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Mary Brown: 1925-2014; Lucas County court referee loved to garden

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Mary Elizabeth “Beth” Brown, who had a green thumb and a soft spot for young women trying to finance a college education, died Monday of pneumonia in Kingston Care Center of Sylvania. She was 89.

A longtime resident of Ottawa Hills, she had been in assisted living since 2010, at the Woodlands at Sunset House, then at Kingston because of a stroke, her daughter, Rebecca Brown, said.

Mrs. Brown devoted much of her time to growing her vegetable garden and canning the produce.

“She planted it every year, had to show it to you, give you some of what came out of it. She canned quite a bit,” her daughter said.

“She was lugging around 40-pound bags of dirt and fertilizer well after the point she should have been.”

Mrs. Brown’s interest in gardening combined with her frugality when she started collecting crabapples that fell from trees along Kenwood Boulevard.

“She thought it was a waste they were falling and rotting. She called the city and got permission to harvest the crabapples — she would be out there with her stepladder,” her daughter said. Among her products were crabapple jelly and crabapple sauce.

Born in 1925 in Toledo to Stanley and Clara Hiett, the family moved to Ottawa Hills when she was 5. She graduated from Ottawa Hills High School and received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College.

Mrs. Brown’s father died when she was a college freshman and the college gave her a scholarship to finish her degree. That prompted a lifelong dedication to the Wellesley Club.

“She received a scholarship to continue so she was active to make sure other girls got the same kind of opportunity,” Rebecca Brown said.

Mrs. Brown received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan and was employed by the Lucas County Juvenile Court as a juvenile referee. She left the position in 1960 after her son was born.

“She enjoyed working with the girls down at CSI,” her daughter said, referring to the former Child Study Institute.

Mrs. Brown talked about her five years overseeing juvenile delinquency cases in a Jan. 25, 1959, story in The Blade. An acute need, she said, was a residential psychiatric center for girls.

Rebecca Brown said her mother‘‍s family lived on Brookside Road until her father’s death when she was 18, and they moved to a smaller home on Kirkwall Road.

Thirty years later, Mrs. Brown and her husband, Charles Earl Brown, bought the former family house on Brookside. It was sold in 2012. Mr. Brown, a lawyer, died in 2005.

“She was bright, she was warm, she was welcoming, and she was funny, and that stayed with her to the very end, even her last hours,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Brown’s activity at First Congregational Church included the longstanding job of ironing the communion linen. She enjoyed bowling, sewing, and cooking, and had been active in the Junior League, Toledo Choral Society, and the Toledo Bar Auxiliary.

Surviving are her son, Douglas; daughter, Rebecca Brown; sister, Kathryn Jordan, and three grandchildren.

Visitation is 4 to 7 p.m. today at Walker Funeral Home where the funeral will be 1 p.m. Saturday.

The family suggests tributes to the Wellesley College Scholarship Fund or to Schedel Arboretum and Gardens.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.

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