"One of Vail’s true American heroes"
Vail CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – “Came for the winter … “
Many are familiar with this Vail Valley, Colorado, slogan – many of us originally came to Vail, Colorado, for its renowned winters. But Vail did not become a world-class resort on its own.
For 25 years, William R. “Sarge” Brown carved the resort into near perfection as manager for Vail Mountain. He helped create the Vail winter that has brought so many of us to the valley.
On Saturday, Brown’s family, friends and admirers gathered at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail to celebrate his many accomplishments and contributions.
“He did more for the Vail Resort than we can ever thank him for,” said John Garnsey, co-president of Vail Resorts. “Sarge’s excellence made the Vail Resort what it is today.”
Friends recalled the advances Brown made in trail maintenance, snowmaking and grooming for Vail Mountain and the ski industry.
He ran the mountain with military precision and a determination to make Vail great, friends said. His forceful leadership encouraged all to strive for the same, even if he had to push a little harder sometimes.
“Even till his last days, he would call at 5 in the morning and ask, ‘Are your feet on the ground?'” Garnsey said.
“Today we all have three things in common,” the Rev. Thomas Grey said. “We all have shined shoes, we don’t have any strings hanging from our clothing, and we are ready to ‘get with the program.'”
Brown was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division during World War II and returned to active duty during the Korean War. In his military career, he was awarded a slew of medals, including multiple Silver Stars, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts.
Bob Parker – a Vail ski legend, a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division and Brown’s longtime friend – suggested that Brown should have received a Congressional Medal of Honor.
According to Parker, the 10th Mountain Division was Brown’s strongest influence next to his wife, Rouene Brown.
Those who served under Brown respected him and admired his firm leadership. During Saturday’s ceremony, they shared many fond memories of his relentless push for perfection.
Peter Greene, of the Mountain Cold Weather Training Command, remembers Brown’s wake-up calls.
“With a flick of his hand, he would flip our cots,” Greene said. “He loved it.”
Bill Semos, who went to school under Brown’s leadership at Dartmouth, also spoke of his morning routine. He would wake them wearing polished shoes, pressed pants and no shirt, baring his battle scars.
Still, Brown had a tender side, offering support for those who were struggling.
“He was one the the most thoughtful and considerate men in the world to those who believed in him,” Parker said.
“What so many people missed was that soft side,” Vail Mayor Pro-Temp Andy Daly said.
Brown’s close friend Susie Horner remembers his stories about carrying wounded soldiers on his shoulders and remembers his phenomenal cooking.
“He had a nickname for almost everyone,” Rouene Brown said. She was married to Sarge Brown for almost forty years.
Not least of all, Sarge Brown was a world-class skier. Most who skied with him regarded it as a thing of beauty, including Larry Buendorf, chief security officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee. His name is in both the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame and the National Ski Hall of Fame.
“I miss him. I love him,” Buendorf said.
“He’s one of Vail’s true American heroes,” Daly said.