Willard A. Brown, Jr., age 91 of Denver, Colorado, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on May 21, 2023. Born in Park Ridge, Illinois on September 11, 1931 to Elaine and Willard Brown during the Great Depression, he was the second of six children. He leaves a legacy of quick-witted humor, pure kindness and a generous spirit that will forever be cherished.
Bill was a proud Western Michigan University (WMU) alumnus where he played football all four years and earned his bachelor’s degree in business in 1953. Bill served two years in the U.S. Air Force after graduation before joining Arthur Rubloff & Co., a Chicago-based commercial real estate company, in 1955. His tenure with Rubloff spanned 40 years, starting as a trainee in the company's industrial brokerage division. In 1965, Bill became vice president and director of the division, and in 1973, he assumed the role of executive vice president. Bill was elected president and chief executive officer in 1980 and was named chairman in 1982.
Under Bill’s leadership, Rubloff underwent significant expansion in the 1980s and early 1990s. The company extended its reach nationwide with property management, real estate consulting and transaction services for corporate and institutional clients, managing a portfolio of over 50 million square feet of commercial property across the United States.
In 1996, Bill established Barrington Venture LLC, where he was elected chairman of the board. Barrington Venture is the owner and developer of The Garlands of Barrington, a nationally acclaimed retirement community.
Throughout his career, Bill was an active member of numerous organizations. He served as past president of the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and held prominent positions within Chicago's Economic Development Commission. Bill graciously shared his guidance as a member of various boards of directors, including Harris Bank Barrington, Ryan Insurance Group (now Aon), XL Datacomp (sold to StorageTek) and the advisory committee of the real estate program for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. In addition, he played an active role in fostering arts and culture in the community through his service on the board of advisors for the Barrington Area Arts Council.
His deep and committed involvement to his alma mater, WMU, never wavered throughout his life, earning him many accolades, including the 1998 dedication of the Bill Brown Alumni Football Center, a major renovation to the Broncos’ Waldo stadium that honors past players and coaches.
Bill met the love of his life, Margaret, while both working at Rubloff. They married in 1960 in Homewood, Illinois and had three children. Living in Palatine until 1977, they then moved to Barrington, Illinois where they spent almost 25 years before splitting time between Harbor Springs, Michigan and Denver, Colorado. Bill found immense joy in his role as grandfather and great grandfather, sharing his wisdom, humorous anecdotes and comical sketches that never failed to bring about a smile or giggle.
Golfing with friends and family held a special place in his heart, and he dedicated himself to the sport, even serving as the former president of the Barrington Hills Country Club. Bill, in addition to being a passionate golfer, had a profound love for cars. When he wasn't playing golf, he could reliably be spotted at the nearby car dealership, exchanging his lightly used vehicle for a fresh one.
His treasured memories involved traveling the world with his wife and family, as well as taking his loved ones and friends on excursions aboard his boat, Sheer Bliss. He and his first mate, Margaret, captained voyages throughout the Great Lakes, through the Erie Canal and long passages up and down the Eastern Seaboard and Intracoastal Waterway. Their love of the Colorado mountains made them long-time vacation residents of Snowmass starting in 1976, when they built their first of two homes. They shared their love of skiing and summer activities in the Roaring Fork Valley for over 25 years.
Bill's affinity for Shakespeare and poetry was also widely known, and he delighted in reciting verses from "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" to an always willing audience. He also had an elaborate collection of limericks up his sleeve, ready to uplift down spirits.
Above all, Bill left an enduring impression on everyone he encountered. He loved making sure that anyone he met, whether it was a stranger or a longtime friend, was left laughing and having a better day.
He will be forever missed and celebrated by his wife of 62 years, Margaret; his two living siblings, Harvey (Joanne) Brown and Jill Brown; three children, Suzanne Slade (David), Stacy Brown (Elizabeth), and Peter Brown (Katy); seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Local Colorado family and friends are invited to celebrate Bill’s life with an open house on Friday, June 2nd from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Directors Room inside the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, across from Boettcher Concert Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex in downtown Denver. An additional celebration will be planned closer to his original homes in Michigan and Illinois later in the year. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his honor to the Western Michigan University Scholarship Fund: http://www.wmualumni.org/brownscholarship