Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sunday's Obituary - The Inexhaustable Marian Brown

Janus yearbook 1948
I always knew when my great Aunt Marian Veronica Brown died.  I've visited and placed flowers at her grave over the years.  I've heard many stories about Aunt Marian, but I've never read her obituary and all I can say is WOW!

"Marian Brown, HHS Teacher, Dies

Miss Marian V. Brown, director of dramatics at Hazleton High School and well known throughout the region for her readings and direction of the local Thespian troupe, died at 5:45 o'clock this morning at the St. Joseph Hospital.  She had been admitted as a medical patient a week ago.  A lifelong resident of this city, she resided at 505 West Broad street.

She was a daughter of the late Thomas and Mary Barrett Brown.

A graduate of Bloomsburg State Teachers College, she received a bachelor of arts degree from Marywood College and her masters from New York University.

Miss Brown taught English at the H. F. Grebey Memorial Junior High School before being transferred to Hazleton High School about 1935.  She was named director of dramatics and public speaking instructor at HHS about 1939.  For the past two years she also taught Latin.  She has always taken charge of the high school's commencement activities, play and program, and directed numerous faculty plays.

The Plain Speaker, 09AUG1956, pg 12
Sponsored Thespian Troupe

She was sponsor of National Thespian Troupe No. 257 at HHS and this past June chaperoned a group from the local troupe to a summer dramatic workshop at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

For the past several years, she aided the scholarship fund of Hazleton branch, American Association of University Women, by producing a benefit play.  Last year the branch named its scholarship the Marian V. Brown Scholarship.

She was a member of St. Gabriel's church and of the Altar and Rosary Society of the parish.  Other memberships included the Hazleton Teachers Association, Pennsylvania State Education Association and the National Education Association.

Taught Many Adults

She participated in the adult education program of the city by conducting speaking classes.

Surviving are three brothers, Edward, vice principal of H. F. Grebey Memorial Junior High School; Walter, teacher in Philadelphia; and Thomas, of Elmira, N.Y.

The funeral will be held from the Boyle funeral home Monday at 9 a. m. with solemn requiem high mass in St. Gabriel's church at 9:30.  Interment will be in the parish cemetery."

The Plain Speaker, 13AUG1956, pg 20
"Miss Marian V. Brown, Hazleton High School teacher who died Thursday, was buried this morning from the Boyle funeral home.  Solemn requiem high mass was celebrated in St. Gabriel's Church by Msgr. Dennis J. Kane, with Rev. Edward Haggerty as deacon and Rev. Eugene Moran as subdeacon.  Seated in the sanctuary were Rev. William Ward, chaplain at the St. Joseph Hospital, Rev. Frank and Rev. Cane, both of the Lady of Victory Church, Harvey's Lake.  Msgr. Kane gave the blessing in the parish cemetery.  Pallbearers were James Malatack, William McLaughlin, John Senko, Robbert Sacco, Frank Serany, Jr., and Herbert Skuba."

Aunt Marian was one of those people that my mom, aunt and uncle always talked about.  I can understand why when I see the obituary.  She did so much.  She was so active and obviously loved.  I mean to have the priests from the Harvey's Lake church and the hospital come to her funeral is really saying something.  The family took trips to Harvey's Lake in the summer.  It's not like they were there year-round!  And the pallbearers...they weren't family.  I can only imagine they were educators and friends that wanted to take part in remembering this great lady.  There were certainly family members that could have been pallbearers.

She attended and graduated from three colleges/universities!?!?  She had a scholarship named after her!?!?!  I find this amazing!  I also found out from my mom she paid her own way through school.  No help from her parents.  Her father, Thomas Brown, was a very loving man but he didn't believe that college was for women.  She was determined and obviously succeeded.  I don't know if she got any grants, scholarships, or worked her way through, but she did it.
Janus yearbook.  Year unknown.

She is also responsible for my grandfather, Edward Brown Sr, and great Uncle, Walter Brown Sr, going to college.  She paid their way!

She supported those organizations that she was apart of and she bought special presents for her nieces and nephews.  My mom tells me that Aunt Marian had great taste and bought the most beautiful presents.  When she died, she had no money left.  This wasn't due to frivolous spending on her part, but she believed in enjoying her life and used her money appropriately.  She wasn't married, had no kids, and knew that you can't take it with you!  She lived her life well and spent her money accordingly.

As for why Aunt Marian never married.  My mom tells me that there was talk of a man that she was in love with that was killed in World War II (name unknown).  There are also rumors of an affair with the novelist John O'Hara.  Frankly if you read about John O'Hara's life, affairs and him go hand in hand.  Does that make it true.  No...still a family legend.  But he was from the region and did reside in New York (one of the places Marian went to school).  Possible, but not confirmed.  Allegedly in one of his novels a character he created...a drama based on Aunt Marian.  Since John O'Hara would change the names of people and cities, I'll most likely never know.  I just got one of his books and hope to see if anything sounds close to Aunt Marian as I read through it!  I'll keep you posted!

Sadly, I can find no mention of Marian's scholarship still being in existence.  Additionally the webpage for the Hazleton AAUW is's blank.  I'm not hopeful, but won't give up.

She obviously was a magnificent woman.  She achieved so much.  I wish I could have known her personally.  I wish I could have the opportunity to hear people she taught speak of her and find out what they thought of this obviously wonderful lady.


  1. She was a fascinating woman, great bio post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What an amazing woman!

    I would certainly keep digging - especially with organizations like that, you might check to see if they had meeting minutes or newsletters archived in local libraries or historical societies.

    Also, belonging to that many colleges, it's definitely worthwhile looking at yearbooks or contacting alumni associations to see if they have any references to her. If you were really keen, you could even put a note in their alumni publications looking for former classmates and/or students!

    Best of luck!

  3. Wonderful post, Cheryl. I have a soft spot for the single members of the family - the teachers, priests, nuns. Their lives were often more interesting and involved than the lives of their sisters and brothers who were focused on their families.