Michael Brown raised his children alone after their mother passed away at a young age, and they remember a man who took them to see Dream Girls on Broadway and the Statute of Liberty. He was well-liked and active in the community.
Most of all, they think of him as a big, strong man, a railroad man by profession and a baseball umpire at heart.
He called games for decades, from Cavalier Manor Little League to the Pony League World Series. Officials from high school and college teams asked for him by name.
Before his diagnosis, he was active and didn’t dwell on his health, but he got his annual physical and always got a clean bill of health. Like most men, once he heard everything was “OK,” he was out the door before the doctor could recommend lifestyle changes.
He had a colonoscopy in 2003 at age 50, right on schedule for him. The doctor removed a polyp or two and recommended a re-screening in a few years. In October 2007, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He pushed ahead like he pushed through life. The next few years were a blur of surgery, chemotherapy and scans. Michael continued calling games, and he was even declared cancer-free for a year, but then it returned.
In August 2011, Michael declined. It was difficult for his children to witness their big, strong father wither away to a frail shadow of himself. When he died in February 2012, the children lost their last elder and a mentor they cannot replace.
The Brown children ask themselves many questions, hoping to help others: They wonder, was it his diet? They think he should have eaten more vegetables and colon-healthy fiber. Was it heredity? (They don’t think so, given his parents’ advanced ages.) Did he miss or ignore important symptoms? They think he might have, because he complained of acid reflux and back pain. For that reason, they encourage people to pay better attention to their bodies, see their doctor about symptoms and to get their first colonoscopy at the right age.