It is with a sense of loss that the Ministry and Professional Leadership Staff Group informs you of the death of the Reverend Robert William Brownlie. He died of heart failure on March 27, 2010, at the Kelowna General Hospital, Kelowna, British Columbia, with three loving friends by his side. He was 88.
Rev. Brownlie was born on September 10, 1921 to Thomas and Lillian M. Brownlie in New York, New York. He served in the United States Army 180th Infantry Regiment during WWII and was awarded a Purple Heart.
After a successful career in business working as a manager for Chrysler Corporation among others, he moved with his wife and four young children to Maine to pursue the ministry. He enrolled in Farmington State College and Bangor Theological Seminary, graduating in 1962. He served Unitarian Universalist churches in Bangor and Oakland, Maine, while attending seminary.
He was called to the First Congregational Parish Unitarian in Petersham, Massachusetts; the Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka in Wayzata, Minnesota; and the Unitarian Church of Edmonton, Alberta. He served in Edmonton from 1970 until his retirement in 1984. While serving the Edmonton church, he officiated at the first UU same-sex union in Canada in 1973. The Edmonton congregation named him Minister Emeritus in 1990.
Rev. Brownlie was involved in UU district-level activities in each community where he served, including chairing Publicity Committees in both the Northeast and Connecticut Valley Districts. He also participated as board member in various community organizations, including Planned Parenthood, and served many years as President of the Kelowna Friends of the Library, at the time when Kelowna's award-winning new library was designed and built.
During his retirement in Kelowna, British Columbia, Rev. Brownlie became well-known as a passionate supporter of civic and cultural organizations. He collected art, especially by local artists, and regularly attended theater, concerts, and cultural events. He was "the white-haired walker” until age 87, with a daily route of 15 km. or more, and recognized with a wave by motorists all around the Okanagan. He collected cans and bottles during those walks, raising surprising amounts of money over the years for Selena Stearns and her staff at the Drop-in and Information Centre in Kelowna, whose work he greatly admired.
An environmentalist even before the word was popular, and with a caring heart for any person or animal "down on their luck”, few people knew the extent to which Rev. Brownlie lived his Unitarian Universalist beliefs and shared everything he had. His mantra: "Forgive. Love. Give.” His beloved church, The Unitarian Fellowship of Kelowna, received the gift of his house upon Rev. Brownlie’s death. The funds from the sale of the house will make possible new opportunities for the church to thrive and grow over the coming years.
Rev. Brownlie is survived by his daughter Pat (Robert); son Peter (Deborah) and grandsons Matthew (Ashley) and Colin (Deborah); son Andrew (Amy); son Richard (Robin); and Rev. Christine Brownlie, mother of his grandsons, Matthew and Colin. He also leaves his friend, Denise Brownlie and his devoted "rescue cat” Amy, a constant companion of more than 15 years. His youngest son Chris (Phill) died in 1989; his wife Dorothy died in 1971.
At Rev. Brownlie’s request, no formal memorial service will be held. Please send messages of condolence to his daughter, Patricia Brownlie, 7124 Oak Leaf Drive, Santa Rosa CA 95409; or his son, Peter Brownlie, 5421 Locust Street, Kansas City, MO 64110.