landfill liners in high seismic areas as a NAGS Awards of Excellence finalist; and of his, Sarah’s, and Duncan’s adventures in world-wide travel; his many friendships; and of his embracing of fatherhood: surely the happiest element of a happy life and of a man who lived up to the true meaning of the phrase “family values.”
And others will speak of Sarah, of her years at Colorado College and Colorado State, of her path-breaking experience as a female geologist, mentee of the legendary Eddie McKee – the retired Chief Naturalist at the Grand Canyon – her move into mystery writing in the early 90s and incredibly prolific output: 10 novels in 10 years, featuring the female geology heroine non-pareil Em Hansen! and of her last novels highlighting the unforgiving environment of Antarctic and bringing Em Hansen back to center-stage: of these works that explored everything from boardroom politics, to dinosaurs to high-stakes gambling; from Native Americans and Mormons to big oilmen; from political corruption to climate change and art forgery; to of course making one’s way as a woman professional in a man’s world: and I don’t need to speak of the seven prestigious awards she has won for her writing, including the 2016 President’s Medal of the Geological Society of America, created in 2007 – Sarah being among the first 10 recipients — and “conferred only on individuals, groups, or entities whose impact has profoundly enhanced the geosciences”; and of course, of Sarah’s love of being a mother above all things.
And what to say of Duncan? How he followed so closely his parents’ model; thrived at Analy High School and Occidental College, including an extended stint at NASA where he was assisting with projects regarding the possibilities and finding and sustaining life in space! How he traveled solo in Chile, and graduated with double major in biology and Spanish with a whole lot of art thrown in; and how he worked in Taiwan, and studied for his MA degree from San Francisco Institute of Architecture and worked with design and construction firms in his home town; and of his long friendships, especially with Sita from Occidental; and his big heart and loving spirit.
I’ll close quoting the opening page of the Brown memorial website, which captures the essence of the many posts that followed on the memorial: “They were an amazing family who lived life to the fullest.”
Yes: they were brave, bold, strenuous, hardy; our loss is hard and at a great cost; but they were precious, worthy, excellent, choice, fine, rich in spirit.
May you rest in peace, dearest, DEAREST ones.
Oct 10, 2019
We at Oakes College were saddened to hear of the loss of one of our alums, Damon Brown, and his partner and son. Your words paint a picture of a family that truly enjoyed each other and lived life to the fullest. We send our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends that survive them.
Oct 6, 2019
I knew Sarah through our love of butterflies. In my quest to establish a Pipevine swallowtail population in Sebastopol, I run out of Dutchman’s Pipevine to feed them near the end of the summer. Dear friends of mine Barry and Barbara Deutsch, have know Sarah, Damon and Duncan for years. They connected me to Sarah and so for the past three years Sarah and I gather pipevine in her garden together several times each summer.
She found out I was a furniture maker/designer and showed me all the family treasures in the house. And later that she had started woodworking.
The last time I saw her she was talking about looking forward to the flying trip and how many friends thought they were crazy. But how they loved it.
I loved Sarah’s warmth and especially her smile. I hold those.
And next year when the Pipevine Swallowtails emerge and take flight in my garden, I will be blessed with her presence.
Sep 28, 2019
I write this in memory of my cousin Sarah and as a huge fan of her mysteries. Sarah had an amazing gift in writing and created characters that held you to them. I, and I am sure many fans, were devastated when her book “Cold Pursuit” did not feature her detective Em Hansen, but I was in love with the new heroine within 2 pages! Beyond her poignant cultural commentary imbedded in the mysteries, That’s what her writing could do. Sarah, Damon and Duncans’ love of flying small planes was featured in one mystery with a most suspenseful and exciting small plane chase. To lose a family like this is a shock, but their kindness, compassion, love for each other and accomplishments will live on in the people they touched.
Sep 28, 2019
Sarah Andrews was a gifted and talented Geologist, educator, writer, and artist. She was also a wonderful and caring mother for Duncan, and partner with Damon. I have known Sarah since the late 1970s when she came to CSU to work on an MS Degree in Geology with me. She graduated in 1981 and went to work for Amoco in Denver along with several other CSU students of that generation. Also in 1981 she published a seminal paper of the sedimentology of Great Sand Dunes, Colorado based on work that she accomplished at the USGS with her mentor Eddie McKee. While a graduate student at CSU and afterwards, Sarah often entertained us with her artistic ability, and sense of humor that included quirky cartoons on geology and the oil patch.
