Patsy Ruth Howard Brown passed away at age 85 after a life of service on Feb. 13. Cortez has lost a prominent member of the community.
Brown was raised on a ranch in Powderhorn, graduated from Gunnison High School and received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Western State College in Gunnison.
Brown began her teaching career in Towaoc, then taught in Anchorage, Alaska, and returned to Cortez, where she would teach at Mesa, Manaugh and Kemper elementary schools.
Her students loved her, according to Brown’s daughter, Tammy Kingman.
Kingman said her mother was a good teacher and very firm, and was said to have been one of the last Colorado teachers to receive the lifetime teaching certificate.
After Tammy was born, Brown took a break from teaching and ended up visiting The Cortez Journal newsroom often, then owned by her husband, Russell Brown’s family.
Byron McKelvie, who worked at The Cortez Journal for 33 years, knew her from The Cortez Journal and The Cultural Center.
“She was very nice, a friend to all of us,” McKelvie said.
Suzy Meyer, longtime employee and publisher at The Cortez Journal, said Brown was like a “den mother” in the newsroom.
Brown returned to teaching in 1984 and retired in 1990. After retirement, she was encouraged by Buford Wayt to volunteer at the Cortez Cultural Center.
She took Wayt’s advice and began volunteering at the Cultural Center and found a new passion for the community.
“She was the volunteer coordinator, and if anyone called to say they couldn’t make their shift, she would cover it,” Kingman said. “For 25 years, that was her passion, and she loved it.”
According to Kingman, Brown was also involved in women’s clubs and organizations, such as Beta Sigma Phi, a nonacademic sorority with 200,000 members, and the PEO Sisterhood, an international women’s organization that works to provide educational opportunities for female students. She also was involved with the Emblem Club 261 of Cortez, a patriotic club that is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and with American Legion Ladies Auxiliary.
Her friend and coworker at the Cultural Center, executive director Rebecca Levy, described Brown as a “pillar of the greater Cortez community” in a letter to the editor.
“She was many things to many people – a teacher, a friend, a leader, an occasional opponent and an advocate for cultural tolerance, locally grown journalism and lifelong education – to name a few,” Levy wrote.
Levy also commented on Brown’s giving nature calling her selfless and impactful.
In 1997, Brown received Cortez’s Citizen of the Year award. Kingman said her mother was honored.
“She was extremely surprised and very humbled and a bit embarrassed,” Kingman said. “She did not like a lot of limelight on her; she did things because she wanted to, and she never expected anything in return.”
Brown’s giving nature comes up a lot in conversations about her life. One of her best friends, Madonna Gonzales, sometime felt she was a saint.
“I know she was not, but that is how it felt,” Gonzales said. “The main thing is that she was a lady that gave of herself – to her community, friends and family.”
Gonzales said she is already greatly missed, “I can tell you anymore than anyone in the community how much she was loved in the community,” she said.
According to Brown’s obituary, a service in celebration of her life will be at the Cortez Cultural Center on April 14 at 2 p.m.