Philip W. Brown

October 8, 1940June 28, 2013

As the one best able to identify the people, events and circumstance which shaped my life, I authored the following account before my death. Philip W. Brown of Williamsburg, VA, 72, departed the wonderful life he was granted on October 8, 1940. His late parents, Raymond M. (“Coca-Cola”) Brown, Sr. and Evelyn M. Brown taught him to be honest, respectful of others. His five older brothers taught him by example to value intellectual curiosity, the arts, nature’s beauty, higher education, physical fitness, a sense of adventure, innovative problem solving and craftsmanship. Childhood years were happy times for Phil in Hampton, VA, exploring the neighborhood “jungles”; searching for fascinating articles washed up on nearby beaches; building model airplanes, taking care of the family horses and hunting dogs; bird and duck hunting with his father and brothers; learning photography and darkroom techniques; attending five 2-month summer camp sessions near Brevard, NC; sailing local waters; and spending time with friends, Godfrey Smith and Keene Garvin. In later years Phil’s mother, Evelyn, set his standard for courage with how she coped with the sudden accidental deaths of three grown sons, Peter, Dean and Ray, and health problems of her own. Following graduation from Woodberry Forest School in 1958 and Davidson College in 1961 he entered the Naval Aviation officer Candidate Program. Awarded his wings in 1963, he was assigned to USS Forrestal- based Fighter Squadron 74 as an F-4 fighter pilot. In 1967, following two deployments to the Mediterranean and one to Southeast Asia with Fighter Squadron 144, he left active duty to fly F-8’s and A-4’s in the Naval Reserve and earn aeronautical engineering degrees from Georgia Tech. and Princeton University. Peter, Wynne and Catherine Brown were born of his 1968 marriage to Donna Young Coxsey. Donna’s child, Laura, was adopted as were four others, Jai, Mary, Keith, and Kelly. In 1986 this marriage ended in divorce. Phil was thankful for the steadfast kindness and support of Donna’s mother, Doris Young. The NASA research pilot position he held from 1974 to 2001 at the Langley Research Center was Phil’s “best job in the world”. His mentor, office head Jim Patton, and his fellow research pilots were engaged in fascinating and rewarding flight research. Working with smart, motivated and creative engineers and technicians at Langley, was a continuing pleasure. The NASA Exceptional Service Award and induction into Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame were among the public recognitions of Phil’s contributions to aeronautics. Phil gained two valued step children, Misha and Joshua, in 1994 when he and Janet R. Derrig married. She brought him joy as a companion, confidant and more recently, a caregiver. As NASA retirement approached he designed modifications for incorporation into a new, Romanian-built, one-of-a-kind variation of a Russian airplane. Its purpose was to conduct flight research as a private venture. His good NASA friend, Dale Bowser, was invaluable in this effort, acting both as an advisor and airplane mechanic. Other NASA friends made significant contributions. Unfortunately, the onset of Phil’s terminal illness and the limitations it imposed led to the closing of this venture. Large family holiday celebrations hosted by nephew David and Jenny Brown of Williamsburg were a particular pleasure and followed a seven decade long tradition established by Evelyn. Post-retirement participation in NASA activities, the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society and the Virginia Jaguar Club, as well as the renovating of the family home were enjoyable to Phil. As disease symptoms worsened and Phil was often confined to the family home, he enjoyed visits from friends and family members and learning new digital photo and video techniques. Caleigh, the Westie and Phil’s constant companion, was a wonderful therapy animal as were rescue cats, Alley and Cosmo. As an agnostic deist, he awaited death with trepidation but with hope for a peaceful afterlife realm. In addition to his wife, Phil is survived by children, Laura, Peter, Jai, Wynne, Catherine, Mary, Keith and Kelly; stepchildren Misha and Joshua Derrig; and numerous grandchildren. Two older brothers, John of College Park, MD and David of Yorktown, VA also survive. Doctors Kerbin, Miller, Kersh and Volz provided expert medical treatment and advice as did the Williamsburg Sentara medical staff. Jan provided loving care until his last day. A time of gathering will be held on Saturday, July 6 from 5-7 PM at the Nelsen Funeral Home, 3785 Strawberry Plains Rd, Williamsburg. Online condolences can be offered at


Philip W. Brown

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July 1, 2014

We were saddened to hear of Philip's death. Our family enjoyed many good times with Wynne as she was growing up. Our prayers and thoughts are with the family.

Catharine Freda and Melissa Freda Jeffrey

March 4, 2014

My love, it has been a little over 8 months since i lost you, and i miss you every single day. I hate being alone and without you, but I picture you with your brothers, mother and pop who preceded you, and i hope our little Alley cat is with you also. Dr Bates promised me you caught her as she went flying by! Caleigh misses you, you were her favorite, and she still sleeps where you normally would beside me each night. I love you, i always will, and my life and journey without you will never be as happy as when you were with me. I miss everything about you and hope you will find me quickly when i join you. You know how much i hate traveling alone! Felipe, i love you madly and miss you more than you could ever know. Hugs and kisses. Jan

John Stein

July 13, 2013

Phil was a memory beyond compare....Barb and I really did consider it an honor serving him every day @harbour......... Small black and white latte with shaved white and dark chocolate...and a fresh cranberry scone......loved his passion for a myriad things including that wonderful Jaguar.........we celebrate your Life Phil and send Jan our very very best...

Barbara Elliott

July 11, 2013

Janet , Deepest sympathy in the loss of your husband from both my mother, Edith, and me. I never had the honor of meeting Phil but he must have been an absolutely amazing and most interesting man. I am keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

Rick Shay

July 11, 2013


My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I was fortunate to fly with Phil and to learn to be a better pilot from him. He was an inspiration.

Warm regards,

July 8, 2013

Jan -
I met Phil in VF-74, the Navy's first F-4 Phantom squadron, when he was a brand new Ltjg and I was a new Lt. Because he was often my wingman, I knew then what a remarkably good avaiator he was. And, he was so likeable and such fun - hey, we knew how to have fun, and I loved his spontaneous laugh and sense of humor. I remember how well he handled dangerous situations and how steady he was when it was important. I really, really liked that man. It was a privilege to know him - take him for all in all, we will not see his likes again.
You have my sincerest respect and regard.
Buz Ausley

Ray Alie

July 7, 2013

Phil and I were regulars at Harbour Coffee. We had many wonderful conversations on all sorts of topics. Phil was one of those people you immediately like and with whom you are instantly comfortable. He often joined our little coffee group and we shall all miss his quiet intelligence and his friendly countenance. Here's to a life well lived and generously shared with others.

Bill and Sandy Mims

July 7, 2013

Family of Phil Brown - We both worked with Phil for many years at NASA. Phil was an excellent, dedicated pilot and engineer as well as a good friend. Our deepest sympathy.
Bill and Sandy Mims
Ormond beach, FL

Dwight Elliott

July 7, 2013

Dwight Elliott

July 7, 2013