Some years later Damon came to CSU to work on his MS with Frank. He received his MS in 1994. Damon went on to become a very successful environmental geologist in California. How Sarah and Damon met is described in Sarah’s story on this web page.
Over the years we stayed close to the family visiting at Geology meetings, and in California and here in Colorado. Our last visit was here in Fort Collins in September 2018 for a symposium and field trip sponsored by the Geosciences Department. It is extremely difficult to come to grips with this sudden and terrible loss of a family who offered so much to everyone who knew and loved them. Damon, Sarah, and Duncan rest in peace. We miss you.
Sep 25, 2019
Your Friend’s Thoughts:
Without having met Damon Sarah & Duncan, but from photos, and from knowing you, and knowing the love and respect you have held high in your heart and mind for Damon, I regret your great loss and have felt the weight of the grief you have faced.
I wish you the happiness that time can bring.
The previous comment from Michele Neilson, “. . . . but that they lived” rings true right now.
I can say emphatically that I am joined by many who we’ve known in feeling love, compassion kind wishes toward you.
Sep 23, 2019
Sarah and I met through Ravelry, a site for people who enjoy knitting, crochet and other yarn crafts. I used to teach geology, another shared interest! Our friendship developed rapidly via email as we regaled each other with the absurd events of our lives, squawked about politicians and explored more deeply the inner life. After a field trip to Iceland, Sarah visited us in Normandy, France on her way home. She stayed for about three days so we charged her board and lodging in the form of volcanic pebbles from Iceland! I treasure them even more now, along with a blue schist pebble from California that she gave me.
We took Sarah to the Utah D Day landing beach and the tiny village of Ste Marie du Mont. She was overwhelmed with emotion here, in the first little settlement to be liberated by the American army coming up from the beach. One poignant moment occurred when a German tourist asked her, an American, to take his photo outside the church which had been at the centre of some of the action on that fateful day. Sarah did not want to visit the splendid museum at Utah Beach so we walked along the water’s edge instead and received a gift of shells from a tiny boy playing exuberantly in the sand. Our visit took us to Ste. Mère Eglise, the centre of the parachute drop, where the town preserves a detailed history of that time. We followed that historic trail, which includes the effigy of the parachutist caught on the spire of the church, and large photos taken on the day showing the exact spot where events occurred.
One day was spent in the fascinating medieval town of Domfront, close to where we live. While we did enjoy exploring the remains of the castle, much of our time there was spent examining the building stones and commenting on the suitability or otherwise of their use! The road back home follows the route of the Allied armies pursuing the retreating German forces in what became known as the Falaise Gap. At the side of the road is a beautiful rose coloured granite memorial carved in the shape of a flame with an American flag flying by its side. We stopped here and laid a little posy of rosemary leaves for remembrance. Three names were engraved on the granite flame and the numbers by the names indicated where these fallen soldiers had come from. Each one came from a place in America that had a special significance for Sarah.
So many memories. To help with the deep sense of loss, I have planted three trees. A ginkgo for Sarah (an ancient tree, recorded in the fossil record, just right for a geologist), a lovely white bark birch tree for Damon and a beautiful flowering dogwood for Duncan. They are in the slightly wilder part of the garden, where the grass is uncut to allow the clouds of little butterflies and moths to flourish.
Sep 21, 2019
I don’t remember when I met Sarah, but I know it was through the Mystery Writers of America Northern California chapter. My first clear memory picture of her is at a booksigning at the San Francisco Mystery bookstore. It was in 1994, when TENSLEEP, her first Em Hansen novel, came out. Damon was there, of course. And Duncan, who was about eight weeks old at the time, was dressed in a tiny onesie with the cover of Sarah’s book on the front.
Sarah and I became friends, linked by the large Bay Area mystery community. We saw each other from time to time. I watched Duncan grow up, from that tiny baby in the onesie to a fine young man. And I got to know Damon better.
Western Sonoma County is one of my favorite places. I love to come up, prowl around the farm trails and buy apples. I’d stop in Graton to see Sarah. She was always good for a cup of tea, a ramble, and good conversation, about writing and other things. When I was working on a book that took place mostly in Sonoma County, Sarah was a great help, introducing me to people who could give me information, going with me to scout locations, and giving me a geologist’s view of the area’s agriculture.
For several years now, Sarah and I would meet with several other writers for what I called the Writers’ Lunch, meeting at a restaurant in Petaluma or San Rafael to talk shop, as writers always do, about our latest projects and what we were doing. I looked forward to those outings.
