Blaine Brownell obituary photo
 
In Memory of

Blaine Brownell

May 8, 1913 - Unknown

Obituary


Blaine Brownell, Jr. died on February 5, 2012 at the age of 98, leaving an enduring mark as a successful businessman, civic leader, and devoted husband, father, and friend. He was kind, courteous, conscientious, and dedicated to his family, church, and community. He maintained a lifelong commitment to tolerance and fairness, and his humility, grace, and impeccable manners reflected not only his upbringing but his genuine decency, respect, and caring for other people. His life fully expressed the qualities he frequently invoked for his children and grandchildren--faith and courage. And he retained his healthy, and...

Blaine Brownell, Jr. died on February 5, 2012 at the age of 98, leaving an enduring mark as a successful businessman, civic leader, and devoted husband, father, and friend. He was kind, courteous, conscientious, and dedicated to his family, church, and community. He maintained a lifelong commitment to tolerance and fairness, and his humility, grace, and impeccable manners reflected not only his upbringing but his genuine decency, respect, and caring for other people. His life fully expressed the qualities he frequently invoked for his children and grandchildren--faith and courage. And he retained his healthy, and sometimes playful, sense of humor throughout his life.

Born in the family home at the top of Cliff Road in 1913, he attended Birmingham University School, Phillips High School, and the University of Alabama. While a student in Tuscaloosa, he met Nancy Annette Holmes of Jasper, whom he would marry in 1938 and cherish as his wife for almost 70 years, until her death in 2008. He was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, and for many years held the intramural sports record for the 100 yard dash (10 seconds, in 1935). He was inducted into O.D.K. and the Jasons honor societies. The Great Depression precluded further study toward his intended career as a physician, and he began his married life in Homewood, employed by the New York Life Insurance Company. (He later recounted the challenge of selling life insurance during difficult economic times).

In 1942 he joined the U.S. Army--eventually reaching the rank of 2nd Lieutenant--and served in a variety of posts, primarily in medical services and in supervising arrangements aboard various U.S. Navy ships in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters transporting American troops, war brides, and even German POWs. His photographs featured wartime street scenes in ports from Liverpool to Shanghai. His letters home confirmed that delivering babies aboard ships in North Atlantic convoys, in heavy weather, while destroyers depth-charged enemy submarines, was also part of the war effort. Following the conflict, he tried his hand at farming in Greensboro, AL, and then eagerly accepted his father's invitation in 1948 to join him in the family automobile dealership in Birmingham.

Descended from two pioneers in the US automobile industry (his grandfather Charles A. Brownell was Henry Ford's advertising manager and his father was the first Ford dealer and distributor in Alabama), he became President of Brownell Pontiac Co. in Ensley, where he continued and expanded a family tradition for honesty, integrity, and community service. He encouraged and supported many charitable and community organizations, with a special interest in Miles College and other organizations in the western part of the city. Before it became fashionable, he made customer service a foundation for his business, which consistently recorded one of the highest customer return rates in the General Motors Atlanta Zone. He qualified as a Pontiac Master Dealer in every year of the program. In 1961 he served as President of the Alabama Automobile Dealers Association. He sold his company and retired in 1983.

His contributions to civic life included membership on the Board of the Salvation Army and service to Independent Presbyterian Church, of which his father was a founding member. He taught Sunday School and served on the Board of Deacons, the Board of Elders, and as President of the Congregation. He played a key role in attracting Rev. Scott McClure as Pastor and was involved in many aspects of his ministry, including leadership of the first fund-raising effort for the IPC-sponsored Kirkwood by the River retirement community. He was an avid golfer and member of the Mountain Brook Country Club.

Aggrieved by injustice, he believed in the dignity and worth of all people and their rights to equal treatment and opportunity. Even during the city's difficult times, he demonstrated his commitment to these principles through his caring and respect for others in his business, his community, and his church.

He is preceded in death by his wife, Annette Holmes Brownell, his father and mother, Blaine Brownell, Sr. and Edna Raymond Brownell, and his brother, Charles Raymond Brownell. He is succeeded by his son, Blaine Allison Brownell and his wife Mardi of Charlottesville, VA. and his daughter, Nancie Brownell Warner and her husband Michael of Freeport, FL; his grandchildren, Blaine Erickson Brownell and his wife Heather of St. Paul, MN and Allison Brownell Tirres and her husband Chris of Evanston, IL; and five great-grandchildren, Blaine Sorensen Brownell, Davis Wainwright Brownell, Eloisa Taylor Tirres, Mateo Brownell Tirres, and Ana Luz Holmes Tirres. He is also succeeded by the children of two first cousins, Mary Katherine Hood Caldwell and James Davis, who grew up like siblings in his household on Cliff Road: his Goddaughter Francis Caldwell Bennett, Catherine Caldwell Cabaniss, Charles Caldwell, Jean Caldwell, Carolyn Davis Zimmerman and Marjory Davis Harper.

The family offers special thanks to Gentiva Hospice and the loving staff at Kirkwood-by-the River.

A memorial service will be held at 3:30 pm on Thursday, February 9 in the Sanctuary, Independent Presbyterian Church, 3100 Highland Ave., Birmingham. He will be interred with his wife Annette at Elmwood Cemetery in a private family service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Independent Presbyterian Church, Kirkwood by the River, and the Salvation Army.