Editorial: Supporting John Browne: An Island shows its love

Someone once said he didn’t need Social Security; his friends were his social security. And so it is with John Browne.

In the whirlwind of events over the last several days, since a tragic accident sent him into the intensive care unit at Tacoma General, what stands out most is the remarkable outpouring that has been showered upon this man. A bank account, Facebook page and information-sharing Yahoo account have been set up. A fundraiser concert is already in the works. Voice of Vashon put his music on the air. Vashon Island Growers Association announced it will collect funds for him at its upcoming holiday markets. And countless Islanders have e-mailed, asking how they could provide meals, firewood, money, support.

This outpouring says much about Vashon. It also says much about John.

If anyone could be described as the real deal, John could. With his long gray beard, weather-beaten clothes and wizened face, he often looks like he just walked out of the woods — a salt-of-the-earth man who has made his way in the world calling his own shots.

He and his wife Vicki live a life of profound simplicity, making money from their backyard nursery business, from contract jobs gathering seeds for ecological restoration projects, from their sales of hand-crafted soaps, jewelry, brooms and plants at the Farmers Market.

They live in a cramped and tiny home in Paradise Valley fabricated from salvaged lumber John found and heated only with wood. To enter it is to feel as though one has walked into the pages of “The Hobbit.”

On an Island of increasing wealth, John stands as something else: A self-made man whose life has been dictated by principle, not profit, old Vashon, not new.

Now, he’s in critical condition at Tacoma General, after a fluke accident during the height of last week’s storm, when John, wielding a chainsaw, was at the end of a horrific chain reaction.

He was out there because he felt the call of duty. The Island he loves so much is now responding.

We deeply hope he fully recovers. We also hope he feels the love. Right now, he’s receiving a mega-dose.

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