Over the years I developed an interest in birding and discovered that Sarah was a birder, too. I would bring my binoculars and we’d set out for her favorite birding spots. We even took a couple of trips together, camping up in Mendocino and another time, a train ride to Reno, to explore Virginia City. We were planning another birding trip for August.
I will miss Sarah and her family so much. She was such a dear friend. My condolences to her family.
Sep 19, 2019
Sarah Andrews memories from Margie Chan
A WINNER: As you might expect for a writer, Sarah had an extensive vocabulary. This was particularly evident whenever we played any kind of word games – Scrabble, Boggle, Bananagrams, etc. Sarah always won and she was always more serious about it than the rest of us (maybe because we knew we couldn’t win!).
A MAGICIAN: On one of our early family trips with the Browns, 3 families with a total of 4 young boys all took to canoeing down the Green River. Damon flew a plane from Salt Lake City to Green River, UT (and back) and took a few extra riders with him to enjoy the spectacular scenery. After a day of rowing in the hot sun, we finally came to a spot called Crystal Geyser. As a large noisy group was leaving the geyser spot, we pulled in and got out of the canoes. We had the place to ourselves. Sarah went over to the well head vent and started vigorously waving her arms, sweeping them upward, encouraging the geyser to erupt. We were mildly amused when we noticed that the water was getting more bubbly and tingly, charged with CO2. Sarah continued her waving and pretty soon the water started bubbling higher and higher, soon surpassing our heads as it sputtered and gust upwards to heights of 60’. Wow, how lucky! Sarah had raised the geyser from its sleeping slumber, and we got a serendipitous sight. We yelled with delight. The cold spraying water was so refreshing on a hot summer day. This was especially a great memory because those eruptions were unpredictable (every 12-17 hours), and now poor Crystal Geyser has decreased to little more than a fizzle these days….. We have a special and unique memory.
A DEAR FRIEND: Sarah would often try to lure me to Sebastopol with what she called “Margie bait”- that is fresh blackberry pie (my favorite!). We went on many trips with the Brown family over the years dating back to at least 2001: Green River canoeing, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Calgary, Bodega Bay, and more. Our greatest adventure was rafting down the Colorado River though Grand Canyon (2007) under Damon’s leadership. Sarah planned all the food for 2 weeks for a large convivial group. Geology, rapids, eating, conversations, fun, and laughter filled days. It doesn’t get better than that!
Sep 17, 2019
In a way, I got to know Sarah through Eddie McKee. Eddie had been Grand Canyon’s second park naturalist, and was a legendary geologist and Sarah’s mentor. I was a park ranger at Grand Canyon at the time, and I mentioned Eddie at a book signing at a Geological Society of America meeting. Sarah’s face lit up. I didn’t realize at the time that Sarah and I would later become friends.
A few years after that, I got to meet up with Sarah when she was on the North Rim to research her Em Hanson mystery set in Grand Canyon. Over those couple of days, I learned about Eddie and Barbara McKee, the people, and about how Eddie was more than a great geologist, but a very fine man. To Grand Canyon rangers like myself, McKee was a historical figure, and it was such an honor to spend time with someone who knew and respected Eddie. It was a living, breathing link to the heroic period of Grand Canyon geology.
In 2012, Grand Canyon National Park invited Sarah to be the keynote speaker at their Earth Science Week celebration where Sarah presented “Eddie McKee: A Grand Life.” A recording of that talk is available for viewing and download at https://vimeo.com/357190195. Like recordings of most powerpoint presentations, the video portion mostly shows the slides that Sarah used. But the camera captured Sarah during the Q&A period near the end. (Thanks to Michael Quinn at Grand Canyon NP making the video available online.)
Over the years, I became email friends with Sarah. Our correspondence was extensive, and Sarah was always willing to listen, offer words of encouragement and share her insights, as well as share what was going on in her life. Yet geology remained always a part of our relationship. Over the last couple of years, I began writing a monthly geology column in the Moab Happenings newspaper. Sarah actively supported me in that endeavor, and she provided suggestions, comments and edits to each of my columns, regardless of how tight my deadline was and what else she may have been doing (even reading drafts while she was traveling). In fact, she sent edits on my August column just a few days before her death while she and her family were on their way to Oshkosh. My September column contains a short dedication to Sarah. You can see it at https://www.moabhappenings.com/Archives/Geology201909-CapitolReef.htm
Because of the distance from my home in Moab, I am unable to attend the Brown family memorial service. Instead my plan is to have a remembrance of my own on that day. I’m going to find the closest outcrop of Permian eolian sandstone (which in my case is also in a beautiful setting, the White Rim Sandstone in Canyonlands NP) and think of Sarah and her family, and think of Eddie. And contemplate how Sarah’s life can be an inspiration to our lives, just as Eddie’s was to Sarah. Sarah and Eddie shared the gifts of story-telling, kindness and generosity. They both had bright scientific minds able to make novel insights and the ability to share geology with broad audiences using plain language. They both had wide-ranging circles of friends, and loving families.
