COEUR d'ALENE - Children playing on the grounds of the Harding Family Center have something new to keep them occupied - a teepee.
The metal art sculpture, created by local artists Allen and Mary Dee Dodge, was unveiled Saturday, and dedicated in memory of Charlie Brown, a lifelong advocate for children who worked for North Idaho College Head Start for many years.
Brown, who died in May 2011, was remembered by friends and family members, co-workers, community leaders and other Head Start supporters who gathered for a dedication at the center.
"I smile when I think about Charlie and how totally blown away he would be by this sculpture," said Tom Hearn, a Coeur d'Alene social worker who had a 42-year relationship with Brown, his best friend.
Hearn said Brown believed spirituality is reflected in the actions a person takes to make the world a better place for others. Brown was "deeply spiritual," Hearn said. Brown began working for Head Start in Sandpoint in the early' 70s and moved to Coeur d'Alene in the late '70s where he continued working for many years. He was a teacher, an education and disabilities specialist, assistant director and then director.
Bob Bennett, former president of North Idaho College, worked closely with Brown when the college, the Coeur d'Alene School District and the Head Start organization worked together to turn the old Harding Elementary School building, along 15th Street, into the Head Start center.
"We didn't know what magic would occur. It was a gamble, a gamble that paid off," Bennett said. "It really is a community center."
Bennett and others spoke of Brown's passion for working on behalf of children, and his ability to draw that kind of enthusiasm from those he worked with.
Doug Fagerness, another former director of Head Start, acted as master of ceremonies, and thanked the supporters and volunteers who have helped make the center what it is today.
"We all bear deep gratitude for the people who were upstream from where we are now, people that were part of the stream, a force that made our program stronger," Fagerness said.
The metal sculpture is a special tribute to Brown, because at times, he lived in a teepee in California and in Idaho.
The teepee adds another creative element to the Head Start center's grassy children's play area. It stands near other playful, colorful features, many installed by volunteers and artists.
Brown's wife, Charlotte, spoke last about her husband: "Charlie loved children and families and all the people that loved them."
The children who play inside the teepee dedicated to Brown will enter beneath a quote painted over the door, a sentence that reflects Charlotte's and others' descriptions of Brown: "Kindness is the light that dissolves all walls between souls, families, and nations."
Charlotte Brown, widow of Head Start teacher and director Charlie Brown, reads the dedication plaque honoring her late husband.