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SALUTE TO NAN BROWN: a Hall of Famer in her own right

The first lady of The Messenger sports department was so much more than just that

—Messenger file photo Nan Brown (front, center) with her family during the Bob Brown Press Box induction ceremony at Dodger Stadium in 2015.

Sports journalists keep odd, often dysfunctional hours.

Nights. Weekends. Holidays. Never really “off” the clock. Always on the road.

As we research, conduct interviews, cover games, keep records or put the paper to bed and walk out of the office in the early-morning hours on a “nightly” basis, our families play the waiting game. Supper gets cold. Kids’ activities, events and volunteer groups move on without us. The athletes, coaches and programs we follow often take precedent over what’s happening in our own backyard.

No one knew this better than Fort Dodge’s Nan Brown, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 89. While her husband, Bob, was gaining notoriety and racking up both awards and recognition as The Messenger’s legendary sports editor — a Hall of Fame career that spanned five decades of achievement — Nan was holding down the fort at home. Four years before his tenure began at our downtown office, Bob married Nan. That union lasted for nearly nearly 60 years until Bob died in 2012, and the couple had four children: Rick, Randy, Roger and Renee.

Bob once told me, during a conversation after my son was born in 2005, that he’d traveled over a million miles during his time as sports editor in Fort Dodge. I remember being both enamored and a little intimidated by that number, and what it could potentially mean for my own family if I continued to follow in Bob’s footsteps.

Bob wasn’t aware of this, but I often sought advice from Nan about the “other” side of the profession just as much as I talked shop with him. I would run into Nan around town or at a game every once in a while, and we’d discuss the job without mentioning the work itself. I always welcomed the break from sports and the questions she would ask about Amanda and the kids or words of wisdom she’d share. Not necessarily cautionary tales, per se — just ways to keep my own life in balance.

I will forever remind myself that none of this would be possible without my family’s patience, unconditional love and understanding. They put up with a lot and let even more go without resenting what I do or why I do it. On paper, it doesn’t make a lot of sense: trying to juggle the peculiar life of a sports editor with a wife and four kids at home. The abnormal with the normal. Like mixing fantasy with reality.

My perspective — both in what I want from this profession and what to avoid — stems from a blend of both Bob and Nan’s point of view. Bob had an immense drive and passion for the job itself and the anatomy of the Messenger area. He displayed a devotion and loyalty to our readers that really stuck with me.

Nan’s role was every bit as critical, though. If she couldn’t keep the train moving at home, Bob’s accomplishments would have never seen the light of day. I always took that to heart, and will still reset accordingly if I find myself concentrating a little too much on the work itself.

Nan Brown was so much more than a sports editor’s wife. She was a role model, a volunteer, a leader, a friend and even a second mother to many in Fort Dodge for nearly 70 years.

To me, she was also a reminder of just how much I should appreciate the sacrifices my wife and four kids make back home as I’m out chasing the next big story.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. Reach him via email at sports@messengernews.net, or on Twitter @MessengerSports

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