Sarah said that she went to Antarctica for Eddie because that is the one continent he didn’t get to. May Sarah’s life of generosity and kindness be an inspiration to her friends and family she left behind. Let us all carry forth Sarah and her family’s torches just as Sarah carried Eddie’s onward.
Sep 16, 2019
At my instigation Sarah came to Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino many, many years ago to do a book signing. We maintained a pen-pal friendship with me always looking for postcards of unusual geologic formations to send her and as a journalist I got to interview her in her Graton home. I will miss Em Hansen and I will miss Sarah. She had a lovely sense of humor about the publishing industry and authorship. The future works of hers I hoped to read will remain an unfulfilled dream…I hope there are interesting rocks in heaven…Katy
Sep 14, 2019
I knew Damon from EBA. I first contacted him because of our shared UCSC connection. I drove out job in hand from grad school back east. When I arrived we talked about many things, him sitting easily behind his clean big boss desk, me looking past him at the creek view. We shared a few memories of dear C.Moore, the pillar of structural geology at UCSC. Then we spoke of cars, of Porsche, and how maybe those water cooled models weren’t the end of the world. He was a purist, however… and if it wasn’t air-cooled it was sub par. Meant it wasn’t going fast enough. Gotta keep moving, like a shark, plying the open spaces, weaving through the kelp. Move to stay alive, feel alive. I remember. I remember.
Sep 13, 2019
It is still with very heavy heart when I think of the loss of Damon and his family. I met Damon in 1997 while working for Tulare County when EBA Engineering had responded to our proposal to expand one of the County’s landfills. We developed a professional and personal relationship from that day forward.
Before long, Damon and I realized that we had a great deal in common. We both had attended the University of California at Santa Cruz at the same time. We had printed out our college transcripts and compared them and realized that we were even in two classes together. Not only that, we lived in the same on-campus housing complex and had one dear mutual friend who also lived there. Neither one of us recognized each other and we attributed it to our very 70’s hair and beards.
Not only did we have UCSC in common, but after Santa Cruz, we both moved to Colorado. Again, still not having met and entirely unbeknownst to one another. Damon advanced his education while I was just being a bum. And lastly, my then spouse was an amateur murder mystery writer and of course everyone knows about Sarah’s successful writing career. Needless to say, we were both amazed at our parallel paths and tacked it up to kismet. Damon always said that his first Tulare County project with us solidified his career trajectory.
I never had the good fortune to meet Damon’s family, but Damon and I became not only professional peers but very good friends. He flew me over my house in the foothills to take some aerial pictures and at the same time flew me over the Buck Rock lookout in the Sequoia National Forest where I was then volunteering. It was then that I learned of Damon’s intense passion for flying.
He also enjoyed playing chess with me at the Vintage Press in Visalia where he opened my senses to the lure of a good scotch; Oban in particular.
I still cannot believe he is gone. I can only take a small measure of solace to think that the family perished doing something that they all enjoyed so intensely, and that neither Damon, Sarah or Duncan will never have to know what it is like to live a life without one other.
Sep 12, 2019
In time you will remember not that they died, but that they lived.
My heart is with you.
Sep 10, 2019
I dealt with Damon on a business level and had immense respect for his engineering/geologic knowledge and his very human manner. I was supposed to meet with him and his staff on a project he had been working on for many years, a landfill closure, the Wednesday after the accident, unknown to him. It had been many years since I had seen him in person but had spoken to him on the phone about a month previously and it was like we had spoken the day before like no time had passed.
He was one of the most respected people in his field and will be missed very much.
I never had the chance to meet his family and my heart goes out to those left to grieve for them. It is hardest for them as I do believe Damon, Sarah and Duncan are with departed family now.
Sep 10, 2019
My heart is broken. I have no words that can begin to touch this unimaginable devastating loss. I’m sending love and healing to you and your family during this most difficult time.
