Mary Virginia Brown (nee Cook) was born on July 24, 1930 in Coweta County Georgia to Willie B. Cook and Bessie Mae White Cook. Mary`s mother passed away when she was seven years old so she was raised by her paternal grandparents: Beatrice and Thomas Cook. Mary attended school at Howard Warner School in Newnan Georgia. After she graduated, she was accepted and enrolled at Fort Valley State College. She later transferred and graduated from Morris Brown College.
After Mary graduated, she taught school in Grantville Gorgia and in Tourin Georgia. Mary was a high achiever. She tried to enroll in the Master of Education Program at the University of Georgia, but she was denied admission because of her race. Because Georgia is a “Land Grant” State, the State was obligated to pay for her education in another state. Mary was accepted into the Master of Education program at Western Reserve College (now Case Western University) in Cleveland, Ohio. When Mary graduated from Reserve, she was hired by the Cleveland Public School District as a classroom teacher and a science teacher in 1956. Thus began the next chapter of Mary’s life and the beginning of a forty-four-year career.
Mary was a strict “no nonsense” teacher. She was warm and caring and not only taught her students, but she nurtured them as well. She was strict, but she also had a sense of humor and she would occasionally have a good laugh with them. Her classrooms were bright and colorful. She used meaningful teaching devices and techniques to enhance her students conceptual understanding. Her classrooms were abuzz with students working in groups or doing class projects.
During the early part of Mary’s career in Cleveland, she met and married Raymond Brown. From this union, Jeffrey Todd was born. Mary cherished and loved her son. She encouraged him to work hard and to have fun. Jeff worked hard and excelled at Shaker Heights High School. As a result of his hard work, he won an academic scholarship to Kent State University.
In 1980 Mary was transferred to Buhrer School on Cleveland`s west side. This was the start of the “Desegregation Program” in Cleveland and the beginning of the busing program. To achieve racial balance in classrooms, some students who lived on the west side were bused to the east side of the city. Some students who lived west side were bused to the east side of city. It was a grand experiment and students learned from one another. The greatest lesson students learned was that they were more alike than different. It was a lesson that Mary taught in her classroom. For many of her students, it was the first time they had a Black teacher or Black classmates. Mary enjoyed this new teaching experience.
During her final years as a classroom teacher, she was promoted to a position as a Science Curriculum Specialist for the Lincoln/West District. In this administrative position, she visited classrooms at 13 schools on the east side of the District and the west side. In this position, she also shared teaching strategies in science with classroom teachers and school staff. She also introduced concepts in science to parents during District workshops. This was a job that Mary loved. It gave her the opportunity to share her scientific knowledge in meaningful ways to students, parents, and District personnel.
Mary was a civic minded person. She believed in social justice and helping others. She was a Golden Life Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and The National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Alpha Xi Chapter. Mary served as the Baseilus (President) of the chapter from 1981 -1983. Mary started in leadership positions early in her life. She was President of the college chapter of AKA during her undergraduate years.
Mary led a purpose driven life. She gave her time and talents to her community, her professional organizations and to her church. As life long learner, she never tired of learning new things and accepting a new challenge. Her health began to fail in 2011. She could no longer reside in her beloved home so she became a resident of Beachwood Pointe Care Center in Beachwood, Ohio. On November 21, she quietly passed away.
She leaves to mourn her passing nephews: Dwight (Temple) Cook (Forsyth, GA); Christopher Cook (LaGrange, GA); Kristal Harris (Cook) (Atlanta, GA); Stephen Pearson IV ( Atlanta, GA); first cousins: Artie (Mildred) Jeter, Tommy (Sheila) Cook, and Gary (Patricia) Arnold. Mary`s parents preceded her in death, as well as her son Jeffrey and his father Ray. Her only sibling Clarence Cook and his daughter Shelvey Ann also preceded her in death.
Mary had many friends. She was loved and will be missed by special friends Alveneice Blandon, Etta (Pat) Bradley, and Geraldine (Gerri) Dockery. Additionally, she will be missed by Ameerah Muhammad her caregiver who Mary regarded as a daughter. May she rest in loving peace.