Browns will re­build af­ter fire

Serve Daily - - COMMUNITY - By Mar­i­lyn Brown

On Oc­to­ber 19, 2017, a spark burst into fire in the sec­ond-floor apart­ment of two pre­cious his­toric build­ings on Springville’s Main Street. The clean­ing lady who had just left the mid­dle of the three up­stairs apart­ments may have nicked a wire that arched to the gas heater.

The two an­tique build­ings—though well cared for—are over a hun­dred years old. Flames ex­ploded, and tore a hole through the floor big enough to fit a Volk­swagon bug. All of the of­fices be­low were gone—in­clud­ing the Brown House of Fine Arts, the small art gallery of the build­ing’s own­ers: Bill and Mar­i­lyn Brown.

When the fire broke out, the Brown fam­ily was in Salt Lake City at the wed­ding of their grand­daugh­ter, who, by the way, had rented one of the apart­ments and moved new things inside. The wed­ding guests were en­joy­ing their sliv­ers of cake when the text came through: “Do your grand­par­ents know their gallery is on fire?”

Luck­ily, five ex­pert lo­cal fire de­part­ments, Provo, Orem, Span­ish Fork, Payson and Springville, came to the res­cue. One fire chief coura­geously braved the fumes to pull out some of the art­work and store it in his SUV. But the three up­stairs apart­ments, the of­fices be­low and about half the paint­ings were now ashes.

When grand­par­ents Bill and Mar­i­lyn Brown and their chil­dren found them­selves pick­ing through the grime to dis­cover if any­thing could still be used, they told on­look­ers, “It’s just an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate more paint­ings. Af­ter all is said and done, it’s the act of cre­at­ing that brings joy.”

Bill and Mar­i­lyn carted what was left of their work to the 55 and older condo down­town where they plan to spend the win­ters away from the snow-packed Hob­ble Creek Canyon. They hung their work in the garage. “Now we can have a garage sale,” Mar­i­lyn laughed. “How lucky we are com­pared with the fires that swept away so much in Cal­i­for­nia! Now we can sym­pa­thize with them.”

“Los­ing pre­cious ob­jects is still just los­ing things,” th­es­pian Bill Brown re­marked. Though he has won awards paint­ing, his main hobby has been live theater. He pro­duced eighty-six pro­duc­tions from 1996 to 2005, and has played sev­eral times in “You Can’t Take it With You.” “It’s true we don’t take any­thing with us!” Mar­i­lyn states. One of her fa­vorite sto­ries is about the auc­tion of Ein­stein’s ef­fects. A small locked box was carved with the words: “The se­cret of hap­pi­ness.” Le­gend has it that bid­ding for the box reached over a mil­lion dol­lars. When the box was opened, a small piece of pa­per car­ried the words, “Money doesn’t buy hap­pi­ness.”

“How true,” Mar­i­lyn con­tin­ues. “We were un­der­in­sured be­cause the build­ings are so old. But we were heart­ened to find that some of our ‘nec­es­sary’ paint­ings sched­uled for pub­li­ca­tion were still in fair shape. I rubbed the soot off of my paint­ing for THE BLACK CANARY novel about a girl whose fam­ily lived in Helper, Utah, in the 1920s min­ing town, and washed down the por­trait of the Bel­gian girl who es­caped the Nazis in WWII for the book, THANK YOU FOR THE DAISIES. Most of Bill’s moun­tain scenes were luck­ily in­tact. We had also sold sev­eral of our best works just two weeks be­fore the fire: ROAD TO COV­ERED BRIDGE, FAIRVIEW BARN, and EN­TRANCE TO ZION. Bill sold his award win­ning CE­LES­TIAL BE­GIN­NINGS. Thanks to those special pur­chasers, the paint­ings are spared!

“So we are grate­ful! We know it’s not the money that buys hap­pi­ness,” Mar­i­lyn em­pha­sizes. “It’s cre­at­ing some­thing good that brings hap­pi­ness.” As the au­thor of over eigh­teen pub­lished nov­els and re­gional his­to­ries, her writ­ing keeps her cre­at­ing, along with the Brown fam­ily: six chil­dren, six­teen grand­chil­dren and four greats. “The joy of life is ac­cept­ing the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing a good fam­ily, or cre­at­ing a busi­ness, or cre­at­ing new ways to help oth­ers. Cre­at­ing is for­ever. It’s a god­like ac­tiv­ity. I’m grate­ful for all of the ways good peo­ple cre­ate.”

And, by the way, she and Bill are al­ready busy do­ing more paint­ings.

The Brown House Fire on Main Street on Oc­to­ber 19, 2017.

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