Love and peace,
Sep 10, 2019
I’m devastated to lose my friends, Sarah, Damon and Duncan Brown!
I first met Sarah when I was working for the National Park Service at Great Sand Dunes National Monument (1975 or so) where she was doing sand dunes research with Eddie McKee. We hit it off from the start, and became good hiking, traveling, and birding buddies. Our first big adventure, shortly after we met, was traveling through Ecuador and Peru on public transportation, with a serendipitous side trip to the Galapagos thrown in. After that we visited each other often, and supported each other through many of life’s challenges and changes over the years. In many ways she was the sister that I never had.
Sarah was a born and bred artist and storyteller with a perceptive, wry humor and keen intelligence. She kept me laughing with her cartoons and engaging stories about geologists, machismo in the oil patch, human foibles, and life in general. Much of Sarah is expressed in her brain child, the feisty forensic geologist Em Hansen, the heroine of her series of geology mysteries. It’s been fun to recognize incidents and people from her life in the characters in these books.
Damon came into Sarah’s life during a difficult period, and provided a steady calm that helped her many talents flourish. I was honored and delighted to be at their wedding, and to later visit them at the lovely home they created in Sebastopol. The two were totally devoted to and supportive of each other and took such joy in Duncan’s arrival, including him in their many travels as he grew into a bright and enthusiastic young man. I enjoyed a memorable river trip with them down Desolation and Gray Canyons in 2007. Sarah last visited me in Moab about a year ago and as always, I was looking forward to our next shared adventure.
I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that all three of this lively, vibrant family are gone so abruptly. They’ve certainly left a big empty hole behind them, and I join you in grief over our loss. Having them as part of my life was a gift that I’ll always treasure. Their spirit lives on in all of us who loved them.
Sep 10, 2019
Karen and Family-have been thinking of you since this tragic accident. So very sorry for the loss and pain everyone is going through. My love and thoughts are with you all. Alison
Sep 8, 2019
A few years ago I asked my husband what he wanted for Christmas and he said, “I don’t really need anything but I would love to have a Geologist take me around Sonoma County and teach me about it’s geology.” I had met Sarah through the Graton Community Club where we both were members and knew she was a Geologist. We arranged an all day field trip which grew to include Damon and a fabulous picnic lunch made by Sarah. Neither Steve nor I will ever forget that day for all that we learned but most especially for the opportunity to get to know these two wonderful, kind, funny extraordinary people who became our friends. We know all the geological hot spots in Sonoma County and we will never be able to see them again without sadness in our hearts and a smile of remembrance of Sarah and Damon. Since their death I have been re-reading Sarah’s books. The picture of her in the back moves me to tears. As I read her words I can hear her voice and I am loathe to let it go. We didn’t know Duncan because he was away at school when we met his parents but I can only imagine what a force of nature he must have been. What a huge tragedy it is to lose Sarah, Damian and Duncan. It is with great sadness that we will be away when their memorial occurs because we so want to be there but thank you to their family for providing this site. Words won’t bring them back but it helps to share our grief and to be able to say how very much we loved them.
Sep 7, 2019
We first met in 1969 at Colorado College. Sarah was quirky, funny and kind. After we all graduated from Colorado College, we reunited 8 years later at CSU where John and Sarah both earned their Master’s in Geology in 1981. John and Sarah’s advisor, Frank Ethridge, had a huge impact on all of us. John and Sarah spent 6 years together at Amoco Denver, where she got a lot of material for her books. From those early days at CC, CSU and Amoco, we always managed to keep in touch. Most recently, we saw Sarah and Damon at a symposium honoring Frank Ethridge at CSU last September. Sarah was such a beautiful, free spirit who will live on in her Em Hanson forensic geologist novels. Sarah, Damon and Duncan, you are gone too soon. Rest in Peace and May Light Perpetual Shine Upon You.
Sep 6, 2019
I feel privileged to have known the Brown family and heartbroken about the loss. A close friend of Sarah’s cousin Dee, I first met Sarah and a month-old Duncan on a memorable occasion. Sarah was giving a reading at Black Oak Books in Berkeley following the publication of her first book, TENSLEEP. Dee and I were charged with entertaining the tiny baby while his mom held forth about her book. I was so taken with both of them that I read all but one of Sarah’s books, and I subsequently got to know Damon as well when I was a houseguest, along with Dee, at their home.
