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Remembering Glenn Browning

Published: Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 4:45 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 4:59 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON — Longtime Princeton businessman and community leader Glenn Browning is being remembered as a gentleman and an honest businessman who loved people and treated everyone the same.

Browning died Friday at the age of 99, just a couple weeks before his 100th birthday.

Perhaps best known for car dealerships, Browning actually began his career in education before opening a Ford car dealership in 1945 in Bradford. He moved his Ford dealership to Princeton in 1964 on West Peru Street and then built a new building in 1969, which is still home to the Ford dealership. In 1980, the Browning family bought the Chrysler franchise and purchased a showroom just a mile from the Ford dealership, also on Route 6 in Princeton.

On Monday, Browning’s daughter, Kay Browning, said her father was a hard worker, having worked three jobs in those early years to keep things going. He had taught school in a one-room school near Annawan and later went to Bradford where he was a school principal before going into the car business.

Though he was a hard worker, her dad was always there for his family, Kay said. He was loving and giving. She remembers the time when someone’s car broke down on Dec. 23 on their trip to Chicago. Her father let them have the family car so they could continue their trip because their car couldn’t be fixed right then. The man did come back and ended up buying a car from her father, but he (Glenn) told them that’s not why he gave them the family car, Kay said.

As her father had gotten older, whenever she went out somewhere, Kay said someone would ask her about her father and how he’s doing. She has always known that her father was a special person, and it’s nice to know so many other people knew that as well, she said.

When asked how she thinks her father would like to be remembered by the community, Kay said her father cared about people and was always honest with the public. Her father loved the Princeton community, she said.

“He always said he’s had such a good life here, and he knew the best people. Princeton was always good to him,” Kay said.

Her father died peacefully in his sleep on Friday, Kay said.

“I think he just wanted to be with the Lord and with Mother again,” Kay said.

On Monday, longtime friend and former employee Bob Gustafson said he met Glenn Browning when Browning had his car dealership in Bradford. At that time, Gustafson was parts manager for the Ford dealership in Princeton, and the two men would swap parts back and forth as needed. When Browning came to Princeton in 1964, Gustafson stayed with the Browning dealership in the parts department until he retired in 1994.

“You couldn’t have asked for a nicer guy to work for,” Gustafson said. “If you did something he didn’t like, he told you in private. If you did something he did like, he told you in public. That’s the kind of guy he was.”

Every morning, Browning would walk through the shop and talk to everyone, Gustafson said. When people came into the dealership, Browning didn’t stay in his office but went out to meet them.

When asked what he liked best about Glenn Browning, Gustafson didn’t hesitate in his answer.

“He was an honest man who treated everyone the same. You couldn’t find a nicer person,” Gustafson said.

Bud Bulthuis started with the Browning dealership in 2002, though he, of course, knew of Glenn Browning for much longer growing up in this area, Bulthuis said. Glenn Browning was retired at the time Bulthuis was hired, but Browning still came into the dealership. Browning especially liked attending the annual Christmas parties and always loved to get up and talk at the parties, Bulthuis said.

The things he admired most about Browning was the way he worked with people, Bulthuis said.

“In the car business, it’s hard to always please everyone, but in the eight years I was there, I never heard one single bad word about Glenn Browning,” Bulthuis said. “His word was gold.”

Bulthuis said he thinks Browning would want to be remembered just as he was, a much respected man, a good businessman, and someone who had a lot of good times and good friends here.

On Monday, Steve Samet remembered Browning as a true friend. When Samet first came to town in the mid-1970s, he befriended Browning and realized Browning had a great sense of community about him. Samet knew he wanted to learn some of those things from Browning, and Browning was always there to help him.

“If it wasn’t for Glenn, I might be somewhere else altogether today. I was a young kid when I came to Princeton, just 29, and I wanted to do the right thing, and Glenn gave me the kind of support that a young person needs just arriving in the community. If he saw I was going to walk off the cliff, he would tell me, and I listened to him,” Samet said.

As far as Browning’s impact on the community, Samet said Browning had a very realistic outlook on business. He knew what to say and what to do to benefit the community, he said.

“There’s no doubt in my mind, Princeton is a better place because Glenn Browning was here,” Samet said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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