published Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Veteran killed in crash following ceremony

  • photo
    Henry “Leo” Brown, who was killed in a car wreck on Mountain Creek Road on Sunday.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Mary Bea' Brown, Henry 'Leo' Brown, and Pastor Dwight Martin during a service honoring World War II veterans at Calvary Baptist Church on Sunday. About three hours after the photo was taken, Leo Brown was killed in a car wreck on Mountain Creek Road. Mary Brown remains in critical condition at Erlanger hospital.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

On Sunday morning, 84-year-old Henry "Leo" Brown walked to the front of Calvary Baptist Church and was -- for only the second time of his life -- publicly honored for his service in World War II.

Brown, a U.S. Navy seaman, was one of a handful of veterans recognized during a ceremony at the Red Bank church.

"He shook my hand afterward and had tears in his eyes," said Charles Clemons, another veteran honored at the ceremony. "He was very touched by the gratitude."

But just hours after receiving the accolades, Brown was killed in a head-on crash.

After a lunch at the church, Brown's son helped his father and mother, Mary "Bea" Brown, into their small Toyota sedan. The couple was heading home when 23-year-old Caitlin Davis, driving a Ford F-250 pickup, swerved over the center line on Mountain Creek Road and struck the Browns' car head-on, said Chattanooga police spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary.

Leo Brown died at the hospital shortly after. Bea Brown was listed in critical condition at Erlanger hospital Monday afternoon.

Davis suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, according to Weary, who said investigators still are working the case, and charges may be pending against her.

"It was devastating, terrible news. Just to see him at church that day, and then to know he was gone like that," said Merwynn Mann, who had been at the church that morning.

Brown was a fixture in the Signal Mountain community. For years he ran the family store, Brown Brothers Hardware, at the top of the W Road.

"Everyone on Signal Mountain knew Leo Brown," said 73-year-old Mann, who used to live across the street from the store.

Mann said he went to the store three or four times a week, often just to sit and eat a sandwich at the counter and talk.

"You didn't get but five feet inside the store when here came Leo with a big smile on his face, saying, 'How are you doing?'"

Clemons, 64, used to frequent the store as a kid.

"It was a menagerie of everything you could imagine," he said. "There were hardware supplies, but there were also horseshoes, clothing, saddles, guns -- just everything."

Men clustered around the stove there in the winter, trading stories and jokes, Clemons remembers. They got into long talks while sharpening their knives on the large whetstone in one corner of the store.

During the holidays, Leo Brown would pack boxes of food and leave them at the doors of families he knew wouldn't be able to afford a large Christmas meal. He never left behind a note, Clemons said.

"He was fair, he was honest, he was kind," said Clemons. "You were not just a customer. You were his friend who just happened to be doing business with him."

The store closed its doors years ago, but the Browns still lived on the mountain. Dwight Martin, pastor at Calvary, said the couple had been visiting the church -- where their son is a longtime member -- for several months.

"It was such a shock when we got the news and, of course, it's very difficult for the family," Martin said Monday. "The neat thing is that he was honored yesterday. For the family, that is a really encouraging thing."

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at or 423-757-6673.

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riverman said...

So you "swerve" over the center line and charges "may" be pending?

November 15, 2011 at 1:04 a.m.
GreenKepi said...

"Leo" left this world, a better place than he found it....

November 15, 2011 at 7:52 a.m.

@ riverman - "Innocent until proven guilty" remember, before people take to their pitch forks wait for more facts. Maybe the girl suffered a seizure or something.

My condolense to the Brown family, may God be with you in your time of need, and same for the Davis family, no matter the outcome both families were tragically affected.

November 15, 2011 at 8:09 a.m.
eileen said...

If only we had more "Heroes" like Mr. Brown, what a wonderful world this would be.

November 15, 2011 at 8:35 a.m.
chatttn said...

Amen Grenkepi. Such a tragedy. Prayers to both families effected.

November 15, 2011 at 9:53 a.m.
volfan said...

I was raised on Signal Mountain. I loved Leo Brown! Next to my own Father, he was the man I admired and worshiped most!! He was my hero. My heart goes out to his beloved wife, Leo Jr., family and all who came to know and love him. May he rest in peace.

November 15, 2011 at 12:17 p.m.
deb57 said...

Leo was a hero to a lot of us kids that lived on the Mtn. I can remember going in the store with my dad and Leo being there with a warm smile and a hug for the little girls. My prays go out to the family's of both. And I hope and pray Bea will be ok.

