Jake Brown, aka ‘Santo Clos,’ loses cancer fight

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 4:23 pm

Jacob Henry “Jake” Brown died at his Nogales home on Wednesday following a long battle with cancer. He was 71.

A funeral Mass is set for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at Sacred Heart Chruch. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Cruz County.

Brown was a strong advocate of the club, and in June, he was awarded its highest honor, the Bob Kellogg Award. At the time, Brown said he would like to see younger people become active in club leadership, even if they can only do it for short intervals at specific events.

“But we have to remember, it’s the older, mature folks who have to guide the younger ones and take care of the kids,” he counseled. “It makes a huge difference when kids see their parents volunteering and helping others.”

Brown first volunteered for about 25 years with a fund-aising group called Produce and Allied Industries, which initially worked to raise money to buy weight-lifting equipment for the Nogales High School football program and later switched the focus to providing scholarships for county high school seniors. Eventually their annual carne asada fundraiser became part of the Fiesta de Mayo Weekend festivities. This year, 10 scholarships for $1,000 each were distributed to area students.

Jake and Donna, his wife of 33 years, took charge of the salsa duties for the event for more than three decades, roasting the chilies and chopping all the ingredients themselves. Once when the club came up short about $5,000 for scholarships, she and Jake cut a check and made up the difference.

In 1992 Chuck Ciruli Jr. nominated Brown to the board of directors of the Boys & Girls Club as it readied to open its doors. He’d been an active board member since.

“He and Donna have been instrumental in the continued progress of the Boys & Girls Club,” said Ciruli, adding that Jake’s dedication to youth and the young at heart went beyond his participation with the club.

Each year in December, Brown would dress as Santa and, along with his “Mrs. Claus,” traipse throughout Santa Cruz County and beyond, delivering cheer to all who opened their heart to the Christmas spirit. That included children crossing the border at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry, who squealed when they saw “Santo Clos.”

In the spring, he’d sport an Easter Bunny outfit and once again hits the streets.

“In terms of what he did for the children of the community, it was immense,” Ciruli said.

Vicki Barden, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, said: “Jake is the reason I believe in Santa Claus.”

Gil Munguia was a schoolmate of Brown’s at Tucson High School. “We didn’t hang around back then, but when he moved to Nogales we became close personal friends. He was a simple man, and we’re really going to miss the guy.

“He had a heart of gold aimed mostly at the children of Santa Cruz County – our community,” Munguia said.

In addition to his wife, Brown is survived by his four sons, Jacob (Catherine) Brown, Michael (Carla) Rochin, Mark (Lisa) Rochin, Mathew (Gaby) Rochin; daughters, Susan Brown, Elizabeth Rochin and Mary (Manuel) Gomez; and 18 grandchildren.