Nancy Brown, 72, director of volunteers

March 05, 2002|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Nancy Redford Brown, a former director of volunteer services at the University of Maryland Medical System and founding member of Epiphany Episcopal Church in Timonium, died Thursday at Mercy Medical Center of complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She was 72 and a resident of the Dulaney Gate community in Cockeysville.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Windsor Hills on the city's west side, she was a graduate of Western High School and earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1951 from what is now Towson University.

She taught elementary school in Baltimore and then Albuquerque, N.M., after her husband, Frederick W. Brown, whom she married in 1950, was stationed there in the Army. When the couple returned two years later, she taught at Ridge School in Baltimore County.

In 1960, the Browns helped found Epiphany Episcopal Church, which expanded quickly. Mrs. Brown headed its Sunday school for preschool children, served on the vestry and was a member of the Petal Pushers, arranging flowers for the altar and for special services.

"I think it was half her life and soul," Mr. Brown said of his wife's involvement in the church.

Mrs. Brown was hired by the university medical system in 1977. She took over a small volunteer group and helped it grow to hundreds of participants. One year, her volunteers donated more than 100,000 hours.

"The legacy that she left here was just wonderful," said June Winkler, who knew Mrs. Brown for more than 20 years and succeeded her as director of volunteer services in 1990.

Mrs. Brown's volunteers delivered books, magazines and coffee, and sang carols for patients during the holiday season. She also had them make favors for patients - including baby hats, and paper napkin ghosts on Halloween - for special occasions.

"She always got it organized so the hospital had this continuous flow of handmade things for the patients," Mrs. Winkler said. "I think everyone will remember her twinkly blue eyes and her smile and her sense of humor - and positive attitude."

The pastor at Epiphany, the Rev. Kathryn Wajda, who presided over a memorial service there for Mrs. Brown yesterday, called her a "model for how to live your life every moment of every day."

The pastor recalled how Mrs. Brown would wear a different hat to church every Sunday after she lost her hair from chemotherapy, and how she would decorate her cane according to the season.

"When September came, they were [decorated for] fall. When October came, they looked like Halloween, and when November came, they looked like Thanksgiving," she said.

Mrs. Brown's daughter, Jeanne Brown Gardner of Manhattan Beach, Calif., said her mother insisted on riding go-carts with her grandchildren during a trip to North Carolina two years ago.

"She fought cancer for seven years, but she just loved life and had a lot of fun," she said.

Mrs. Brown served as president of the Maryland Council of Directors of Volunteer Services and was treasurer of the Woman's Auxiliary of University of Maryland Medical Center. When the auxiliary folded, she continued to meet with women as part of a group dubbed the "Out to Lunch Bunch."

She served on the board of directors of the Towson State Alumni Association and was co-chairwoman last year of the 50th reunion of her class.

Mrs. Brown enjoyed her iris and rose gardens, sailing on the Chesapeake Bay with her family and walking on the beach.

In addition to her husband and daughter, she is survived by a son, Robert Redford Brown of Cockeysville; a sister, Miriam Verry of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.

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