Shirley Lee Brown, a friend of many and a stranger to none, died Dec. 23 after a brief illness.
“Miss Shirley,” as she was affectionately called by her friends, became firmly rooted in the Navarre Community in 1978. It didn’t take long for her to become Navarre’s most devoted ambassador and volunteer.
Her husband Charlie’s Air Force career had taken Shirley far away from Cheraw, South Carolina, where she was raised after her birth in Chesterfield, South Carolina. During Charlie’s 27-year military career, the couple traveled to Louisiana, South Dakota, Fort Walton Beach, Eglin Air Force Base and Georgia. They settled in Navarre after his retirement and established their membership in the First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach.
Shirley lost the love of her life and husband of 55-years when Charlie died after a long illness in January 2011. A portion of Hwy. 98 was designated the Warren E. “Charlie” Brown Memorial Highway Sept. 11, 2014. Though Shirley mourned her husband, who was a mainstay of Navarre, she kept doing what she had always done; serve.
“It’s all about commitment. It’s the way I was raised. You do what you say you’re going to do,” Shirley Brown told Sandi Kemp when asked what kept her going.
“Shirley loved to be involved in her community. She was never merely a ‘volunteer’ or ‘participant’ in anything. She was actively engaged and led any effort she was a part of. She did not miss meetings. She was there first, and left last,” said Tracey Williams, friend and former Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO. “Shirley and Charlie were the first people I met, and my fond memories at the Chamber include both of them.”
Highlights of Shirley’s service of love to our community include;
* Coordinated annual Coastal Cleanups on Navarre Beach.
* Played the role of Mrs. Claus for the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas in the Park.
* Named Honorary Commander of the 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field.
* Coordinating with the United States Air Force Reserve Band to perform at local schools.
* Chairman of the Santa Rosa County Clean Community Program
* Chairman of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc.
* Participated in a Civic Leader Tour and CAPEX (Capabilities Exercise) at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
* Won the Civic Spirit Award from the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for her unwavering commitment to chamber activities
* Vice president of the Navarre Garden Club and presented with “Hall of Fame” award
* Appointed as one of only seven Navarre residents by the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners to be on the inaugural Navarre Area Architectural Review Board
* First Ambassador Chair of the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
* Served on the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Health Care Committee and Median Beatification Committee.
* Board member of the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council and served as treasurer for many years.
* Treasurer of the District One Flower Shows Council
* Master Flower Show Judge
* Member of the Baptist Health Care Cooperation Board
* Vice chair of the Baptist Medical Park Navarre Advisory Committee
* Member of Friends of the Navarre Library
* Served on Holley Navarre Middle School Advisory Committee
* Served on Santa Rosa County Administrative Arts Committee
* Served two terms on the Santa Rosa Bay Bridge Authority.
* Awarded the ‘President’s Award’ at the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet in 2006.
* Navarre High School JROTC supporter
* Caring and Sharing volunteer
* Member of the Holley Navarre Senior Center
“Her involvement in the community is much like her marriage to Charlie Brown, when she said “I do” or “I will” she meant it…for life,” Williams told Navarre Press.
In fact, the Brown’s gave marriage advice for the Navarre Press Valentine’s issue in 2009 which showed their commitment, not only in marriage, but in life.
Shirley lived out her faith by being an example. “Shirley was a Christian. She didn’t preach – she lived her faith,” said good friend, Ferrell Tibbs.
Shirley did not have any biological children, but perhaps that was because God intended for her to be everyone’s mom. “Shirley was the epitome of a southern lady and the mom everyone either had or wished they had. She adopted many as her own,” said Sandi Kemp. Those she ‘adopted’ included elected officials such as Congressman Matt Gaetz, Sheriff Wendell Hall, Property Appraiser Greg Brown and County Commissioner Don Salter. In fact, pictures of them could be found lovingly placed in her home.
“She never mentioned one word about being sick. I’m sure she didn’t want anyone to know or worry about her. Shirley was a very private person when it came to herself. It is a blessing that she went so quickly,” said June Meredith, good friend of Shirley.
Charlie Brown once said, “On my obituary, they can say I’m survived by my wife and Navarre. That’ll take care of it.”
Shirley Lee Brown, survived by Navarre.
For more on the life of Shirley Brown and to see our collection of photos, please see the Dec. 29 issue of Navarre Press.