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Published: Saturday, 9/25/2004

Automobile dealer had generous spirit

Willis Edmund Brown, Jr., president of Brown Motor Sales, died of apparent heart failure yesterday in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. He was 82.

Mr. Brown was a past president of the Toledo Automobile Dealers Association and a board member of Huntington National Bank for 20 years.

He donated to nature conservancy groups, churches, and area Republican clubs.

"He was very personable and approachable, and that made him a great salesperson," said his wife of nearly 17 years, Mary Anne. "He also had a generous spirit, and that made him contribute to the community."

A lifetime Toledoan, he graduated from DeVilbiss High School in 1939 and from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1943 with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

During World War II, Mr. Brown was a quartermaster with the Army in Europe from 1943 until 1946, when he was honorably discharged. Once back home, he became a salesman at Brown Motor Sales, an auto dealership founded by his father, the late Willis E. Brown, Sr., in 1946, and married Marian Annette Brown in 1947. She died in 1987.

Over the years, Mr. Brown rose through the ranks to become the company's president in the mid-1960s.

Surviving are his wife, Mary Anne; daughters, Valerie Hendricks and Dianne Brown; son, Willis E. III; stepsons, Christopher Bailey and Craig Bailey; stepdaughter Clarissa LaRue, and eight grandchildren.

Visitation will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. tomorrow at the J. Jeffrey Fretti Funeral Home. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in Epworth United Methodist Church.

The family suggests tributes to Miami University's division of university advancement or the Little Traverse Conservancy.

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