May 24, 1956 – March 25, 2023
James Jefferson (Jeff) Brown, age 66, of Chester, Virginia, passed away suddenly on March 25, 2023, in Richmond, Virginia, while doing the thing he loved most, playing music with his bandmates.
Jeff was born on May 24, 1956, in Galax, Virginia, the youngest son of James Henry Brown, Jr. and Juanita Hampton Brown. He is survived by his beloved wife, Kathleen Stout Brown; brother, Gordon (Glenda) Brown; sister-in-law, Dianne Brown; nieces, Meredith Harper and Leah Ryan; and nephews, David Brown and Kirby Brown. He is also survived by a host of friends and bandmates. He is preceded in death by his parents, James and Juanita Brown; and his brother, Virgil Brown.
Holding a BA in Political Science from Carson-Newman College and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Tennessee, Jeff made his career as a Transportation Corps Officer in the U.S. Army, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He served in Operation Desert Storm and received the Bronze Star Medal and five Meritorious Service Medals. In 2015, Jeff was inducted into the U.S. Army Transportation Corps Regiment’s Honorable Order of Saint Christopher. He retired from the Army in 2003 and continued providing logistical assistance to the US government as an employee of LMI, a government consulting firm. He entered full retirement in 2020 but continued to apply his organizational skills. Whether it was musical gear, diving gear, or camping gear, they were always arranged in the most efficient way possible.
Jeff’s interests were as deep as they were wide. When he got into something, he embraced it wholeheartedly, from running marathons to attending fiddlers’ conventions. He played Appalachian old-time music – banjo and bass – most of his life. In 1981, he placed second in the clawhammer banjo competition at the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention, which is the oldest and largest old-time fiddlers’ convention in the world. Upon finding the weekly old-time jam session at Cary St. Café in 2006, Jeff showed up every Sunday for 13 years to play music and to support the leaders of the jam. His other musical passion was playing the tenor banjo and concertina in Irish sessions from Virginia to New York. He was a generous player, always willing to help other players learn and always loving to learn from others.
Throughout his life, Jeff played in numerous bands including the Fountain City Frogstranglers, the Steamboat Entertainers, and the Cary Street Ramblers. He was an exceptional bandmate, always up for a gig, a practice, or for learning a new tune someone in the band wanted to play – in fact, Jeff often learned the tune before the other person did.
Jeff and his beloved soulmate Kathy, married since August 1991, enjoyed their lives together and were notoriously known to travel often and widely. Both certified scuba divers, they greatly enjoyed their dive trips to Roatan, Curaçao, and various other dive destinations. Along the way, they made many diving friends who had the same love of finding critters and blowing bubbles. They also made regular trips to New York for Irish sessions, Virginia state parks for relaxation, and would happily plan a weekend getaway around a performance from a favorite band.
Jeff was a happy, gregarious, outgoing person, who attracted friends easily. More times than not, it was easy to lose track of him in any setting, only to find him making friends with a total stranger. And Jeff valued each and every friendship deeply. He was beloved, and there are no words to express the depth of how much he will be missed.
In accordance with Jeff’s wishes, he will be cremated. In the future, his remains along with Kathy’s and their cherished pets’ will become part of an Eternal Reef. Eternal Reefs are living legacies that help preserve the marine environment for future generations. A memorial service to celebrate Jeff’s big heart and life will be planned in the near future. In lieu of flowers, donations to Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, or Earthjustice would be appreciated.