Jean E. Brown, a long-time Farmington resident, dedicated humanitarian and public servant, loving wife, mother and grandmother and true friend to many, died Aug. 21, 2013, in Albuquerque. She was 90 years old and was preceded in death by her husband of 62 years, Harold Henry Brown.
Of her many accomplishments, Jean was most proud of her civic efforts to improve life in Farmington. Over the last 50 years, her efforts spanned leadership roles in such causes as Meals on Wheels, the League of Women Voters and the City of Farmington Planning and Zoning Commission. In 1980, she was named Farmington's Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce "for her unselfish and untiring efforts on behalf of our community through her leadership in service, charitable and civic organizations."
Jean Elizabeth Knudson was born Aug. 15, 1923, in Driscoll, N.D. Growing up in a close-knit farming community instilled a belief in the inherent goodness of people and inspired a love of learning. Her early education was in a one-room schoolhouse that taught grades kindergarten through eight. She graduated from the University of Minnesota and subsequently became Assistant Dean of Women at the University of Wyoming, where she met her future husband, Harold. They were married in 1950, began a family and moved to Farmington in 1959.
Jean's local public service began in the early 1960s. She was instrumental in building the then-new Trinity Lutheran Church on 20th Street and was District Chairman (San Juan) of the Girl Scouts of America. She was subsequently elected to the Board of Directors of the Chaparral Girl Scouts Council. She also served as President of the Farmington chapter of American Field Services (foreign-student exchange program).
In 1971, Jean became the first Chairperson of the Farmington League of Women Voters and two years later was elected to the statewide League of Women Voters where she served as Vice President, program chair and a member of the Board of Directors. She maintained her efforts to encourage public participation in the political process throughout her life. In 1980, she served as co-chair of the Complete Count Committee, the local census-organizing effort.
Above all, Jean was dedicated to improving the beauty of and living conditions in Farmington. In 1976, she became a Planning and Zoning Commissioner and for the next two decades she devoted herself to bettering the community as co-chair of the Farmington Growth Management Task Force (1979) and Vice President of the Farmington Clean City Committee (1981). In the late 1980s, she served on the Board of Directors of the River Reach Foundation, which developed the Riverwalk, and she also provided inspiration for the Farmington Bikeways Program.
Jean's dedication to improving local living conditions extended to humanitarian work; she was instrumental in establishing the local Head Start preschool and Meals on Wheels programs, which she energetically supported for the next 20 years. It was for this unstinting work for the community that Mrs. Brown was awarded the Chamber of Commerce Humanitarian Award in the early 1980s.
Despite the amount of energy and dedication she devoted to these community efforts, Jean always had the time to care for the individuals in her life, be they family members, close friends or casual acquaintances. She genuinely cherished each and every one of them, empathizing with them in times of difficulty and celebrating with them in times of joy. She nurtured her children and grandchildren, and she comforted and cared for friends and relatives approaching the end of their lives. She and Harold enjoyed entertaining, and they opened their home and spread a beautiful table to share good food and conversation with many, many people. Jean was an avid reader and a lifelong student of philosophy, religion and literature.
She is survived by her three children, Paul Brown, Susan Bennett and Hollis Simmons; two sons-in-law, Rick Bennett and Brad Simmons; a daughter-in-law, Theresa Brown; and seven grandchildren and their spouses, Julia Brown, Jessa (Simmons) Stevens and her husband Alex, Hunter Simmons and his wife Kendall, Gracie Brown, David Bennett, Addie Simmons and Lauren Bennett.
She and a group of close friends met routinely for several decades to discuss their readings and current events. Though progressive disease eventually took her ability to communicate, she held all those she knew very dear in her heart and so appreciated the letters and cards she received over the last few years. Jean is already missed.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made in Jean's name to River Reach Foundation at www.riverreachfoundation.com/get-involved, or Meals on Wheels, Bonnie Dallas Senior Center, 109 E. La Plata, Farmington, NM 87401.
Published in Farmington Daily Times from Aug. 31 to Sept. 14, 2013