Ask Lawrence Brown why he and his wife, Elizabeth, established an endowment to support professional development for WSU Extension educators, and the 95-year-old Cougar’s answer is immediate and to the point.
“Payback!” says the former WSU Extension county director. “Truly, we owe the life that we’ve had together, the life that has been so richly blessed, to the profession of WSU Extension service.”
For 38 years, the Browns served WSU Extension—he in various capacities for four counties, she as a 4-H leader and supportive partner. It was the anchor to a life well lived, they say.
Upon graduation in 1941, Lawrence knew the career he wanted to pursue. “Number 1 from Day 1 was extension service,” he says.
The couple’s first extension assignment was in Yakima County. The starting salary was $141.67 a month. Just 10 months later, Lawrence was serving as the Ferry County extension director. After two years, they moved to Franklin County, and settled in for 11 years. Lawrence took a brief hiatus from extension during World War II to complete a two-year mission as a military intelligence officer, earning the rank of first lieutenant. He then transferred to Lincoln County where he served as extension director as well as livestock specialist. His career culminated with election to president of the Washington State Extension Agents and Specialists Association and winning a National Association Distinguished Service Award.
In 1966, the Browns purchased 240 acres in the Colbert area and became farmers in their own right. Retirement allowed them to build a house on the property and work to develop “this rundown farm” into producing grain, hay, and timber. They were awarded the Conservation District Wildlife Farm of the Year Award in 2006.
The inevitable process of navigating old age forced the Browns to sell their home and move into the Rockwood at Hawthorne Retirement center in Spokane. They still oversee farming on the Colbert property and have willed “that special place” to their three children.
– By Kathy Barnard