Like riding in a stretch limousine on Aug. 15 for his 93rd birthday.
It was a surprise gift from his family, who instructed him to wait outside his Discovery Bay home for someone to take him and his wife to dinner. He waited with his bride of 64 years, Frances, who is 85.
"I was so shocked! I've never been in a limo before, or even near one," said Brownell, a retired stock manager from Gemco.
When he turned 80 he went water skiing. He parasailed in his mid 80s. There's almost nothing he won't try. Who knows, perhaps downhill snow skiing is next.
Born in Edson, Alberta, Canada, Brownell grew up in Nova Scotia and has lived the last 17 years in Discovery Bay with Frances surrounded by most of his family: two sons, eight grandkids and six great-grandkids. Their third son, Allen, was killed in a car accident last year at Lake Almanor.
His past is riddled with stories, memories he likes to pass onto his grandchildren - tales of his father, Frank, and uncle, Sherman, who were the first settlers in southern Saskatchewan who built sod shacks for homes, because lumber was not available on the prairies.
He worked with his dad as a traveling salesman, with his cousin in a hat factory, milked cows twice a day at a dairy farm, and picked apples in the fall.
After working the gold mines for two years in Canada, he decided to find something less dangerous.
"I got trapped underground 400 feet. We had a lot of accidents back then, and I was fortunate that I got through it OK. Most of those I knew didn't," he said.
When most people his age are looking for the easy chair or fine-tuning their living will trusts, Brownell is doing the opposite. He's either reading or reciting poetry, spending time making a clock, creating solar-paneled whirlygig toys for his grandkids or gardening in his own yard or the grounds of his church.
"I made it (the church grounds) beautiful with 18 rose bushes I planted," said Brownell. "I just mowed the grass this weekend."
He doesn't just garden; at age 93 he drives Frances regularly to her cancer treatments in Walnut Creek.
Brownell considers himself a lucky man, and while some people take issue with the superstitious unlucky number 13, he doesn't. He jotted down on a piece of paper, "Our Lucky #13."
"My dad was the youngest of 13 children; I was born in 1913; I have visited 13 countries since I've been married; our first grandchildren (twin girls) were born on the 13th; we bought our 13th car since moving to California; and our Discovery Bay home is our 13th home with the house number of 1313!"
When it comes to luck, he places all bets on his Father above.
"I let the Holy Spirit lead me, we've gone where He leads," he said. "Nothing has been by accident."