Daughter remembers Brown as ‘very caring soul’
By Sue Tiffin
Nichole Erickson wants people to know her father was a good man.
The daughter of Robert Brown, whose body was found in a Highland Street home on June 18, the victim of an apparent homicide, said he was a “very kind” and “extremely genuine” man.
“I can honestly say that when he looked at someone and said I will do anything for you, he meant it,” she said. “He was definitely the type of man where, if the only thing he had was the shirt on his back, he would give it to somebody that he cared a lot for.”
Erickson said her dad was born in Toronto and grew up in Hampton, Ont.
“He was always smiling,” she said. “He was never someone you could never get to smile, he was always smiling and he was always a great listener so when you had issues you could take it to him and he would listen. He would give you good advice.”
Throughout his life he worked in several positions, she said, including as a window washer when he was younger and then on the oil rigs in Alberta, where he had an accident that left him with a metal rod inserted into his leg, pain, and unable to work.
He had eight children – the oldest is 32, and the youngest is 17, and 10 grandchildren. Though Erickson didn’t have a lot of contact with her dad growing up, she reached out to him when she was a teenager to try to connect. When they met at West Hill Collegiate in Toronto, Erickson said it felt like meeting an old friend again after a number of years, as though no time had passed. Though four of Brown’s children were adopted and have not yet been located, Erickson said he spent quality time with each of the four children he had contact with as adults, prior to his death.
“He spent a period of the last 11 years getting close with each and every one of us, so we all have a different side of him that we know, we all have a different story we can share, but we all can stand here and say regardless of [any] bad decisions he would definitely put us first,” said Erickson.
It was in 2015 that he moved to Haliburton.
“He ended up just moving to Haliburton because he wanted that small community life instead of being in a big city,” she said. “He kind of just wanted to escape and be with nature. He was definitely a nature lover.”
Though Brown enjoyed Haliburton, where he could see the lake from his house, Erickson said he did want to live closer to family.
“He liked the fact that it was more of a community feeling rather than a city feeling but I think the distance between him and his family was getting to him and he just wanted to be closer to them.”
Erickson said that Brown had experienced addiction throughout his life. After his death, she saw signs in his house that he had likely relapsed into addiction again. Though typically someone who lived in a very clean house – which she saw in photos in January – she said at the time of his death he was living in conditions that were unkempt.
“He was honestly a really good guy,” she said. “He made some very poor decisions in his life, and ultimately, I’m not going to lie, I think that the poor decisions led to his death. But I will be the first one to stand here and say through all of the mistakes, he would be the first one to say yeah, I screwed up and I’m sorry.”
Erickson said she doesn’t want his challenges with addiction to be what people remember.
“We all make mistakes in life, right, nobody’s perfect,” she said. “And if his mistakes are going to be how people remember him, that’s not how I want people to remember him. My father deserves to be honoured. He would treat anybody with respect. There were people in his life where, when they died, he would be the first to say, yeah, they had moments where they screwed up but that’s not who they are. I feel like I’m doing the best that I can to show people that everybody, regardless of their history and regardless of their mistakes, deserves to be honoured. I believe there is good in everybody.”
She said she believes in the theme of Luke Bryan’s song, “Most People Are Good.”
“Everybody has a heart, everybody has feelings, everybody has morals,” she said. “They may differ from mine and the way that I do things but every single person on this earth regardless of how they lived or regardless of how they died deserves to be honoured by what made them a person and not what eventually took their life.”
A memorial has been held for Brown, which Erickson said friends and family attended. At that memorial, she was able to meet her dad’s longtime friend, and give him a framed photo of the time he and Brown met musician Jeff Healey.
“You could tell [Dad] loved that photo and it was a memory he cherished,” she said. “You could tell that was something he definitely honoured.”
Erickson said it has been hard to hear rumours and negative discussion about her dad in the days after his death, even at local establishments while she is in town.
“The bottom line is that my dad was a very caring soul and a very genuine man,” said Erickson. “I think that side of him really needs to be shared, because a lot of people are just looking at how he died, and the state of what the house was used for in the last six months instead of who my father was the last 49 years.”
She hopes that by speaking about how his addiction affected his life, his story might help others facing the same challenges.
“Your life can be anything you want it to be and in a matter of seconds, one bad decision can change it,” she said. “If I can take everything my father has gone through in the last year and use it as a life lesson to anybody, I mean, one wrong decision can change someone’s life, for better or for worse.”
As part of the ongoing investigation, police have arrested and charged Norman Hart with second-degree murder. Further details of the investigation have not been released.
A celebration of life is being planned in Oshawa, tentatively to be held July 13. For further details, contact Nichole at firstname.lastname@example.org.