Marie Faulkner Brown was a fixer.When she saw no avenue to socialize her four children, Mrs. Brown began a Cub Scout Pack and a Girl Scout Troop. When she noticed local black businesses needed a way to promote themselves she founded in 1959 the Black Register.
And when she and her family needed a congregational church in which to worship, she started a church. Mrs. Brown, mother, entrepreneur and friend of many, has died. She was 89. Brown died April 3, about 1:20 a.m., said her son, John O. Brown Jr.
Founding Church of the Open Door in Liberty City, the first congregational church in South Florida, was Mrs. Brown’s proudest accomplishment, said John Jr.
Raised in a congregational church and attended Fisk University, a congregational school, Mrs. Brown wanted to worship in a way with which she was familiar. Mrs. Brown’s father, William Faulkner, was a revered minister, pastor of Park Manor Congregational Church in Chicago, and a former dean of the Chapel of Fisk University in Nashville, for more than 17 years.
He encouraged her to start the church. Church of the Open Door’s fourth pastor R. Joaquin Willis said when he arrived 12 years ago, Mrs. Brown was one of his biggest supporters.
“She’s gone and this will be the first time in 55 years that Mrs. Brown will not be around this church,” said Willis. “She seldom missed church – even during her late husband’s illness she still attended church regularly. She was an active participant in church. She was a lady’s lady. I miss her.”
Born Marie Louise Faulkner in Atlanta, Georgia April 3, Brown lived a life of celebration and accomplishment without pompousness. Her father William Faulkner was a renowned folklorist, publishing and promoting tales of Br’er Rabbit in his book, The Days When The Animals Talked, and giving numerous recitals to young children. Her mother, Elizabeth Cook Faulkner, known to family and friends simply as “Bessabel,” taught Mrs. Brown compassion, understanding, self-worth and eternal hope, said John Jr.
In 1941, Mrs. Brown went to Fisk University only to leave in 1943, to marry John O. Brown Sr., of Colbert, Oklahoma. They moved to Wisconsin and Nashville then to Meharry Medical College in Tuskegee, Alabama, where her husband completed residency in general surgery and ophthalmology. The couple moved to Miami in 1955, where John Sr. established the first black private practice of ophthalmology in the Southeast. Mrs. Brown completed her formal education at the University of Wisconsin in 1973, while raising three boys and a girl. She also attended the University of Miami.
John Jr. said the idea of family was very important to his mother. Everyone was welcomed in their home, even the kids who were sort of unruly. John Jr. and his brothers would ride their bikes to school and sometimes get into fights with neighborhood kids.
“Mom told us to invite them over. They managed to behave around my mother,” he said. She received multiple awards from civic, community and religious
organizations for her altruism, compassion and leadership. She also founded Gala Travel and Nana’s Cookies, and was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
“Mrs. Brown was generous to a fault,” said John Jr. “She gave away a lot of things frankly, I would have liked to have kept.” In the last six years or so, Mrs. Brown suffered from dementia.
“She was still personable, never violent, considerate, never asking more of anyone than they could handle,” John Jr. said. “I miss her.”
Mrs. Brown’s daughter Gala Munnings, her husband Dr. John O. Brown Sr., and her two sons, William Edward and Lawrence Faulkner preceded her in death. She was one of three siblings, surviving her brother John and sister, Josephine.
Mrs. Brown is survived by her son John Jr., six grand children: Dr. Corine Munnings, Ashli Munnings, John O. Brown III, William L. Brown, Malcolm Brown and Walida Brown; and three great grand-children: John Nicolas, Amelia Brown and Austin Munnings. Memorial service and Omega ceremony of Delta Sigma Theta is 6:30 p.m. April 24 at Church of the Open Door, 6001 NW Eighth Ave., Liberty City. Funeral service is April 25, 11 a.m., at the church.