From a young age, CIA officer knew his purpose

Mourners recall Bolton man killed in blast

The remains of Harold Brown Jr. were carried down the steps of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church yesterday. The remains of Harold Brown Jr. were carried down the steps of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church yesterday. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
By Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / January 10, 2010

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CLINTON - They called for peace, prayed for the speedy return of troops fighting abroad, and asked the mourners weeping for Harold Brown Jr. to remember him as a patriot who wanted to make the world a better, safer place for his children.

At his funeral Mass yesterday, relatives of the CIA officer, who along with six other agents was killed Dec. 30 in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan, focused not on the circumstances around Brown’s violent death. Instead they recalled what the 37-year-old Bolton man was trying to accomplish in a job he knew was fraught with risks.

“He understood from a young age . . . who he was, what he should do, and what he should be giving his life for,’’ said the Rev. Thomas Walsh, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, where at least 1,500 people gathered to pay their respects for the father of three young children.

Walsh married Brown and his wife, Janet, at the Gothic-style church near Brown’s hometown. During his homily, Walsh recalled he was hesitant to marry the young couple. They were fresh out of college, had little money, and no clue where they would live because Brown had just joined the Army and did not know where he might be stationed. But Brown persuaded the priest to give them a chance. “ ‘We will very work hard to make this a good marriage,’ ’’ Brown promised Walsh.

After their wedding, Walsh remembered how the ceremony moved the church’s longtime organist, who rarely remarked on weddings. “ ‘That was very, very special,’’ the organist told the priest. “ ‘They are a very, very special couple.’ ’’

During a eulogy for her husband, Janet Brown told the congregation that the couple’s favorite movie was “It’s a Wonderful Life,’’ which they faithfully watched every year to remind them of how blessed they were. “Harold Brown, it was a wonderful life,’’ she said. “I love you now and forever. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for being my everything.’’

Yesterday’s funeral drew white-gloved uniformed firefighters and police from neighboring towns including Stow, Sterling, and Lancaster. Veterans from the American Legion stood at attention at the back of the church to salute the ark, the glass and cherry wood case that held the remains of Brown, whose body was cremated. Uniformed servicemen and women wearing shiny, black leather shoes ignored the cold and snow as they stood sentry near the ark, first at the church, then later, at West Cemetery in Bolton, where the remains were laid to rest.

Dignitaries such as Governor Deval Patrick, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and US Senator Paul Kirk sat at the front of the church, near Janet Brown and her two eldest children, 12-year-old Paul and 10-year-old Lena. The couple also have a 2-year-old daughter, Claire, who was not at the funeral.

Throughout the service, Janet Brown held onto Paul and Lena, rubbing their shoulders and arms and stroking their hair. During the eulogy, she recalled how her husband loved camping and talking about World War II planes with Paul, had “20 different types of kisses’’ for Lena, and loved dancing to the Black Eyed Peas with Claire.

Her husband, she said, was a “an American hero’’ who loved his job and the people with whom it brought him into contact. When he was serving in Bosnia, he collected supplies for a local school. In Afghanistan, he gave clothes to children and their families, Janet Brown said.

During the Mass, Walsh said he firmly believes Brown improved the world. “I have no doubt . . . someplace, somewhere far away where Harold has been, there are people doing something wonderful and have had a change of heart about us Americans,’’ he said.

At the cemetery, seven Army Honor Guard members fired three volleys and presented Janet Brown with the American flag, the ceremonial tradition at military funerals. But the duty of playing “Taps’’ did not fall to buglers. Instead it went to Paul and Lena, who softly rendered the melody on a saxophone and a clarinet.

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