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September 19, 2023

Student remembered for his outlook on life

As Ali Paulsen stepped back to think about her future, she realized Thursday nights would never be the same again.

Thursdays were movie nights for her and her boyfriend of three years, Brandon Brown, who watched movies together as a fun way to bond while attending the University.

Now Thursdays will have a different meaning for Paulsen. They remind her of Brandon’s unexpected death due to an accidental drug overdose on March 30, said his mother, Emily Brown.

“The movies were a very special place for us,” Paulsen said. “But now I can’t go to see them.”

Brandon and Paulsen would secretly motion numbers to each other by holding up a few fingers during the previews before a movie as their own personal rating system, she said.

For example, when they caught “Oz the Great and Powerful” and “The Avengers” previews they rated each movie a five by holding up five fingers to each other while in their seats, Paulsen said.

“We were both broke, but we still liked to go out and do things, like seeing a movie,” Paulsen said.

Brandon viewed movies not only as entertainment, but as the natural extension of his passion for photography, she said.

Brandon started taking photos when he was young, but the passion gained traction when he was in high school, said Emily.

“I think photography was a good creative outlet for Brandon,” she said.

It was “a way for him to explore his surroundings and socialize,” Emily said.

Brandon’s passion for photography led him to choose Visual Communication Technology as his major while attending the University.

Some of the photos Brandon would take were of Paulsen, who thought he was a naturally-talented photographer.

“All of his photos would turn out beautiful,” Paulsen said.

Brandon’s passion was so important to him that it couldn’t be slowed down by the ending of a semester, Emily said.

In fact, Brandon would take hundreds of photos of nature and his adventures while attending a camp in northern Wisconsin for nearly a third of every summer, she said.

Brandon attended the camp as a way to socialize and to get out and see nature. Attending the camp was easy thanks to his relaxed attitude, Emily said.

“Brandon was very easy-going and almost never complained,” she said. “He got along great with adults and made friends easily.”

Brandon’s friendly demeanor made him a good listener and a great friend Liz Mitchell, a senior at the University.

“He was the person I went to when I really needed to talk,” Mitchell said. “Brandon was always there for me.”

In addition to being one of Brandon’s best friends, Mitchell is also close with his girlfriend Paulsen, who Brandon introduced her to.

“Brandon was the catalyst for our friendship,” Mitchell said of being friends with Paulsen who is also her roommate.

One of Mitchell’s fondest memories of Brandon was when he hid “Catch Phrase,” which was a board game the three of them would often play to pass the time.

“Brandon hid the game because he was bad at it,” Mitchell said in between laughs.

Despite his lack of board game talent, Mitchell knew “Brandon had a good heart and a very creative mind,” she said.

Brandon wouldn’t ever get discouraged if he lost a game because he knew that’s all it was: just a game, Mitchell said.

“He was just a good friend,” she said. “He never got mad, he was very laid back.”

Brandon’s attitude was something that appealed to his younger brothers Augie, 4, and Henry, 1, because he had infinite patience for them, Emily said.

“[Augie and Henry] would get so excited when Brandon came home to visit,” she said. “They, along with our golden retriever, Scout, would all run to the door to greet him.”

Brandon’s calm and understanding demeanor is part of what made him an excellent boyfriend, Paulsen said.

“Brandon was the most compassionate person that I have ever known,” she said. “I was the luckiest person in the world to have been with him.”

It was Brandon’s outlook on life that resonated with his friends and family, even after his death, Mitchell said.

“The way he was makes it easier to deal with his death, because as Brandon would say: ‘Life goes on,’” Mitchell said.

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