Laurance Brownlee grew up in Far Rockaway, New York and attended West Point, where he graduated Class of 1929.
A multi-sport athlete, Brownlee played football and fenced all four years. After graduation, he was posted to a variety of military assignments during his 30 year military career, including stints as an instructor of French, artillery commands, and as an attaché to the South Korean government where he helped design that nation’s flag.
He fenced when he could during his military life, but when he was posted to the Presidio in San Francisco in 1954, he met Dr. William O’Brien, the founder of the Letterman Fencers Club in one of the gymnasiums on the base.READ MORE...
A three weapon fencer, Brownlee was an enthusiastic promoter and organizer for the sport. His fluent Spanish was instrumental in the creation of a long-running annual international competition between Bay Area fencers and Mexico, usually held in Mexico City. “Colonel Brownlee”, as he was known, also worked to promote youth fencing programs and one of the bequests from his estate was to the Nor Cal Division of the AFLA that included all of his fencing equipment to be used by youth fencers who needed gear. He retired from the military in 1959 and passed away in 1972.
Some interesting pieces of memorabilia got floated in front of me and I had to scramble to collect all the loose change under the floor mats in my car and count out pennies from the change jar, but I couldn’t resist making a deal for them.
Serendipitous. Is that a word? Spellcheck isn’t trying to correct it, so I guess I’m on firm ground. Serendipitosity happens a lot around here. I find one piece of information, an image, a packet of photos. Time passes. I find another piece that fits into that puzzle. Then, quite unexpectedly, something comes across my desk…
When I struggle with ideas for writing about fencing history for this site, I have a couple of favorite fallback topics. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you can probably guess most of them.
It's like fate or an inexorable draw. Or karma. That might be too strong. But if you're named Michael D'Asaro, you eventually move to Texas. Maybe it's the bbq. That would be the last entry on the 'go' side of my go/no go list. The Junior D'Asaro recently moved...
It’s so much fun to have your expectations and assumptions blown to bits. That happened to me this week when I had the great fortune to meet the daughter of long-time Letterman fencer Colonel Laurance Brownlee.
The founder and long-time fencing master at The Letterman Fencers Club was Dr. William O’Brien. The club’s home was a gymnasium in San Francisco’s Presidio, a windy patch of green near the southern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.
These snapshots were taken at the 1963 US National Championships held at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. The event ran flawlessly, “…a fact that we have come to expect from Southern California and its Chairman, Fred Linkmeyer.”
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