Lionel Brown, left, and Marjorie Crocombe, the first two graduates from USP Cook Islands marched together again in 2018 at the 50th anniversary graduation. Photo: SUPPLIED/18102515
Lionel Brown, a fun-loving teacher, storyteller and leader to the countless number of students who passed through his classrooms, and a mentor to his work colleagues, passed away in Auckland Hospital on December 7, 2021 at the age of 82.
Because of the travel restrictions and border closures
due to Covid-19, his family were unable to return their father home earlier.
One of his daughters Leilani, arrived in Rarotonga on
Saturday with her father who will be buried next to his late wife Annie today in
Brown was regarded by many as a tireless educator who
dedicated his career of 56 years to Cook Island’s education. He retired from
active service as a relief teacher at the age of 77.
In 1968, Brown was the recipient of a scholarship at
the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji and graduated in 1971 with a
Bachelor of Arts in Education and English.
Brown was one of the first two USP graduates from the
Cook Islands along with Dr Marjorie Crocombe. He was also the first president
of the USP Student’s Association.
Brown was a friend in sport, a well-respected member
of the Cook Islands community; a loving husband, father and grandfather.
Brown was born in Ureia, Aitutaki on February 6,1939,
the son of the late Albert Brown, (former Scottish naval officer and general
manager of the merchant store, AB Donald’s) and Virgine (nee) Ta’aroatua Brown
from the island of Tahiti. He was better known in Aitutaki as Naero.
In his formative years, he grew up on the islands of
Manihiki and Aitutaki, and later attended New Plymouth Boys High school in New
In 1958-1959, he trained at Ardmore Teacher’s Training
College in Papakura; in 1960, he took up his first probationary teaching
position at Homai Primary School (NZ).
Brown returned to the Cook Islands in 1962 to teach at
Avarua Primary School. In 1963, he taught Form 2 at Tereora College and moved
to Arorangi Primary School in 1964.
From 1965 – 1967, he taught Form 3 to Form 5 Geography/History,
Maths, English, Maori Language and Culture, Physical Education and Music at
Tereora College. Also, in 1967, he had a brief attachment with the Cook Islands
In 1969, he spent four months with Curriculum
Development, preparing and printing Grades 1-3 Maori Language Readers, Books
While at USP in Fiji, he prepared the Pacific History
course for Diploma in Education for teachers in the Pacific region,
implementing the course through the USP Extension Centre in 1972. He also lectured in World Geography to
students on the Fiji campus in the Diploma of Education course.
In 1974, he briefly taught at Tereora College before
he was appointed acting Inspector and then Inspector of Schools until March
Brown was then appointed Director of Primary and Pre
School Education, inspecting staff and the maintenance of schools with a brief one-month
stint as acting Secretary of Education in 1978.
The teaching position that most endeared Brown to many
of his students was the 10 years he spent as the principal of Avatea Primary
School from 1978 to 1988.
Former Avatea, now Nikao Primary School, principal Teina
Etches (1998-2008) had worked with Brown since her early school teaching days
“He got on with everyone - the students and teachers,
he was caring to the students and always ready to help in any area and to share
his knowledge with other teachers. If you needed help you could approach him,
he was a very caring person and very professional,” Etches said.
During this period, Brown also served as the chairman
of the Primary Schools Sports Committee and Primary Schools Culture Committee.
From 1990, he was seconded to the Ministerial
Implementation Team as deputy chairman to review the education of the Cook
In his final years as educator from 1991 to 1999, he
served as the acting, deputy and Secretary of Education.
However, after a short two-months of retirement from
full-time service, he went back to teaching as a relief teacher for another 17
years, finally retiring in 2016.
Brown endeared himself to many, that he cared enough
to remember everyone by their name and to ask after them. His legacy will live
on through the successes of his students and for many, he will be remembered as
“possibly” their best teacher ever.
His family wish to acknowledge the kindness shown to
him in the effort to get him the best health care possible in the final weeks
of his life.
His daughter Leilani said: “Bless all those who went
out of their way to come together when help was needed, and to all those who
sent in their heart-felt messages. Without community, we could not have managed.”
A service will be held for Brown at 10.30am today at the
St. Mary’s Parish in Arorangi followed by the burial in Arorangi (cemetery
opposite LMS Church of the Latter-Day Saints).