TENSLEEP stands out in my memory. Years ago I took my daughter and granddaughter on a driving trip in South Dakota and Wyoming, and we passed through Tensleep Canyon. I became very excited to recognize the site of this much-loved book. Needless to say, that memory is one I will cherish even more now.
Sep 5, 2019
Damon, Sarah, and Duncan had such a strong, cohesive family. I first met Sarah and Damon when Duncan was only a hope and a wish… They were active in our small town community, and always willing to help. Damon was my “go to” guy when I served on the community services district board – always willing to lend his expertise to our little town. Sarah was talented and thoughtful. She continued serving our community after Duncan was older as a valued member and board president of our community club. We shared the experience of having very bright children with significant learning disabilities…and we both found help for our kids that led them on a path to success. Sarah was never diagnosed or treated for her dyslexia, and we shared our worries for our bright kids. Duncan – he was a bright light. Always smiling, always engaged, always ready for a long rambling talk about planes or other mechanical issues with my husband. After he went to college, he would drop by the house to chat with David.
We lost friends and a wonderful family in that tragic crash. I’m still heartbroken about them, and feel a hole in my heart where they were…we didn’t spend enough time with them, but I will miss them so. We will be out of town the weekend of the memorial. Thank you for putting together this event so that friends can share their grief and loss. We will be thinking about the Brown family that day with love and longing.
Sep 3, 2019
Thank you for the notice regarding Damon’s family memorial. Very unfortunate timing for me as I will be in Wyoming at that time with my son. However, Madeline, my wife is planning to attend. The Wyoming trip is our annual antelope hunt and I had expected again this year to rendezvous with Sarah and Damon. We had already talked and tentatively planned our trips and the prospect of intersecting with one another in that sweeping Wyoming landscape we all came to love. My son’s life is getting quite busy now as he has been accepted by Delta airlines for a position, so this trip with him is important as it may be one of our last together. Damon generously got Patrick some needed flight hours in his plane this past Christmas when Patrick was home for a visit.
I just want to tell you that Damon was a good and valuable friend and influence on me. He and I shared a common interest in hunting, shooting, geology and general all-round events of interest. We both enjoyed fitting the daily worries and events of the moment in a geologic time frame that always brought a laugh. We got along well proven by the considerable time we spent together in physically tough conditions and yet remained friends through it all. What was particularly unique about our friendship was an appreciation for one another’s abilities in different arenas. Damon, who was a strong and thoughtful leader, would defer to me when it came to hunting strategies as I was more experienced in that regard. I, on the other hand, deferred and learned from his abilities when it came to shooting skills and the particulars of certain aspects of geology. There really was no ego clash between us which can so often interfere with people’s relationships. I think it was because we had a mutual respect for one another’s capabilities and an interest in learning from one another. Damon was very good at taking apart the details of things, while not losing track of the larger context in which he was operating. I think ours was a unique and valuable friendship and I can’t tell you how much I am missing him and am going to miss as time goes by. We all know our lives will end one way or the other, but what is so hard is when those with whom we are intertwined are taken too soon.
You should also know that Damon was very highly regarded at the Valley of the Moon Trap Club (a local shotgun and rifle shooting club). He volunteered regularly at the rifle range and when news of his death arrived his fellows at the rifle range were truly shocked and saddened. One of the “old boys”, a former marine, retired San Francisco police officer and all around tough guy was visibly saddened and said in his thoughtful manner, ” Oh man, we lost a good one.” The club flew the flag at half mast.
I understand the intensity of grief that accompanies this tragedy. My sister Peggy, her husband and a friend were all lost in a kayak mishap years ago when Peggy, my wonderful, little adventurous sister was only 24 years old. It was devastating to me and I cannot comprehend how my parents were able to hold together through that. I learned then, at least for myself, that relief only comes with the passing of time, and given enough of it the horribly sharp edges of grief and regret will be slowly be worn down, never gone, never forgotten, but blunted enough so that we can move along with life, since life seems never to wait for us.
I just want to finish by wishing you and your mother the best. We are all stunned by this tragedy. Just know that Damon was a wonderful fellow and the things he did and said are part of us now. I certainly will never forget him and will hold close the memories and places we shared.
Sep 3, 2019
I first met Damon 32 years ago, when he and Sarah were a newly married couple living in Los Gatos. I liked him immediately: and who wouldn’t? He was among the most socially adept people I’ve ever known: at ease with all kinds of people, comfortable with all manner of conversations, and fun: never self-centered, always a great listener. There seemed to be nothing he couldn’t have meaningful exchanges about with friends and family. And he so loved Sarah, he made special efforts, it seemed to me, to include her friends like me – as much a friend as a cousin — in their circle.
