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County Commission candidate dies

May 06, 2006|By ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

Sonny Brown, a lifelong Berkeley County resident and the lone candidate on the Democratic ticket for County Commission, died Friday at the age of 58.

His full name was Melvin L. Brown Jr., but most people knew him as Sonny Brown, the name that will appear on Tuesday's primary ballot.

Brown, who owned and operated a successful real estate company in Martinsburg and was a familiar face on sign and billboard advertisements throughout the region, was remembered Friday by friends for his commitment to service in the community.

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"If he could do something for you, he would do it. If there was something you needed and it was within his power, he would do it," said DeRhonda Derden, Brown's RE/MAX Real Estate Group manager. "Sonny took care of everybody."

On Friday, Brown's family released a statement to the Morning Herald: "His family and friends are devastated at this unexpected loss. He took care of all of us. He took care of the community. He always had a kind word and said something to make us laugh."

Those who knew Brown both personally and professionally agreed.

"He would go tremendously out of his way to make sure you were happy," said contractor Doug Copenhaver, who said he worked with Brown on real estate projects and as an official at basketball and softball games.

Steve Catlett, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board, remembered Brown for his years of dedication to Berkeley County schools' athletic programs and to the county parks' recreational programs.

"He was one of those that was always there every year helping to ref the games," said Catlett, adding Brown was known to rearrange his schedule at a moment's notice to offer help.

John Fink, chairman of the Berkeley County Democratic Executive Committee, called Brown, one of six Berkeley County residents seeking a seat on the three-member county commission, the party's model candidate.

"Sonny was the perfect person to do this," Fink said. "His death has created a huge void for us."

The lone Democrat among a field of Republicans, Brown, during an interview last month, expressed support for increasing funding for Berkeley County's parks and recreation program, and voiced concern that the county's high rate of growth was leaving behind longtime residents.

In a statement released Friday, fellow candidate Bill Stubblefield praised Brown for his work in the community.

"Bonnie and I express our sadness over the untimely death of Sonny Brown and offer our deepest sympathy to his wife, Tamara, and the Brown family," Stubblefield said. "Sonny was an energetic business and civic leader for many years who devoted his life to the betterment of our Berkeley County community. He will be missed by those who knew him and those who depended upon him for inspiration and leadership."

Brown's name will remain on the ballot Tuesday, according to Ben Beakes, chief of staff for West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Beakes said the county's Democratic Executive Committee has 21 days to appoint a new candidate for the general election ballot.

Fink called on area Democrats to turn out to vote for Brown Tuesday.

"It would be a great tribute for his friends and family and supporters to come out and exercise their constitutional rights and check a box beside his name," Fink said. "We want to encourage people to support him."

Brown is survived by his wife, Tamara; two children; and one grandchild.

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