Joe Brown

"It all began when my grandfather, Charles Bergfeldt, a businessman from Kansas City, but an artist and painter at heart, discovered Laguna Beach in the 1930's. After his wife died, he remarried a businesswoman who had a millinery shop in Anaheim, California, called The Mary Millerick Shop. During World War II, they would drive to Laguna Beach for weekends. Problems with gas and tire rationing, and a very narrow, winding canyon road prompted them to think about buying a place in Laguna. So it came to be that 551 South Coast Blvd.,' as it was called then, became a part of our family. My father would sit for hours watching the ocean view; it was a dream come true, and I believe that it added at least ten years to his life. My wife and I spent our honeymoon over 40 years ago at 551, and the last trip we made, shortly before her death, was to see Laguna and 551 one more time and just look out over the ocean.

"The house, built in the 1920's, was a Laguna landmark. It was truly a grande dame overlooking the blue Pacific and the two-story red brick chimney was clearly visible on every postcard, photograph and artist painting of our fabulous coastline."

"The future dramatically changed several years ago when El Nino hit the coast. I'm sure you all remember seeing bluffs and houses sliding into the ocean and 551 South Coast Blvd. took a solid hit. As I contemplated the future of the site, actually only 25 feet wide, I began to have a dream of a small public park. Today, that vision has come to fruition and I would like to thank the California Coastal Conservancy, the City of Laguna Beach, Renwock-Egan, the general contractor, and James Dockstader, the landscape designer, who took my dream and brought it to where we stand today. Eventually, there will be a permanent plaque in the park with a few lines of a poem that my father wrote over 40 years ago:

photo of Laguna Beach by Douglas Miller
photo of Laguna Beach by Douglas Miller
Browns Park - A Legacy


Let me live in a house
by the side of the sea,
Where men and women wander by
Where there's beauty and grace and excitement that's free.
On the beach, in the sun let me lie.

Let me listen to the ocean's melodious roar,
and its rhythm, so soothing to hear,
As the foam-covered waves
seem to reach for the shore
Under skies that are sunny and clear.

"Probably these words, more than anything else, painted for me a legacy that this small strip of land on the oceanfront should be made available to everyone as a public park in perpetuity. This donation will mark the end of a long and wonderful stewardship that my family and I have experienced. It will mark a new beginning: one where everyone will be able to enjoy the wonders of nature in one of the most beautiful spots in the world."

City officials said such a gift of prime seaside property by a private citizen is unprecedented. "This is very unusual, simply because the land is so valuable," said Pat Barry, Community Services Director, City of Laguna Beach.

Page created on 1/11/2011 1:27:49 AM

Last edited 1/5/2017 4:57:13 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Extra Info

For those of you who want to know about Joe's heroes, here is his entry from the MY HERO Guestbook.

Joe Brown from Rochester, New York USA - 20-Jul-02 at 08:17 PM.

Hospice nurses and hospice volunteers are my heroes because they look at the entire individual in a very holistic way. Hospice does not just treat the individual, the entire family is included in the hospice program.

I provide home care for hospice individuals and I have learned a lot from the people I work with. This work is the most rewarding of my entire life. My wife and I in the mid-sixties were Peace Corps volunteers and that was a wonderful experience, too. I have discovered that my work with Hospice has great meaning to me and the families that I help. The medical system cannot provide the nurturing that we all need, especially at the end of our lives. I explained this to a group of children recently and they really seemed to understand that when you are born in the hospital there are a lot of people around to help your mother and you. When someone is dying, it's important that the individual and family receive the same kind of support at home. Hospice volunteers and workers provide this support so that people who are at the final stage of their life can die with dignity at home surrounded by those who love them.


Author Info

I first met Joe Brown when he visited the MY HERO booth at the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach, California. It was July of 2002. He impressed me with his beautiful entry into the MY HERO Guestbook. After we spoke for awhile, he invited me to come to the dedication of his gift to the City of Laguna Beach: a brand new oceanfront park. He was retired and wanted to insure others' future enjoyment of the beautiful coastline his family had known for over fifty years. He could have sold the property for over $2 million and realized a great financial gain, but instead, chose to share his valuable possession with the entire community. This man's generosity, and love and respect for life and the environment around him is remarkable. What follows are excerpts from Joe's speech to those who attended the ceremony dedicating "Browns' Park" in Laguna Beach.