By Fran Lyons
Rick Brower has stories steeped in Arizona history, especially Maricopa history.
He’ll tell you his philosophy for life is, “Keep it simple. Be close to nature. Be close to what matters most to you.” While not necessarily living “a simple life,” his easy-going style and relaxed attitude give credence to his words.
Brower and his family have lived in the Maricopa area for 30 years. His life has been one of ranching, military service, ministry and now biological compounds.
“I remember when 347 was a two-lane highway and the only place to shop was the mercantile store,” he said. “Napa Auto was here, and there were three tire stores. Of course, we had the Headquarters Restaurant, to boot. This was a time when Maricopa had a population of about 1,500 people. Things have changed since then.”
Brower is the archetype of the Western Man. Maybe he’d even admit to being a cowboy.
Born back east, he moved with his family to the West when he was a small boy. They settled a 40-acre ranch between Black Canyon City and New River, where they raised cattle and horses. Brower grew up working on the ranch and living on a beautiful expanse of land. This is where he became an Arizonan, he said. The western life suited him well.
He entered the Army in 1980 ready to serve his country and spent the first two years of service in the infantry. His military career provided the opportunity to travel and explore the world. He became part of the Quartermasters Corps as a staff sergeant and army engineer working in logistics.
“I had to overcome my shyness when I became a military instructor,” he said. “The military trained me to become a professional educator.”
In the winter of 1990, Brower was deployed to Operation Desert Storm, where he functioned as an engineer/operations manager paving roads, opening supply routes and advocating humanitarian efforts in support of the mission. He returned from ODS in June of 1991.
He retired in 2002. Among the awards Brower earned for his service are a Bronze Star, four Army Commendation medals and 1986 Army Soldier of the Year Commendation. In the 35 missions he was involved in, no lives were lost.
Nestled within this framework of time, Brower met his future wife, Mary Wickes, an Army demolitions expert/engineer. They decided on living in Maricopa and married in the old Court House before settling in Hidden Valley in 1988.
“I love the weather,” he said, “like living local and being in the central desert.”
Between them, Rick and Mary have five children and 20 grandchildren. All their kids went to Maricopa High School. The love of family and friends is natural for the Browers, as is the love for animals and mother nature herself.
Rick is ordained and known to the locals as the “Marrying Minister,” There is a two-story gazebo with a dance floor on their property. It is a family hub where weddings, holidays and graduations are celebrated in a grand, western, traditional style.
Since 2008, he has worked as facility general manager in organic biologics to improve crops, the latest in a life of changes.
Brower loves to read books by the western author Louis L’Amour, who summed up the cycles of life Brower himself embodies: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.”
This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.