I could see how happy they were living in Sebastopol, once they had made that move, and after that, I visited their home so many times I can’t count: for Thanksgivings and Christmases, special dinner, birthday parties, friendly visits, and on and on. Damon’s specialty was smoked turkey for T’day: an event he would plan for days ahead. He was a master-host, choosing the perfect wine to match the meal, carving up the perfect meat course, establishing a tone of cordiality at the table: obviously so pleased to be doing so. Christmas was always a special treat: with a locally sourced tree and highly entertaining distribution of gifts, including the famous ancient family shirt that made surprise appearances in otherwise innocuous-looking packages. And there was always the jazz classics playing on Damon’s aging sound system in the background: a tribute to his Dad.
My own particular tie to Damon was through his love of history, especially my field of American Revolutionary history. He had an up-to-date library of new works on the American Founders, reading Ellis, and Chernow, and Wood. My sense is he had developed a strong idea of what it meant to be an American liberal through those readings: in the sense of late 18th-century classical liberalism. I didn’t entirely agree with him, but I so enjoyed talking with him about these issues.
I know Damon and Sarah and Duncan all loved to fly, and they knew the hazards involved. They were an adventuresome trio, a truly American West family: though they knew no boundaries. They completed a bountifully wonderful safari to southern Africa some years ago, and Duncan seemingly without a second thought made a solo trek to Chile and lived for a time in Taiwan. Most recently, this past April, Damon and Sarah spent a romantic week in Venice.
Damon was the epitome of a family man, a gentleman, and an adventurer, all bound up in one person. I miss him deeply. May you rest in peace, dear friend.
Sep 3, 2019
What can I say about Duncan that all his family and friends don’t already know? He was a truly extraordinary person who had grown into an extraordinary young man. Like his parents, he loved to be around people and to engage with them. I think he saw me as a kind of aunt, but also as a friend: because Duncan didn’t give a hoot how old you were or how differently situated in life.
If I can choose one word to describe him, it would be vibrant. For one thing, he was a beautiful guy: deep-blue-eyed and dark-haired, an impressive presence. But he was in no way dark in spirit: on the contrary, bright and lively, full of high spirits, and extraordinarily able to express his feelings: more so than anyone I know of his age. I remember one delightful trip he made with his grandmother and me to the Japanese woodcut exhibit at the Legion of Honor a few years back. He had already been to the exhibit with his parents, but he was very eager to join us for a second round: insisted on it, in fact. He had absorbed all the ingredients parts of the show – including the technical details of print-making – in the first trip, so became our guide in the second. What an eye Duncan had, and what enthusiasm to share what he knew. It was such a memorable occasion, not least of all because he so easily expressed both love of the subject and of the people he was with.
I know Duncan had a wonderful time at Occidental: and many good friends there, with Sita his best friend of all. He was always his own person: which may have driven his teachers a little nuts (I’ve been there with my students), but I know they also recognized his great and varied talents: in science, language, and the arts: it doesn’t get more interdisciplinary than that. In some ways, I was sorry that he didn’t stick with his work at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. But Duncan was not someone who found it easy to work in large bureaucracies, and he was making his way in architecture so well in these last several years. His trip to Chile and time in Taiwan were the one-of-a-kind adventures that Duncan undertook fearlessly.
A brilliant person; a beloved son, grandson, and nephew; and one of the most original people I’ve ever known. I miss him very much. Rest in peace, Duncan. You will not be forgotten.
Sep 3, 2019
Sarah was my second cousin, and one of my closest friends. We knew each other for 35 years, and in the end the friendship was stronger than it had ever been before.
Sarah was the descendant of academics and artists on both sides, and she inherited hefty portions of intellect and visual creativity. She grew up mainly in Ossining New York: set on a magnificent curve of the Hudson River, at the top of the Hudson’s inner sea (the Tappan Zee), resplendent with sail boats and unspoiled vistas. She and her family (her parents were both teachers) spent summers at the Warren family homestead in North Waterford, Maine. Here Sarah learned the art of story-telling from her father: a major presence in her life, and a natural narrator and painter. And she became the Western-Sarah her friends and admirers love with four years at Colorado College — where she discovered geology — followed by work with the USGS survey, and study for her M.S. degree in Earth Resources at Colorado State.
