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Funeral Services for Well-Known Watauga Native Mack Brown Held Today at Laurel Springs Baptist Church

By Paul T. Choate

Mack Brown outside of his home in 2010. Photo by Ken Ketchie

May 15, 2012. Mack Brown, one of the most well-known figures in the High Country, passed away on Saturday morning. Funeral services were conducted today at the Laurel Springs Baptist Church in Deep Gap. Rev. Brent Bolick, Rev. Sherrill Wellborn and Rev. Homer Greene officiated the service. Entombment of the local legend followed at the Mount Lawn Mausoleum.

According to the Austin and Barnes Funeral Home, over 100 people were in attendance for the service. There were more cars — many of them likely Chevrolets — than parking spaces available at the Laurel Springs Baptist Church and cares were lined up anywhere they could find space on the lawn.

Mack Donald Brown, Sr., 84, was born November 15, 1927 in Watauga County, the son of the late Murrary Daniel and Florence Vannoy Brown. Brown made a name for himself in Boone by selling cars at multiple dealerships that he owned over the years.

“In high school, I started trading junk cars,” Brown said in 2010. “If I bought one, I’d keep it a few months, fix it up and sell it again.”

Brown grew up a mechanic and purchased his first car dealership in 1949. Over the years, he built Mack Brown Chevrolet Pontiac Buick GMC, located on Highway 421 South, into one of the largest dealerships in the area. Brown purchased a Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge dealership in Sept. 1951, a Pontiac-GMC dealership in March of 1972, a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealership in March of 1975 and moved them all under one building in March of 1978.

Almost nine years ago, Brown was slowed by a stroke, but continued to come into work almost every day for years after. Folders near his desk in his office were filled with records of customers he had for decades.

The dealership Brown (center) owned has employed members of his family too, including sons Kent (second from left) and Johnny (fourth from left) and Kent's sons Jason (far left) and Josh (far right). Photo by Ken Ketchie

“I go up there every day if I’m able,” Brown said. “I go and meet people and sell a car once in a while. We have a lot of old customers. That’s what keeps you in business, especially in a small area like this.”

Brown also possessed one of the oldest family heirlooms around. Weathered and worn, a strip of paper tells of the history of Brown’s family. Placed between the pages of the family Bible, a receipt dated 1868 and signed by the sheriff, tells of Brown’s great grandfather purchasing over 600 acres of land near Deep Gap. He paid $5.10 for taxes.

Brown and his wife, Willa, moved onto the family’s land 12 years ago after living in the same home near the Boone Golf Club for 20 years. Located off Highway 421 just behind and up the hill from the Laurel Springs Baptist Church, the beautiful home sits atop a ridge with a view of the mountains around Boone, including Grandfather Mountain.

Brown is survived by his wife of 62 years; Willa Jean Norris Brown, three sons; Jerry Brown and wife Laura of Boone, Johnny Brown and wife Vickie of Ferguson, and Kent Brown and wife Angie of Boone, eight grandchildren; Thomas Brown, Mackie Lee Tucker and husband David, Leanna Brown, all of Boone, Kristie Brown of Lewisville, Daniel Brown of Ferguson, Josh Brown and wife Melissa, Jason Brown, all of Boone, and Bonnie Schumacher and husband Erik of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and four great grandchildren. In addition to his parents he was preceded in death by one son; Mack Donald Brown, Jr., and one brother; Bill Brown.

Brown was a member of Laurel Springs Baptist Church. He was a Mason, a member of Ashlar Lodge and a Shriner.

The family received friends Tuesday prior to the service from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Laurel Springs Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Laurel Springs Baptist Church Building Fund, 7504 US Hwy 421 South, Deep Gap, North Carolina, 28618. Online condolences may be sent to Brown family at austinandbarnesfuneralhome.com.

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