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‘Brownie’ fixed instruments for free for kids in need

— When it came to kids with broken musical instruments, Brownie was a soft touch.

As an amazingly versatile musician and a repairman par excellence, Brownie knew the joy that a person derives from playing a well-tuned instrument. Everyone knew that he’d often repair instruments for children at no cost simply to encourage their love of music.

Richard “Brownie” Brown passed away on Nov. 15 at Sunnyside Nursing Home in Kirkville. He was 88.

Known throughout Central New York as a man who could fix everything from French horns to violins, Brown was also a respected professional musician. Over the years, he played tuba, double bass, Sousaphone and trombone with a variety of regional ensembles.

“He played all the instruments, and he knew how to repair them all,” remembered bandleader Mario DeSantis. “He was a great repairman!”

Brown played bass for the Mario DeSantis Orchestra in the early 1950s and also worked regularly as a member of the Pompeian Players pit bands. He preferred swing and standards to rock’n’roll.

“Once rock and roll came in and we added some of those tunes to our repertoire,” DeSantis remembered, “Brownie left the orchestra.”

More recently, he’d lent his talents to the Liverpool Community Concert Band which rehearsed every Monday at American Legion Post 188, where he was a member. He also played upright bass for The Rhythm-Airs, a big band which got its start at the local legion hall.

Born in Fulton, Brownie moved to Liverpool with his family when he was a young child. He lived in the lakeside village for more than 75 years. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. For more than six decades he owned and operated Richard C. Brown Musical Instrument Repair on Cypress Street and also did repair work for DeSantis & Son Music Co.

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