Jean Esther Brown died peacefully on the evening of April 26, 2021 with her husband and four children at her side. She was 95 years of age and a resident of Discovery Village in Naples, FL.
While we will review the remarkable experiences that she enjoyed during her life – we can only emphasize this: Jean would always be loved first for who she was and, after that, everything was second. Jean was sincerely kind, thoughtful and non-judgmental. All in her presence were captivated by her beauty and stunning grace complemented by a gorgeous smile. Who would not be naturally drawn to a person with those qualities? Acquaintances quickly became friends, and her many friends sought out her company because, foremostly, they simply enjoyed being with her. Jean did not need to struggle to connect with other people. All she had to do was be herself – and strong connections with other people were invariably the result.
She was born in Canada in 1925 and grew up in the St. Urbain Street community of Montreal, Quebec. She graduated from Montreal’s Baron Byng High School in 1942.
Jean enjoyed a long and fulfilling life, having the opportunity to live through America’s dynamic period of growth after World War II and the last several decades of great technological and cultural transformations.
Her life was destined, in a positive way, to take new directions after she married Abraham Brown, a returning U.S. World War II veteran, on October 27, 1946. The marriage took place in Burlington, Vermont; and the ceremony was notable as it was the first marriage ceremony performed by Rabbi Max Wall who was at the beginning of a distinguished 41-year tenure as the spiritual leader of Ohavi Zedek Synagogue.
The new couple took up residence in Enosburg Falls, Vermont, a small town of less than 1000 people that was the regional center for a large contingent of dairy farms in northwest Vermont. It was quite a change for Jean Brown to move from Canada’s largest city to a classic small Vermont town. But she welcomed the change and the small town, in turn, appreciated Jean’s cheerful and considerate manner and, in short order, the small town welcomed her back as one of their own.
The next decade proved to be an exciting time for the young couple. They focused their energy on both building their family and growing the family business. By 1955, Jean and Abe were the proud parents of five children – three girls and two boys.
The family business of tire dealerships and A. Brown Auto and Home Stores was also growing, expanding to six stores across northern Vermont. At the beginning, Jean handled all the accounting work for the expanding business, working many nights to keep the books in order, as if raising five young children was not enough of a challenge. Jean proved to be an early archetypal feminist, decades before the pursuit of the feminist identity went mainstream.
After the growth of the family and business was stabilizing, Jean and her husband began to explore some new activities that would soon evolve into life-long pursuits. First up was skiing, as they were there for the beginning of the Jay Peak ski area and were key local supporters and charter ski-pass holders who energized its impressive growth. A second life-long avocation was tennis. Jean and Abe devoted most of their home’s backyard to accommodate a tennis court, and that court was always shared with friends and family for innumerable spirited competitions.
A third and, arguably, what proved to be Jean and Abe’s greatest pastime, especially in their later years, was the game of bridge. They experienced a natural affinity for the game and rapidly grew their skills during the 1970’s to the point of eventually earning the formal Life Master status. Thereafter, they participated in bridge’s most prestigious tournaments across the United States. Abe often boasted that they were one of very few husband-wife teams who could stay together and survive the extreme tensions of competitive bridge. But those of us who new them best recognized that it was mainly Jean’s deft skill at accommodating energetic personalities that kept that team united for over 40 years.
Jean would always say how much she loved babies. And that was not idle chatter because in 1963 (at age 37) Jean gave birth to yet another son AND in 1965 (at age 39) she gave birth to their seventh child, also a son. That ensured a non-stop ruckus in the household for the next 15-20 years, exactly the challenge that Jean gladly welcomed.
As the demands of family and business life began to inevitably slow down, Jean and Abe stayed busy and actually stepped-up their pace of travels, tennis and bridge. As evidence of her stamina, Jean took her last ski trip with her family to Kitzbuhel, Austria at the age of 74.
By the late 1990’s, Jean and Abe were living in Marco Island, Florida most of the year, but always returning to Vermont for the summers. Though skiing was no longer an option, they continued to build many friendships on the tennis court and at the bridge table.
In 2015, Jean (at age 89) and Abe (at age 97) moved to Discovery Village Assisted Living Community in Naples Florida. They continued to be active members of two bridge clubs and, even at their respectable ages, always competed for the best score and were disappointed if they did not at least place in the top-three.
Jean is survived by her husband of 75 years Abe Brown, her 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren: Paul Brown of California and his children Juan-Pablo Ramos and Andrea Brown; Roslyn Brown of South Burlington and her daughter Hannah Levitz and husband Lee of Briarcliff Manor, NY and their children Sadie and Tanner Levitz; Lewis Brown and wife Yael Szendro of Jerusalem, Israel and their children Yasmine, Eli and Topaz Szendro Brown; and David Brown and wife Ingrid Hågård of NYC and their children Maximilian and Solomon Brown; all of whom were the joy of her life. Jean was also the mother to three deceased children – Iris, Daniel and Karen Brown.
A private memorial service will be conducted by Rabbi Amy Small of Ohavi Zedek Synagogue.
Arrangements are by Boucher and Pritchard Funeral Directors.
Published in The Burlington Free Press from May 4 to May 5, 2021.