In their 47 years of marriage, Vera Brower could count on the unexpected from her husband, Hugh. He might come home and tell her he had sold the house they were living in. Or he might come home with some abused, abandoned or pathetic dog he had just found.
Hugh Brower was a contractor who in the 1960s built the duplexes and small homes that have come to define the Colonialtown neighborhood of Orlando. He was never a big developer who turned citrus groves into subdivisions, but during three decades of building small apartment buildings, homes and duplexes, he left his mark on Orlando and Winter Park.
There's the house on Winter Park Road with the all-brick kitchen, and the tri-level house in Audubon Park, and the single-story house off Red Bug Lake Road that sat on 20 acres.
He built all three, and sold all three, while he and Vera were still living in them.
"Somebody might ask him, 'You got anything for sale?' And he'd say, 'Well, this one is.' And he would tell me after the fact," said Vera Brower, 71, of Orlando.
Hugh D. Brower Jr., 87, died Feb. 28 of complications related to a stroke.
The last house he bought was built by someone else: a small, two-bedroom home near Leu Gardens. But he built the big Florida room on the back that looked out on a yard of camellias and citrus trees. It was there he would plant himself in a La-Z-Boy recliner, offering his lap to Red.
Red was a stray who showed up where they kept some horses. He was a fearful and mistreated hound with scar tissue on his back where he'd been burned. It took Hugh three weeks of feeding the dog twice a day, each time moving the food a little closer, before he gained the dog's trust enough to bring him home to Vera.
This is what it was like living with Hugh. Any abandoned, abused, neglected or mistreated dog he found, he brought home: Penny, Bear, Cody, Duchess, Ringo. There was no sense objecting.
"I found out over the years not to even fuss about it," his wife said.
Once, Vera and Hugh were in their motor home, headed toward his hometown of Atlanta, when they pulled into a rest stop. There was a dog there, a yellow Lab, that approached every car that pulled into the parking lot, looking for the person who had left it behind.
"He saw this dog — he always did," Vera said. "I said, 'Hugh, please … .' We had another dog at the time."
Hugh talked to the rest-stop attendant, who said the dog had been there for about two weeks but that he had called the Humane Society to come get the dog. Cancel that call, Hugh said, and put the dog in the motor home. He named it Penny.
After Penny there was Cody, a German shepherd pup he got from a kid he met at Lake Eola who said his dad told him to get rid of the dog or he would get rid of him.
When Cody died two years ago, Hugh said: No more. He didn't want to die and leave a dog behind.
All of his other dogs were buried in pet cemeteries, but Cody was cremated. Cody's ashes are in a china hutch in the living room along with antiques and heirlooms.
Someday soon, the ashes of Hugh Brower will be right there beside Cody's.
In addition to his wife, Brower is survived by his sister, Betty Cox of Atlanta; a niece; a nephew; and several cousins.
Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, Ivanhoe Chapel, is handling arrangements.
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