We didn’t get to know each other until I first moved to California in 1984, and Sarah, whom I’d met briefly before, invited me to Denver for Thanksgiving. What a trip that was! We tootled around the town, went cross-country skiing in the Rockies, and shared T’day dinner with a crowd of her Mennonite friends. Somewhere I have a drawing Sarah sketched of me taking a nap on her livingroom couch: I wasn’t quite so used to that pace as she was.
Then fortuitously, we both ended up in northern California, and I became a very happy regular at Brown family festivities of all kinds, visiting in Sebastopol dozens and dozens of times and talking with Sarah about just about everything. In her element at home I could witness her brilliance in all its many forms. First and foremost, she was a true earth scientist, with that easy grasp of the long view of time, shared by geologists and astronomers: the earth people and the sky people. She had a profoundly visual imagination and capacity. She could make anything out of any material: wool, cloth, paper, stone, wood, and most recently, metal! And then there was her cooking! I remember her mother saying proudly after a visit long ago that Sarah always served the best organic food, prepared via the best methods. Her newly renovated kitchen – resplendent in white granite but keeping the 1950s cast iron range where she produced one amazing meal after another — was a source of great delight to her. She loved especially to make pies, all kinds of pies: a kind of old-world talent that she carried forward from some ur-ancestral source.
But Sarah was a Californian at heart, and a Westerner in her soul. Who can forget her descriptions of western landscapes in her mysteries, or match her profound understanding of how the West’s mineral wealth shapes the destinies of its people? Sarah may have been Eastern-born and bred, with roots going back to the earliest years of New England, but it was in the West that she found her true identity and passions.
I last saw her when she came to my house in San Francisco for lunch in early June, before I took off for parts east. Shortly after that, she herself took an art tour of NYC, the Hudson River Valley (the terrain of her girlhood), and the Berkshires with her artist friend Pam Powell and Damon’s cousin Fritz + David. She wrote an ebullient email to me about how much they’d seen. Here’s an excerpt:
“So in aggregate, we saw the Frick, Neue, Met, and one gallery on Manhattan plus the High Rise, then saw the Clark Art Institute at Williams College plus a private artists’ home from the 1930s that has been turned into a showcase and dropped Pam off at the Frederic Church house (only one ticket available) while I tagged along with the fellahs to an antiques collective. And dinners and lunches at restaurants fine and wild, and one uber-bash of a catered party in the Hudson neighborhood Saturday night. Culturally, it was drinking from a fire hose. … Pam is into representational art, and Fritz and David did a marvelous job of steering her into those exhibits, though a little bit of abstract and other modern found its way into the mix. I must confess that I prefer representational myself, and oh heavens but I love portraiture, and between the Frick, the Met, the Neue (portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, woman in gold) and the Clark that was my set of fire hoses.”
I’m sure it must have felt like coming home: though always her true home was with Damon and Duncan: the lights of her life.
I’ll never have another friendship like this one: but I will treasure my memories of Sarah and our happy times together for the rest of my life. May you rest in peace, dearest one.
Aug 29, 2019
Duncan was surely going to be one of those people who make a difference, and there aren’t enough of them as it is. The saddest part may be how much potential has been lost.
In this picture, Duncan is at the bottom of the stairs at Persinger Architects, following a Mike Hauser Academy series that our office subsidizes every summer. He loved being a mentor and steward for younger students, and his enthusiasm, intelligence, compassion, patience, and willingness, was a genuine gift to all he touched.
Aug 29, 2019
How does one sum up, in only a few words, a man of so many? Here are a few that come to mind that I’m sure will resonate with everyone here:
Intelligence: the type of intelligence where you’re not sure how high on the scale he scores, or if we need a new scale.
Passion: again, I don’t think there is a scale that could measure his passion.
Caring: Duncan cared. He cared about his interests and hobbies; science, Architecture, design, Sci-Fi, music, and of course, flying. He cared about his job and performing well. He cared about the company. But maybe most of all, he cared about his friends and relationships. He cared about all of us.
When I first sat down with Duncan before he started with us I asked him why, after working at NASA, working all over the world, working as an Architect, he wanted to work with us. His answer didn’t really hit me until now; he said he couldn’t wait to work with us because he wanted to be a part of THAT team, THAT camaraderie, and to learn from all of us. Among all of his interests, that was what he valued most — what he cared about most.
Duncan, I feel at once privileged and heartbroken — that I got to share that short time with you, and I’m so happy we got to learn from each other.
Goodbye, bud, keep flying.