Our Bean Blossom Special

by Julia Pearson

Edward Lincoln Brown shares the same birthday as his namesake, Abraham Lincoln. He was born in a two-story log cabin in Sumner County, Tennessee, 72 years ago, the youngest of three brothers. The older boys were Leroy and Eugene. The family moved to Indianapolis when Ed “Brownie” was a year old. He was ten years old when his mother, Gladys Virginia Webb, married Helmer Marks, a “super stepdad” who transmitted values to Brownie that have carried him to this day.

Brownie graduated from Franklin Township and immediately went to work as a laborer at International Harvester. He was impressed with the skilled tradesmen he saw there, and spent the next three and a half years completing an apprenticeship as a steam fitter that usually required four years. He and his bride, Shirley Toney, set up housekeeping in Wannamaker.

During his apprenticeship, Brownie opened a garage. He recalls that he learned bodywork on a Chevy, working directly under Harrell Hinder for three years. Harrel declared Brownie to be a fine “body and fender man.” While carrying a gas tank with Harrell, a heat source caused a huge gas blowout. Harrell’s clothing caught fire and Brownie pulled him from the flames, burning his own hands as he removed the burning clothes. Harrell died four days later. $125 came to Brownie from insurance after the accident. When Shirley asked what he would do with the money, Brownie remembered how he had noticed Harrell wearing a Masonic ring. He inquired about the Masonic Order from others who wore the ring and they were happy to speak with him. When he learned that it cost $125 entrance fee, it was clear to him to pursue it further. Brownie joined the Masonic Lodge #134 in Acton, Indiana.

In 1968, Brownie and Shirley bought three acres on Yellowwood Trail. When his mother-in-law obtained 30 acres across the road, it became more desirable for them to build a house in Brown County. They put their Wannamaker home on the market in January and it was bought by the first couple that looked at it. Their daughter, Kathy Ann, was able to finish out the school year before making the move to Brown County.

Using his own drawings, Brownie took off a month from Harvester and put in the basement to their new home. When school was out, the whole family spent the summer building—including Kathy Ann and preschoolers Timothy Edward and Michael Lincoln. The house was under roof by fall and they moved into the basement while the rest of the house took shape—learning and building as they went. Brownie recalls spotting some windows he liked and asking the lady of the house if he could measure them. When he saw some carpenters installing a door at another home, they gladly obliged when Brownie asked if they’d explain the process.

Brownie quit International Harvester where he had worked for thirteen and a half years after he spent some time commuting from Brown County. With $90, he opened a business checking account and started his own plumbing, heat, and electrical business. His instincts were right because he has never gotten up in the morning without a job to go to. He is also licensed for every trade there is in the county. Jack McDonald, the Bean Blossom grocery mainstay, came up to Brownie one day with a box of labels imprinted with “Brownie’s Plumbing and Heating.” He told Brownie that he was tired of always providing contact information to his customers who needed Brownie’s services.

Brownie is the embodiment of the fellow that never met a stranger. So it was a perfect fit for him to purchase Brownie’s Bean Blossom Family Restaurant. He recalls how friends came by and pitched in as he readied the restaurant to open. Dave Landis provided paint; Jim Fox helped; Donnie Altop added beautiful woodwork. A highlight for Brownie was having an appreciation party for all who helped. He still laughs out loud as he recalls Donnie Altop’s face when Brownie presented him with a St. Bernard puppy at the dinner. On October 27, the business will celebrate 10 years as part of the community, humming along with Patty Hatchet as manager.

Brownie has a positive, cheery outlook that hasn’t been washed out by life’s storms. His motto remains, “The only way out of a hole is to look up.” Out of the pocket of his memory, he pulls up the time 22 years ago when he describes feelings of a “pity party” at the hospital. Brownie had fallen off a 40 foot tall pole while fixing a security light and had multiple broken bones and bruises. Shirley, Kathy Ann, and granddaughter Rachel were visiting and the two older women decided it was time to leave. Rachel told them to go ahead, but she wanted to stay “and take care of Grandpa.” Brownie said that was the last pity party he had.

Around 2000, a series of health challenges hit the Brown family. Brownie had the main aorta replaced in a twelve-hour operation and Shirley had open heart surgery. Though the medical opinion was that Brownie would need 6 months to a year recovery time, Brownie returned to work after three months. His good friend, Paul Hatchet, came for him and took him to work for some time. Four years ago, Shirley faced breast cancer. August 31 the cancer returned and she has just finished the last round of chemotherapy.

Along with their children, Brownie and Shirley have grandchildren Rachel, Braeden, Jalyn, Jennifer, Brandy, Lacy, and Cody plus ten great-grandchildren in the family circle. Brownie comments about the wonderful Christmas they just had with 29 people in the house. “If my family’s all right, I’m all right,” says Brownie. With folks like the Brown family in the community, Brown County is all right.