BROWN, Mary L. (Knie)
Mary Lois Brown, 95, died July 28, 2009, in Tulsa, OK. She is survived by her sons, Frank E. Brown, Jr., of Alexandria, VA; Robert Brown, of New York City; and Donald Brown, of Tulsa; four grandsons, Kevin Brown, of Bloomfield, NJ; Spencer Brown, of Atlanta, GA.; Alex Brown, of Tulsa; and Christopher Brown, of Alexandria, VA; a granddaughter, Meredith McGowan, of Bethesda, MD; and four great-grandchildren. She was born October 16, 1913, in Cordell, OK, the youngest of five children. Her mother, Lois 0. Knie, was a schoolteacher; her father, Robert L. Knie, was an attorney and state legislator. They had arrived in western Oklahoma as homesteaders. As Mary Lois often recalled, her parents instilled in her an intense love of the English language. Throughout her life, she was quick to correct grammatical errors, even in informal conversations. She had a passion for Shakespeare, and never stopped studying his works. She also loved music, especially the songs and arrangements of the bandleader Duke Ellington. During the early years of the Great Depression, she sang with a group called the Cordell Trio and made several appearances on western Oklahoma radio broadcasts. She was an accomplished, self-taught pianist, whose flair for music was passed along to her sons and grandsons, four of whom have performed professionally. She graduated from Oklahoma College for Women in Chickasha and, like her mother, became a schoolteacher. In her early 20's, she was courted by a young geologist, Frank E. Brown, who was working on oil exploration sites in western Oklahoma. Because the school where she taught prohibited the employment of married teachers, she and Frank were secretly married in January of 1938. For the benefit of the rest of the world (including her employers) they held another ceremony after the school term ended on June 4, 1938, the date they celebrated as their anniversary. They remained married until Frank's death in September 1993. They settled in Tulsa in the early 1940's, where Frank established the Republic Exploration Company and Mary Lois left teaching to raise the couple's three sons, Frank, Jr., Robert and Donald. She also began to devote her energies to charities and civic projects, and by the 1950's played prominent roles in several organizations. Her charitable work included serving on the advisory board of the Tulsa Cerebral Palsy Association and as chairperson of drives for the March of Dimes and Muscular Dystrophy. She helped found and served as president of an auxiliary of the Tulsa Geological and Geophysical Societies, a group that came to be known by the tongue-in-cheek title the 'Rockettes.' Most notably, her lifelong love of music led to her involvement in the Tulsa Opera Guild. She served as one of the first presidents of the Guild, and took particular pleasure in helping organize regional Metropolitan Opera auditions. She pursued her interests in Shakespeare through the English Speaking Union. She served as president of the Tulsa branch and on the Union's national board She was instrumental in establishing an annual Shakespeare competition for Tulsa area high school students. She worshipped at Trinity and St. John's Episcopal churches and was president of the Episcopal Church Women of Oklahoma. When her sons were grown, Mary Lois was so intent on returning to teaching that she accepted a Tulsa Public Schools job as a corrective reading teacher while simultaneously enrolling at the University of Tulsa, where she obtained a Master of Teaching Arts degree in 1970. Always seeking to improve her skills, she continued to accumulate graduate hours until she reached her mid 60's. As a reading teacher, she pioneered efforts to go beyond the standard textbook curriculum, enticing students to read by using materials, from hot rod magazines to comics, that appealed to their interests. In addition to the Tulsa Public School system, Mary Lois taught as an adjunct instructor at Oral Roberts University. One of her crowning achievements came near the end of her career, when administrators asked her to create a reading lab for the Tulsa County Area Vocational- Technical School District 18. The lab became a model of success. She also worked as a private tutor, an endeavor she found particularly satisfying as she watched her students blossom. Those who knew her invariably commented on her sense of humor, which was wry and sometimes irreverent. In retirement, she remained committed to the civic, educational, and religious organizations she had helped build. And she kept a prized collection of Duke Ellington's music. She listened to the music with a smile; and when it was over, she often repeated, to whomever was near, one of Ellington's signature lines: ""Love you madly."" A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. August 3rd at St. John's Episcopal Church, 4200 S. Atlanta Place. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in her name to St. John's.