Anne Brown

August 8, 1926– June 29, 2018

Anne Brown passed away June 29, 2018 in Seattle, just short of her 92nd birthday, surrounded by her family. Anne was a longtime beloved resident of Bellingham, Washington, and more recently The Summit at First Hill in Seattle.

Anne’s life took many turns … from Germany, to England, to New York, to Seattle, to Bellingham (and in-between to Gainesville, Florida and Corte Madera, California). She was a respected public health nurse, the center of her family, and a pillar of the Bellingham community. Along the way she touched many lives with her compassion, understanding, and nurturing presence.

She was born on August 8, 1926 in the small German town of Schlüchtern to Paula and Fred Wolf. Anne and her brother Ernie enjoyed idyllic childhoods. Her parents, who owned a soap factory, were a respected part of the community. All that changed with the rise of the Nazis. In 1936, with Jewish children no longer allowed in public schools, she and her brother were sent to boarding school in England. Through fortunate connections, the family was able to immigrate to New York in 1939. (They celebrated their arrival in the United States with an ice cream cone and now every year family and friends celebrate “Ice Cream Day” on April 16th.) Her father supported the family working for a soap factory and her mother as a baby nurse. Her mother eventually decided to go to school and became a Licensed Practical Nurse.

After high school, Anne followed in her mother’s footsteps into nursing and enrolled at Adelphi College in the Registered Nurse program. Her tuition was paid by the Nursing Cadet Corps, a government-financed program to prepare nurses for the war. The war ended before she had to serve in the military, and she continued studies at Adelphi, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1947.

She briefly worked at Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, but later that year, heard about a need for nurses to help with a polio epidemic in Idaho and moved to Boise. Wanting to work in public health, in 1948 she accepted a position at the Public Health Department in Seattle, a city where an uncle lived. During the daytime she worked with mothers and babies in the Well Child Clinic and during nights and weekends she pulled shifts at Harborview Hospital, working with polio patients.

She joined Hillel, the Jewish organization at the University of Washington, and became part of a group of Israeli folk dancers. One evening in 1948, the Unitarian youth group invited the Hillel students to teach them Israeli folk dancing. That’s where Anne met Will Brown, a Boeing engineer. Around this time, Anne decided to leave her health department job to study for her Master’s Degree in Nursing with a Certificate in Public Health at UW. She continued to work part-time at Harborview Hospital.

Will and Anne were married on March 21, 1949. They had a small wedding at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, where Anne’s parents still lived.

The couple settled in Seattle, Will began teaching high school, and the couple’s two children were born, Rob in 1952 and Debbie in 1953. By 1956, Will was hired by what was then called Western Washington College of Education, and the family moved to Bellingham.

Several more moves followed, as Will received his Ph.D. in physics in Florida and in 1963 began a teaching job at San Francisco State University. Anne worked as a public health nurse in Marin County, where they settled. Three years later, they were happy to move back to Bellingham, where Will became a professor in the physics department at Western Washington University. This is when Anne was able to create her own dream job, working with families of infants with developmental delays. In 1971, she became a full-time public health nurse for families of young children in Whatcom County. Through the years, she worked with many groups and programs with this focus, including Whatcom Community College Early Childhood Program, Western Center for Early Learning, the Coalition for Child Advocacy, and helped found the Whatcom Center for Early Learning, which thrives today. Here is a video the Center put together honoring “Anne and her heart for children.” (YouTube Video)

Anne was a great supporter of Will’s teaching career. For nearly 30 years, Will was a professor of physics and astronomy at Western. Several years ago, together they created the Dr. Willard A. and Anne W. Brown Endowment Fund. The fund supports two annual scholarships for undergraduate students studying music, a shared passion of Anne and Will, and astronomy. Over the years, Anne has enjoyed meeting the recipients of their scholarships.

Building community was important to her. In addition to her immediate and large extended family, she was an adopted mother/grandmother/“Nana” to many. She loved being a part of welcoming committees whether it was her community, Congregation Beth Israel, and more recently at The Summit at First Hill. Anne and Will’s home was inviting to all, hosting many family and friend gatherings, which often included ice cream socials (continuing the family tradition of ice cream to celebrate, which started long ago on the family’s arrival in the United States).

She was recognized throughout the years for her professional accomplishments and her community service. To name just a few of her awards: the Giraffe Award “for people who stick their necks out” from a local radio station, the Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame award for Outstanding Community Service in Volunteer Work and Personal Inspiration, and the Whatcom County Peace Builder award. Articles about her appeared in The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, The Bellingham Herald, and The Seattle Times.

Anne enjoyed traveling, gardening, crocheting, knitting, crafting, playing the recorder, playing cards and board games, and photography. Family and friends treasured that she acknowledged birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones with her signature handmade cards with her photographs.

Anne was preceded in death by her husband Dr. Willard A. Brown in 2003 and her son Rob Brown in 2017. She is survived by her daughter Debbie; granddaughter Melissa (Chris), grandson Marc (Stephanie), great-granddaughter Anneliese; brother Ernie (Vivienne); niece Kayte; nephews Michael and David; well as many loved ‘bonus’ grand- and great-grandchildren, extended family and friends.

Contributions can be made in her memory to:

Interesting Links: