A memorial service will be held today at 1:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Emmetsburg. Refreshments will be served at the church immediately following the service. A private family committal service will be held afterward at Evergreen Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of Martin-Mattice Funeral Home. Memorials may be designated for Palo Alto County Hospital Foundation or for Hospice of Palo Alto County.
Born in Mallard in 1926, where his father operated a farm implement business, S.J. and his parents (O.J. and Flossie) relocated to Emmetsburg eight years later. The implement business was eventually sold and a farming operation was begun. After graduating from Emmetsburg High School in 1944, his time at the University of Iowa was interrupted by service in the Navy before graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in Economics. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. As a summer resident of Lake Okoboji, S.J. met his future wife, Sherry Andersen (Omaha), at nearby Fillenwarth Beach Cottages. They were married in 1948.S.J. then attended the University of Iowa Law School for two years, earning academic honors before returning home to assist his ailing father in the expanding farming operation. S.J.'s business pursuits evolved to include Brownlee Management, involving farm management for non-operating farm owners. The farming and farm management enterprises are now operated by his son, Craig (Jennifer). Another son, Mark (Janie), practices law in Fort Dodge. A daughter, Vicki Wittgraf, lives in Cherokee, where her husband, George, practices law. In the late 1960's, S.J. became an owner (with friend Jerry Hofstad) of Emmetsburg Publishing (and newspaper), which was later sold. S.J. became quite active in the banking industry, beginning in 1964, when he joined the Board of Directors of the Iowa Trust and Savings Bank in Emmetsburg, serving on the board until his death. He also served for many years on the board of First Federal Savings and Loan. He later joined the board of Iowa-Des Moines National Bank, which eventually merged with Norwest Bank and later Wells Fargo Bank. He also served on the State Banking Board for the State of Iowa. In addition to his own professional endeavors, S.J. forged a long relationship with the field of education, beginning with several years as President of the Emmetsburg Board of Education. He was appointed by Governor Robert D. Ray to the Iowa Board of Regents, serving from 1973-1985, the last four years as President.He found helping navigate the three state universities through challenging times immensely interesting and rewarding, which experience produced life-long friendships which he valued greatly. S.J.'s long-time service to and support of the University of Iowa earned him the Distinguished Alumni Award as well as the Finkbine Medallion for distinguished service to the university. He was a member of the President's Club and served on the boards of University of Iowa Foundation, Friends of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and Iowa Public Broadcasting Network. S.J. was also active in politics, serving in the Iowa State Senate from 1970-1972. After choosing not to run for another term due to the time the Senate position required him to be away from his family and business, he remained active in Republican politics. On the local level, S.J. was a founding member of the Palo Alto County Hospital Foundation Board. He served on the board of the First United Methodist Church in Emmetsburg and was a long-time member and Past Commodore of the Okoboji Yacht Club. Notwithstanding S.J.'s many years of public service and business leadership, it is probably fair to characterize him as a largely private person, particularly during his later years. He enjoyed music (piano), boating, sailing, water-skiing and hunting as a younger man and was an avid reader of history, war and politics, but his deepest passion was his family.He devoted many years to Sherry's long and difficult battle with cancer until her all too early death in 1993.He always regarded her as the underlying strength of his family. Although far less active during Sherry's illness and thereafter, "Grandad" remained the family patriarch, leaving a large and lasting imprint on his extended family and beyond. His family will always reflect fondly on his life and influence with full measures of love, pride, admiration and appreciation. S.J. is survived by his daughter, Vicki Wittgraf, and her husband George, and their children, Jason (Ann), John and George Wittgraf; by his son, Craig, and his wife Jennifer, and their children, Kate (Drew) Krejci and Sam Brownlee; and by his son, Mark, and his wife, Janie, and their children, Jack and Jordan Brownlee; and by his great-grandson, Noah Wittgraf. S.J. is also survived by brother-in-law, Richard Andersen and his wife, Martha of Omaha, Neb. and their children, Laura Greiner and Joel Andersen.