BROWNE, Maria Josefa Junquera passed away peacefully on October 2, 2021. She was surrounded by her loving family. The daughter of Jose Luis "Sobrin" Junquera and Maria Josefa "Josefita" Azorin, Maria and her ex-tended family fled Camagüey, Cuba, in 1960. They eventually settled in Plant City, Florida, where they rebuilt their business brick-by-brick. A once-in-a-lifetime beauty, Maria ("Popy" to her adoring cousins) was crowned Hillsborough County Fair and Strawberry Festival Queen in 1967. Despite her recent arrival, she graduated from Plant City High School at the top of her class, with honors. After enrolling at the University of Florida, Maria became the first Hispanic Miss Florida USA, proudly representing her home state in her newly adopted country. Maria also served as Vice President of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and graduated with honors and a bachelor's degree in political science. Thereafter, Maria embarked on a banking career. She got her start in Atlanta, where she met the love of her life, Don Browne. They married in 1981 and moved to Miami Beach. She went to work for Southeast Bank; Don became a bureau chief for NBC News. They celebrated 40 years of joy and partnership this year. Maria was perhaps best known as the CEO of the Browne family. She raised two sons, Chris and Ryan. She taught them to be, above all else, adventurous. Over the course of Don's career as a newsman and, later, as a media executive, Maria traveled constantly with her family. But she never let her boys forget where she came from. Maria also understood the importance of giving back. True to her belief in every child's potential, she was a Philanthropic Founder of the Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program and a long-time member of the Board of Trustees of The Cushman School. Most recently, Maria shone brightest as "Abie" to her cherished granddaughter, Adelia. She taught her to sing, make mischief, and dance, usually to Celia Cruz's "La vida es un carnaval." Maria was preceded in death by her beloved younger brother, Jose "Pepe" Junquera, and is survived by her husband, children, and grand-daughter. Her extended family, from Florida to Northern Spain, will miss her madly. A funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, October 9, at Saint Clement Catholic Church, 1104 N. Alexander St., Plant City, Florida. Condolences may be left for the family at haught.ca
re. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for contributions in Maria's name to the Women of Tomorrow Mentorship & Scholarship Program, via womenoftomorrow.org
Published by Tampa Bay Times on Oct. 6, 2021.