An Abbotsford man who served 12 years as a BC Supreme Court justice died on July 19 at the age of 75.
Neill Brown retired from the courts in May 2020 after having served as a justice from 2008 to 2012 in New Westminster and then being transferred to Chilliwack in 2012.
Brown was born and raised in Kamloops, where his parents’ families had lived since the early 1900s. He left Kamloops to study at the University of B.C., where he earned a bachelor of arts in 1970 and a bachelor of laws in 1974.
He returned to Kamloops to work as a brakeman for Canadian Pacific Railways during the summers and met Joan, a graduate nurse who was raised in Nelson.
Brown had a distinguished law career in Vancouver and Abbotsford, where he and Joan raised their family – Christoper, Elizabeth and Joan – on their farm.
He became an expert in personal injury, specializing in brain injuries, and also became an accomplished mediator.
Brown’s colleague Justice Heather Holmes said in a tribute to him that “his appointment to the court was a popular one with the Abbotsford community,” where he had served on several boards and ran for federal political nomination in 1984.
“As a lawyer, he was known for his formidable preparation, his strong interest in writing, and his generous mentoring, as well as for his unusual office premises on his farm where he would pick apples for his staff and clients,” Holmes said.
“As a judge, Neill was principled and selfless, devoted to the needs of the individuals in his courtroom and determined to make a difference for them. As a colleague he was thoughtful and kind.”
Brown was also talented in the field of arts – particularly literature, music and watercolour painting. His musical skills included singing, playing the organ and piano, and composing music.
As a husband and father, his family describes him as “steady, patient, kind, and funny.”
“He loved to laugh and tell puns, and never missed an opportunity to teach about anything he deemed important,” they said.
Brown was a devout Christian and raised his family at St. James Anglican Church in Vancouver.
In later years he sang in the church choir and played the organ at St. Joachim and St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Aldergrove.
Brown loved to ride his big lawn mower on the farm. He and Joan planted a vineyard in 2005 and “he would proudly discuss the grapes and the small winery that eventually developed into Clearbrook Vineyards,” his family said.
In lieu of flowers, the family states that donations may be made to the street outreach program at St. James Anglican Church or Cyrus Centre.