FORT SMITH — Heart to Heart Pregnancy Support Center held a Christmas open house in memory of Dr. Doug Brown Dec. 8.
From 2003–2017, Dr. Doug and Carol Brown’s open house had filled the baby supply closet of Heart to Heart with van loads of diapers, wipes and sundries for infants and toddlers up to 3 years old.
The highlight of the Browns’ open house was Dr. Brown’s enormous collection of Santa Clauses, accumulated over 25 years, displayed in every corner of their home. The Santas, and the penguins that flanked the pathway to his home, were so numerous that it took weeks of unpacking, with the help of Boy Scouts and other youth, to turn each room into a Christmas wonderland.
“Doug was very good with kids,” a family friend Susan Pillar said. “He was a Silver Beaver, earning the Boy Scouts’ highest volunteer award. Every year the Scouts would come to put up decorations and take them down, and he made a very generous donation to the troop.”
The Browns would spend weeks cooking and baking for the party, and Dr. Brown, a retired psychologist, always made his legendary carrot cake.
“After he became ill, Doug would do as much as he could to cook and make sure everything was just right,” Carol said, “even when he couldn’t indulge anymore.”
On the day of the party, as guests came, dropping boxes and boxes of diapers under the tree, Brown, dressed in a bright red sweater, smiling and rosy–cheeked, was the best Santa of all, laughing and joking and gathering gifts for the babies who were so dear to his heart.
“Doug served on the board of Heart to Heart for many years,” board member Barbara Anhalt said, “first on the advisory board, and later on the board of directors. He served on the board when Heart to Heart moved from its old headquarters on Greenwood Avenue to its new home on South 16th St. in 2011. He was always willing to do whatever was needed to help the program grow.”
The new building, donated by retired dentist Dr. Jerry Wagner, was four times as large, allowing Heart to Heart to expand its parenting classes, available in English and Spanish, maternity clothing and baby supply closet and counseling services.
In 2009, the Browns erected a monument in memory of the unborn child on the grounds of Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Barling, situated near a bench where people can reflect and pray. The monument includes an image of Jesus with the little children and is engraved with Luke 18:16 and the words “Lost to the World … Cherished in Heaven.”
Dr. Brown died June 1, 2018, at age 78.
This year’s open house was hosted by Glen and Susan Fritsche, a current Heart to Heart board member.
“We met Doug and Carol many years ago at adoration,” Susan Fritsche said. “We had the 3 a.m. Wednesday hour and the Browns had the 4 a.m. hour, and we became good friends. We served on the board together before he passed away.”
Candice Caputo, executive director of Heart to Heart, said she is grateful that the holiday open house is continuing.
“The numbers of mothers and children who need our assistance continues to grow, but our donations are about the same. We are so grateful for the donations we receive from the open house each year,” she said.
The Fritsches displayed several of Dr. Brown’s Santas at the open house.
“Doug was an intellect, a tremendous personality, a force larger than life,” his friend Shaun McCaffrey said. “I’m glad this tradition is being continued in his memory.”
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