On the coldest day of the year 1927 Mary Jeanne was born January 25 to Robert and Tressie Brunker of Ridgeway, Wisconson. At the age of four she suffered the loss of her baby brother Bernard of eight days, and the subsequent tragic death of her mother, and a single father. The Great Depression caused the loss of the family farm and her father had to find work, traveling as far as Bozeman, Montana. Though never abandoned, she was largely raised by her paternal grandparents, Robert J and Katheryn Brunker, an Irish Catholic immigrant as a child during the Great Famine, in a home with one light bulb on a pull string, but bright with love and value of honesty, God and selflessness.
A shy child growing up in a small town she persevered with faith and a loving home through the social stigma of her mother’s suicide; but she made some dear friends early whom she continued to stay close all their lives. She was able, along with her dear friend Kathy, to attend a Catholic school, Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart, in Madison, class of 1945. Her father paid what he could for her tuition, and she worked for the rest, including in factory for the war effort. She would read stories, dream of far way lands, and writing poetry was way for her to express herself to her mother.
After high school she then attended and graduated from Madison Business College. She worked in Madison and Chicago before moving to Denver with a friend of hers. Along the way to Denver she stopped in Albuquerque, NM to take the federal civil service exam. Again, making friends for life she settled in with roommates in Denver and found work in the medical and legal fields. Then she entered civil service, obtained Top Secret executive clearance, one step below cosmic, for the civilian secretarial and stenographer pool and worked for the OSI, CIA/OSS, and US Air Force. She was stationed in France and subsequently Japan, and able to travel in many countries in Europe, though her favorite place was Japan.
Returning to Denver after civil service, Mary went to a Valentines dance. Earlier that day she had a “feeling” she would meet her mate. She did meet him that day, and later that year Charles E. “Ed” Brown and Mary Jeanne were married. Ed had two children already, a grown daughter Ardis and young son Charles E. “Eddie” Jr. She welcomed them with love and open heart, selflessly cashing in her only life insurance to move Eddie from Washington to Denver as young middle schooler. She and Ed raised Eddie, and they then moved to Orange County, California.
In answer to her prayers, she and Ed became parents to their only child, Robert “Bobby” Brown in 1966. A few years later the family moved to Bishop then Idaho and settled in Ontario, Oregon. Mary was widowed in 1981, worked in the Idaho courts, and raised her son to graduation. In 1984 she had a feeling she’d meet someone that day, and her friend set her up on a date in Ontario. Jim MacLaurin and Mary were married later that year. After traveling all over with Jim, who loved to fish, from the Rockies to Mexico, they settled in Sheridan and built a house to call home. They met many good friends here in Montana and as snowbirds in Arizona and Mexico. She was again widowed in 1992, but continued to travel to Apache Junction as a snow bird as long as she was able. Many may remember seeing her walking with her two fluffy Bichon dogs around Sheridan.
Her son cared for her in her final years, and she was able to live her last days at home as was her wish where she went peacefully with God to heaven on December 29, 2022, as family and friends by her side saying the Lord’s Prayer.
From the little girl living under the little light bulb she blessed and illuminated more than can be expressed in words. From a poem she wrote as a youth,
“We are moulded and remoulded by those who haved loved us;
and though the love may pass, we are, nevertheless their work, for good or bad”
Mary Jeanne is survived by her son Robert Brown, step-daughter Ardis, and Eddie’s children Michele, David, and Wendy.
Memorial service will be June 10, at 10am, Christ Episcopal Church, internment at the Sheridan Cemetery following, and celebration of life thereafter at the Christ Episcopal Parish Hall. .