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Mary de Brun

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Mary Sparks de Brun

ARLINGTON Mary Sparks de Brun, a resident of Arlington, died on Monday at The Vermont Veteran's Home in Bennington. The cause of death was cancer. She was 92.Mary Louise Sparks was born in Beaver Falls, Penn. to William R. and Lyda Matthews Sparks. She grew up in Massillon, Ohio, where her father was the station agent for the Pennsylvania Rail Road. In Massillon, she attended Whittier elementary school where, in a city wide essay contest, she won the grand prize, a new bicycle, and discovered a flare for writing that would serve her later in life. In 1937, she graduated from Mount Marie Catholic High School and Junior College, getting what she described as a 'good education' in the liberal arts. An attractive and good Catholic girl, she abruptly left her first job in business when she was informed by the manager that she would be accompanying the company's best client, a married man, to dinner the next night. Hired in 1938 by IBM, she moved to Akron as one of the founders of Thomas J. Watson's "Pioneering Women", a program that put female employees into sales positions traditionally held by men. While in Akron, Mary became a member of the Woman's City Club and performed with a local theater group, but her future lay elsewhere. In 1948, with friends Carolyn Werner of Cleveland and Janice Lyons of Coshocton, she moved to Boston, the three women starting new careers and sharing an apartment on Beacon Hill. Finding that she could make a living from her writing, she took a job as Public Relations Director for the Arch-Diocese of Boston, working to elevate the image of the Boston Catholic schools. Her work there did not go unnoticed and in 1958, she was offered the position of Education Coordinator at radio station WNAC. By 1960 she was given her own show at the station, "The Community Bulletin Board," becoming the first woman broadcaster in the Boston area to write and host her own program. In 1963 she added a second daily program with co-host Jim Dixon, called "Mary's Mail," a mix of call-in advice, celebrity interviews and public affairs. It was during her Bulletin Board broadcast of November 22, 1963, that the station's news director rushed into the studio, interrupting the program, to read the news wire from Dallas that President Kennedy had been shot. He just as quickly left, leaving the stunned host to carry on her show, in the Presidents home town. By 1967, times had changed and the station's owners abruptly changed the programming from talk to Rock and Roll music. It was about this time that she heard from an old friend who had recently lost his first wife. Mary had known John de Brun since the 1950s through her involvement in an organization called American Women in Radio and Television. He asked her out to dinner and about three months later they were married. The newlywed couple lived briefly in New York before moving to John's boyhood summer home of Arlington. After settling into the community, they launched a realty company bearing his name. John de Brun died of cancer in 1980 and Mary carried on the business in his name. Over the years, Mary's involvement with the community grew. She was a member of The Arlington Chorale for several years and a current member of the Arlington Garden Club, since 1970. She was an active member of her church, St. Margaret Mary's and its women's projects and was also a long-time supporter of groups that promote the enjoyment of music such as the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the Manchester Music Festival. A dog lover, she was committed to the welfare of all animals through her support of the Second Chance animal shelter. Mary is survived by a brother and sister-in-law, John and Amelia Sparks of Massillon Ohio; nephews, William Sparks of Berkeley, Calif. and James Sparks of New York; a niece, Mary Sparks McMunn of Bexley, Ohio; four stepchildren, John B. de Brun Jr., and Carl de Brun, both of Naples, Fla., Betsie Cumming of Mendham, N.J. and Wendie Clark of St. Albans, Vt. FUNERAL NOTICE: Calling hours will be held at Hanson-Walbridge & Shea Arlington Chapel on Friday, May 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. A funeral will take place at St. Margaret Mary's Church in Arlington, on Saturday, May 10 at 10 am. In lieu of flowers the family asks that you remember Mary with your next donation to a community organization of your choice.
Published in Bennington Banner on May 8, 2014
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