“To be out of the city and in the mountains is a blessing,” says Ami Brown at the time. Once the matriarch bested her battle with lung cancer in 2018, the Alaskan Bush People family would move out of California and into Washington State.
The family of eight had long been out of Alaska due to her cancer diagnosis. But it’s where they wanted to be: right by her side. Once the Browns could move back out into the country, however, they were ecstatic. Washington State may not be Alaska, but the Browns made more than due in Alaskan Bush People fashion.
“We never thought we’d be able to find a property like this outside of Alaska,” Ami’s son, Bear Brown, offers to PEOPLE for their 2018 interview. “It’s so great to have some good stuff coming our way. Things are starting to look up finally.”
“It’s just nice to wake up in the morning and feel happy, which for a long time I don’t think any of us did,” adds his brother, Gabe Brown.
Things would stay positive for the Alaskan Bush People family for a few years, too. Then, the health of their father, Billy Brown, would begin to deteriorate. His untimely death in February of 2021 would leave the entire family in a state of shock, grief, and uncertainty.
In turn, it proves lovely to look back on the words of Billy Brown himself in this 2018 interview. Within, a strong glimpse of the man his family loved unconditionally is on display.
Looking Back at ‘Alaskan Bush People‘s Billy Brown’s Last Years with Wife Ami: ‘That little bitty ounce of faith gave us a whole new life’
For Ami Brown, “being given second chance is great,” she would continue for PEOPLE. At the time, Ami was feeling “better than I have in a lot of years, but I still don’t have all my strength back yet.”
Yet a family excursion into a nearby Washington meadow would leave her deeply fatigued.
“It kind of wore me out,” Ami says of the adventure. “I hadn’t done that much physical stuff in quite a while.”
Billy could feel his wife’s legs shaking during their hike. “It scared me to death,” he replies. “She’d been doing so good – it was almost like back to normal and then I just had to hold her walking up the hill and I could feel her knees shaking like crazy.”
Through this, Billy would remember “it’s never going to be like it was, but it’s getting almost there.”
“It’s so funny, because we were fighting to hang on to that faith so hard, and we just had a little ounce – that’s all we had,” the late Alaskan Bush People patriarch continues. “But then that little bitty ounce of faith gave us a whole new life.”
Even in those final years, Billy Brown was always looking on the bright side. “We’ve got mountain lions here! How cool is that?!” he decrees of their new Washington home. “It feels like home again because we have to watch our backs.”
Indeed, the Alaskan Bush will never be the same without him.