Lonny Joel Brown of Hancock, 73, a holistic health counselor, yoga and meditation instructor and writer, died peacefully July 1 from complications following a heart attack in April.
He was born Oct. 2, 1947, in Bronx, N.Y., the son of Seymour and Birdie Brown and grew up in Bayside, Queens, and Woodbury, Long Island, N.Y. He was president of his high school class and very popular. “He looked like the actor George Chakiris,” recalls his sister Sindy.
Lonny attended Syracuse University from 1965 to 1967 and earned a bachelor’s degree in holistic health counseling from Goddard College in 1979, followed by graduate studies in holistic health at Columbia Pacific University, where he completed his doctorate in 1987.
His interest in health and healing was driven in part by his own experiences with rheumatoid arthritis and a congenital back problem, which he was able to overcome through yoga, lifestyle and diet.
In Cambridge, Mass., in the late ’60s, Lonny learned about a homesteading trust that was forming in South Acworth, Hidden Springs Community Land Trust, where he soon moved and became co-founder of the Yellow House commune of about a dozen members practicing self-sufficiency and cooperation.
He became interested in geodesic domes, attended a presentation by R. Buckminster Fuller, built a dome at Yellow House and wrote about the project in “The Dome-Builder’s Handbook.”
Having studied Buddhism, Lonny hitchhiked back to Cambridge to hear and see His Holiness the Dalai Lama on one of his first visits to the West. The Dalai Lama blessed Lonny’s mala, which he wore daily for the rest of his life.
Later, he met spiritual teacher, psychologist and author Ram Dass, who became a lasting influence in Lonny’s life, teachings and writing. After the initial meeting, Lonny wrote Ram Dass a poem, which Ram Dass included in his best-known book, “Be Here Now.” They meditated together many times over the years.
Ram Dass introduced Lonny to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, with whom Lonny took workshops on death and dying. Lonny became a founding director of Monadnock Hospice (now Hospice at HCS).
After six years in South Acworth, Lonny lived in Peterborough, Greenfield, Harrisville and Hancock. He was a skilled handyman who made creative and functional improvements to his numerous homes.
Lonny conducted workshops in stress reduction and self-care for health professionals at Home Health Care and Community Services in Keene from 1985 to 1995. Later, he was an adjunct faculty member in stress management at Keene State College and for 16 years was an instructor in holistic health at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Mass.
He also led classes at area hospitals and treatment centers and provided counseling in yoga, mindfulness, guided meditation, visualization and imagery, spiritual healing, nursing home experience and hospice care.
Lonny wrote extensively and published two books: “Enlightenment in Our Time, The Perennial Wisdom in the New Millennium”; and “Self-Actuated Healing, the Alternative to Doctors and Drugs Is Within You,” and was a columnist (“The Holistic Mystic”) and radio personality as “New Age Shaman.”
Lonny influenced and inspired several of his students to become yoga and holistic health teachers themselves and provided instruction, comfort and enlightenment to countless others.
He was an unquestioning and faithful friend to many and spread laughter, music and the joy of life to those who knew him. In recent years at his Hancock home, known as The Octagon, he engaged guests in the healing arts. His daughter, Padma Pali, will continue to operate The Octagon as a retreat.
Until his recent heart attack and surgery, Lonny was an enthusiastic activist for human rights and social justice. In his final days, he stepped away from news and causes, passing the torch to others and focusing on the simple blessing of being present.
Lonny’s survivors include a brother, Monty Brown of Leawood, Kan.; a sister, Sindy Levine of Winter Park, Fla.; several nieces and a nephew; and his adopted daughter and companion, Padma Pali, who was also his devoted caregiver during his recent illness.
Lonny was married twice: to Dawn Huenink of Annapolis, Md., who remembers him as a great stepdad to her children; and earlier to Catherine Usha Prescott of Greenbrae, Calif., with whom he remained close over the years.
The Cournoyer Funeral Home in Jaffrey is assisting with arrangements. Lonny was cremated and his ashes will be placed in a kiri urn in the base of a royal empress tree at a memorial service on a later date.
Lonny’s siblings recall a family saying for farewells of any kind: “G-night, nighty, g-night.”