Brown Funeral Home co-owner Charles M. Brown dies at 85

March 25, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Charles M. Brown
Submitted photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Charles M. Brown, co-owner of Brown Funeral Home in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, died Sunday morning at age 85, said Bob Fields, co-owner of the three funeral homes.

“He was really a good role model and a good man,” said Fields, who became co-owner of the business in 1986. “He was always making sure we had time to spend with our families.”

Brown Funeral Home has operations in Martinsburg, Inwood and Charles Town, W.Va., Fields said.

“Pretty much, the funeral home was his life,” Fields said.

Fields worked with Brown for 30 years, from the time Fields began working for the funeral home part time while in college.

“In the funeral business, nothing is the same and it keeps you humble,” Brown told The Herald-Mail in 2000.

Brown began working in the family business in 1947 after serving in the Navy during World War II, Brown said in the interview.

Back then, most viewings were held in the home and it was Brown’s job after school to move the chairs, he said.

The business dates to 1885, when Brown’s grandfather, also Charles M. Brown, was a carpenter who started his own undertaking business in Hedgesville, W.Va., according to Brown Funeral Home’s website at

After the death of the founder, the younger Charles Brown’s father, Howard K. Brown, moved the funeral home from Hedgesville to West King Street in Martinsburg in 1924, Brown said.

Charles M. Brown, who had not worked at the funeral home for approximately the past four years as his health declined, was born in an upstairs bedroom at the Martinsburg funeral home, Fields said.

The family lived in the funeral home at the time, Fields said. When a funeral occurred, family members moved things around downstairs, where the living room was, to accommodate the funeral, he said.

Charles M. Brown graduated from Martinsburg High School in 1944, according to the company’s website.

In addition to graduating from West Virginia University and the Cincinnati College of Embalming, Brown served with the U.S. Navy for 22 months until June 1947, according to the company’s website.

Brown served as a seaman, 1st class, aboard the USS Topeka, according to his extended obituary. The USS Topeka was a light cruiser that served in the Pacific Fleet, according to the USS Topeka Reunion Association’s website at

Fields said Brown was heavily involved with community groups over the years, but Fields didn’t want to single out any of the groups for fear he’d slight another.

Brown’s wife, Doris Lee Gall Brown, and his brother, Howard K. Brown, died in 2011, Fields said.

Brown is survived by his daughter, Laura Brown Cragon, and son-in-law Stephen D. Cragon, of Alabama; three granddaughters; and several cousins.

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