Editor’s note: Each Monday, the Kenosha News takes a look at the life of a Kenosha County resident who has recently died. We share with you, through the memories of family and friends, a life remembered.
He went by Lou, Steve and, most recently, Stephen.
Bus drivers for Kenosha Transit knew Steve Brown as “Lou,” a daily rider who lived on 75th Street near The Spot.
“The drivers were like his family,” said his sister, Peggy Welch.
Others recognized Steve as the man who scoured resale and antique stores for collectible items.
“He had a trailer full of drums and a house full of vintage things,” Peggy said.
Steve was a union electrician, a member of IBEW Local 150, who loved his country and loved union-made products, Peggy said.
Stephen “Lou” Brown, 63, of Kenosha, died Nov. 29, 2018, at his home. Survivors include his mother, Jacqueline; siblings, Robert (Georgia) Brown, Peggy Brown Welch, Alan (Kris) Brown, David (Shirley) Brown and Tim Brown; and several nieces and nephews.
This “A Life Remembered” tribute is later than most in part because the family has selected July 6 to honor him with a celebration of life gathering.
July was chosen because Steve “was all about ‘Made in America’ union-made products and the Fourth of July,” Peggy said. “Anything to support our country.”
Born and raised in Illinois
The oldest of four boys and a girl, Steve was born Sept. 4, 1955, to Jacqueline and Franklin Louis Brown in Waukegan, Ill.
The family lived in Zion, where Steve went to school, graduating from Zion Benton High School in 1973.
In high school, Steve was athletic; gymnast and a lifeguard. “He’d walk down the hall at school and just do a backflip in front of somebody,” Peggy said.
His other early interests included drumming, motorcycles and vintage cars.
“He was drumming from the time he was born,” Peggy said.
He drummed in the high school jazz band and with rock bands in Illinois and Florida. He also began collecting drum kits and parts for them to repair and resell.
“Every New Year’s Eve he would set up a drum kit on the front porch of his home and drum at midnight,” Peggy said. “He would really rock and roll!”
As the older brother, Steve’s drumming made an impression on his brother, David.
“I had a toy drum set but then Steve put me in front of his set and taught me to play ‘George of the Jungle,’” David said.
“Steve’s drum style was jazz-fusion; he was a real funky drummer.”
During high school Steve worked with an uncle learning the electrician’s trade and after graduation went to work at American Hospital Supply.
In 1981, Steve moved to Lakeland, Fla., where his family had moved. In Florida, he completed his electrician’s apprenticeship and worked for a power plant.
In 1989, Steve came to live in Kenosha where he worked as an electrician on projects for Abbott Laboratories, Great Lakes Naval Base and Kenosha’s water treatment plant.
He also continued his hobbies and his collections of cars, motorcycles, guitars, phonographs and vinyl records.
“He was a tinkerer,” Peggy said. “Every room (of his house) had a project.”
Steve’s car collection included Camaros, Corvettes, an El Camino and a 1967 Toranado. In the motorcycle department, he rode and owned Harleys, BSAs and Triumphs.
He loved attending the Kenosha car shows, sometimes with his own vehicles, as well as swap meets throughout the state.
Living in Kenosha, Steve became fond of Lake Michigan, so he also began collecting nautical items: boat anchors, model sailboats and wooden ships. In the basement of his home he built a bar from a speedboat, complete with an outboard motor.
Loss of eyesight
In his early 30s, Steve began to experience problems with his eyesight and was diagnosed with glaucoma. Although he began treatment for it, his vision became impaired.
Then, in 1995, at age 40, while doing electrical work from a boom truck, Steve felt what he thought was debris hit his right eye. It turned out to be a detached retina. Emergency surgery failed to repair the damage, and he lost sight in the eye.
For a man with so many visually based interests, this turn of events was bad, said his sister. “His whole world crashed in — he couldn’t work and he couldn’t drive.”
What Steve did do was listen to talk radio, ride the buses all over Kenosha, visit friends and talk on the phone. “He loved to call friends, and his friends became like brothers and sisters,” Peggy said.
He continued to visit shop owners around town, too, she said. “He had a friend on every corner.”To keep track of his connections, Steve kept a list of the people he met and what they meant to him, said his sister.
Living on 75th Street also provided entertainment for Steve. “He had fun sitting on his porch watching people go by and customers coming and going at The Spot,” said his sister.
He also lent a helping hand to his neighbors even after his sight became diminished.
“He made us happy; he was a sweet kid,” said his mother.