Kay Brown succumbed to cancer on October 23 at age 87, a diagnosis that had gone undetected until a freak accident and hospitalization in September involving a fallen tree limb near her Court 16 home. On that day, neighbors rallied around her, and after the ensuing diagnosis they did so again, raising $11,000 on GoFundMe to help with medical costs. Because she was such a consummate neighbor, mother, grandmother, teacher and friend, we asked those who knew her to remember her in these pages, to remind us all that friendship is the connective tissue that binds our community. (Edited for brevity and clarity) –P.J.C.
We became good friends. Kay was always there to help, be it reading a script or sewing on a button. When I started working on my documentary (“Women & Fire”), Kay quickly became an important part of the team. We’d bounce ideas off each other on our walks and I could always count on her daily push, asking me, “Whatcha working on?” She earned a producer’s credit for the film—at age 85. Of course, there was a big age difference between us; when I took her to doctor appointments, the nurse would look at me and ask, ‘Are you her daughter?’ I would laugh and say ‘No, I’m her BFF.’
MJ: We went on little walks a few times each week. She had jackets with big pockets, to collect leaves, seeds, pods, she found so much beauty in these discarded bits, what the trees no longer needed; she envisioned a new life for them in the studio. I learned to see through her eyes, the perfect Liquid Amber leaf that had recently floated down, still supple, still had memory of being alive.
KY: I want people to remember her Artmobile, the old Volvo she kept up, barely, through the years, big enough to hold tools and assemblies and haul them over to schools and art centers. It was her mobile portable art studio and she did countless classes with it.
MJ: She left behind a ton of empty pots. When she was in Photo: Deb Attoinese the hospital she said to go take them and use them. I’ve taken some to put plants in and give them to her friends, so they can remember her.
KY: She was a special person in the life of my daughter Rachel, 14, but there were a lot of people where that was the case, not only my daughter but cousins, nieces, nephews. At family gatherings Kay would sing and tell stories and read books, connect them to adulthood. We felt lucky. Not everyone gets a person like that in their lives.
LF: The memory I will hold dearest is her joy when I washed her hair, when her broken arm had made it impossible to do that herself and still hold on to the shower rail for stability. She asked; I helped. That’s what friends do.