November 15, 2011 at 3:02 p.m.
chet123 said...

What a waste....Mr brown was a great MAN....prayers go to his family....

November 17, 2011 at 2:04 p.m.
tnmousy said...

i dont know what this girl was doing but i suspect texting. either way she was not paying attention to the road and she killed someone. his wife is still in the hospital in critical condition. "charges pending"...yeah well get off your butts and charge her!

November 18, 2011 at 11:38 p.m.
packmule said...

in response to riverman ,yea charges may be filed when you swerve into the other lane and kill one for sure and maybe two.but for sure caused alot of pain to alot of people.when its your fault and their is no other answer or reason except that nomatter what you were doing its your dam fault then your dam stright charges may be man sticks of dynimite would have to go off in your head befor you get many people that knew her said that or implied that they knew of her being intoxicated on something most of the time? when the facts are right in front of you but you dont want to see them becouse your related by blood or friendship then your opinion is muddied.

November 19, 2011 at 3:28 a.m.
tnmousy said...

thank you packmule!!!!! that is exactly what i am talking about and trying to say! thank you for standing up for what is right. if i had my way she would be under the jail and never be allowed to drive or have a license ever again in her life!

November 19, 2011 at 11:53 p.m.
packmule said...

In response to plsopenurmindb4uspk,Were not getting pitchforks and were not going to have a early moring hanging.In fact lets say she did have a seizure,If it was so bad that she could nt control her truck then she should not have been driving and she is still at fault,Lets say she didnt take her meds.She is still at fault.Hell lets say she had a seizure blacked out all of her limbs became immobile her body thrashed uncontrolably.Its still her fault becouse she knew she knew she had that condition and didnt do any thing about it.people lost someone they loved.maybe two .the girl is still with her family.


November 22, 2011 at 7:45 a.m.
packmule said...

I have read other post where people said that she didnt have a cell phone with her.That maybe she had some kind of medical trouble,or anything that would take the blame off her.I understand that these people love her just like leo,s family love him.They want to protect her and shield her from harm.The police are the only one after her and unless she had somekind of medical trouble she is at fault.Also she did have a cell with her and a on dash computer and the distance from where she started into there lane and hit them is so short that Mr Brown had no way and no possability of getting out of the way.How do you walk away from a wreck with minnor non life threating injuries kill one and almost kill another know it,s your fault and try to get out of it and not claim responsability?Just like her friends want to protect her .I Know the browns and what type of people they are.Mr Brown was one of the most forgiving and tolerant men i have ever known.Mrs Brown was the same and both always tried to find the good in people.I dont see anything in them that would go out for blood.Maybe a truly heart felt iam sorry would carry alot of weight.I love the Browns and pray every day for their comfort and protection.I pray also for mrs davis becouse that is what Leo would do and want.

December 1, 2011 at 2:43 a.m.
packmule said...

Ive known Leo and Bea for a long time,I was 19 when i met them and now i am 48,We had our disagreements along the way but i can say that we turned out to be good friends and i respected leo and bea for alot of reasons,Number one is just for who they were,down to earth easy to be around,and honest with there feelings.If they loved you you knew it ,if they didnt like somethig you were doig or did you knew it also.another reaon i respected him was his knowledged of just about anything i could ask him.If for some strange reason he didnt know the answer ,bye the next day he would.Leo loved to learn.when he was i think in his 70s or maybe older he took a class at UTC just for fun.i dont want to short change Bea either becouse she had a set of brains on her also .things i never even thought of .sometimes when leo and i were making things to diffecult bea would come up with a much simpeler and faster way of doing things.they both handed their traits down to their daughter jan.I must say they did a great job as parents becouse jan is a great daughter and that is proubly the best legacy a person could leave behind.I love all of them and do not have a problem giving my life for any one of them.

December 12, 2011 at 4:02 p.m.
packmule said...

I loved my father-in-law a great deal,When we first met i cant say that we liked each other but over the years we became very close and i can say that after my own father who passed away many years ago leo is one of three men i respect the most and i would haft to say he has every ounce of respect and love that i have.I hope that i some how helped leo as much as he did me.i beleive the greatest way to show respect and love for someone who has passed is to live right and to help that persons family . GOD puts people in our lives that we will either learn something from or teach something to.we will either need or we will be needed .I learned alot from Leo and i more than likely needed him more than he i ,I would like to think that somehow along the way i heled him and maybe in a blue moon he needed me.May GOD give you ever lasting peace and rest you earned it my friend.

December 18, 2011 at 3:18 a.m.
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