Betsy Brown, 96, died September 26 at her home at 17 Meadowbrook Drive, Ossining. She had lived in New Castle, Briarcliff Manor and Ossining for 66 years, was a wife, mother, reporter at The New York Times and other papers, volunteer, and longtime member of the Ossining Zoning Board.
Born in Oakland, CA, on August 18, 1923, to Tom and Sydney Jones, Betsy was raised in Berkeley, CA, attended the University of California at Berkeley and began a long newspaper career at the student paper, The Daily Californian. After the start of World War II, she left college to work on the house organ at Moore Dry Dock, which built liberty ships in Oakland. She often recalled working with little people who were thrilled to have left show business to become welders in tight spots as the ships where hurriedly constructed. She later took a troop ship to Hawaii and joined the Women’s Air Raid Defense, talking on the radio with the call sign “Rascal” to spotters watching for planes and ships around the islands.
After the war she was a reporter at The Honolulu Advertiser and then in the San Francisco Examiner’s courthouse bureau, where she endured endless ribbing from the crusty male reporters who also taught her the ropes. Next, she moved to New York City and sold candy at a movie theater before becoming a writer at Newsweek. At the magazine she met Charles H. Brown, who soon was sent to Germany as the Bonn bureau chief. They were married in Paris in 1949 and returned to New York shortly after having their first child, Jeffrey, in 1951.
They moved to a 150-year-old farmhouse in New Castle after the birth of their daughter Lucy in 1952. Charlie commuted to New York to work at Newsweek, and later at The New York Times. In 1963 the family moved to Briarcliff Manor to avoid the double sessions beginning in the Ossining schools.
For many years Betsy was a reporter at The Patent Trader in Mt. Kisco, NY., describing it as the most fun job of her career because of the variety. She received numerous awards, including a national prize for a series on the burdens on corporate wives who had to move frequently and do unpaid work like entertaining husbands’ business associates. One summer she wrote wryly about a “mysterious blob” that had appeared in the woods, quoting residents and experts who speculated on whether it was from outer space, was toxic waste or an exotic fungus. She was known as a tenacious reporter who would not take no for an answer, and as a lively, thorough and economical writer with an enormous vocabulary at the ready. Scrabble opponents were always glad they did not play for money.
In the late ‘60s she became the director of communications for the Westchester office of the Urban Development Corp., which built low-income housing. She often returned home laughing after giving a speech and being heckled by a crowd chanting, “Betsy Brown, get out of town!” After Charlie died in 1975, Betsy joined the Times’ bureau in White Plains, specializing in writing about real estate until retiring in the mid-1980s.
After retiring, she went to Antigua for two years with the Peace Corps, where she lived over a store in a small inland village and worked with the Chamber of Commerce, organized a women’s sewing group and survived Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Following her return, she traveled extensively in China, Vietnam, India, Africa and Latin America.
She was an avid gardener and excellent cook who liked to entertain, often hosting a lively Democratic watch party on Election Night. Her most infamous party was a Halloween bash with an O.J. Simpson murder theme, with a knife in aspic and 10-month-old grandson Dash dressed as the bloody glove.
She did extensive volunteer work in and around Ossining. She escorted patients to Planned Parenthood, advised women returning to work on how to dress and conduct job interviews, and served for more than 25 years on the Ossining Zoning Board. She regaled friends and family with accounts of the ingenious reasoning applicants used to explain their illegal decks and fences, and she was constantly amused by the slick city lawyers who thought they could put one over on the locals.
She leaves her son Jeff of Bozeman, MT, daughter Lucy Vinis of Eugene, OR, and three grandsons, Charles Vinis of Brooklyn, Ed Vinis of Eugene and Dash Brown of Elkridge, MD.
A memorial service will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church, 201 Scarborough Road, Briarcliff Manor, NY at 1:30 p.m. October 26. Burial is private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts to Planned Parenthood.