Today is the 44th anniversary of the death of Vivian Eleanora Ritchey Brown – my husband’s mother. The former beauty queen of Fairmont, Nebraska, married Rex Brown, a member of the United States Army Air Force in World War II, whom she met at the training base in Fairmont. They had five children.
After the war the Brown’s settled in Independence, MO, where Rex practiced law. He eventually decided to become a Presbyterian minister and the family moved to Washington County, Kentucky. He attended seminary in
Louisville and served as pastor of Pleasant Grove Presbyterian Church in the
northern part of the county. After seminary the decision was made to become missionaries. The family spent one year in Belgium, learning French, and preparing for missionary work. When they arrived in the Republic of the
Congo (as it was called at that time, now known as the Democratic Republic of
the Congo), the children were left at a missionary school on the outskirts of Lubondai, a small rural area, and their parents moved on to another station. Vivian saw her children only on holidays and vacations for their three year stint in Africa. She was a wonderful teacher and cared deeply for the African children
and their families. But I’m sure she worried about her own children in an area with mambas, lions and crocodiles – among other things! – and longed to have them close to her.
On sabbatical back in the states, Vivian was killed in a car accident while driving to an uncle’s funeral. Everyone who knew Vivian was devastated. She was dearly loved by all. A niece said that her grandparents treasured every time the Brown’s’ came to visit. She said she loved all her aunts and uncles but Vivian had a special place in her heart – she never got upset and just had an awe around her – she had the face and soul of an angel.
When the news was given to the station in Congo, everyone was stunned. The only communication with the different stations was by ham radio at noon each day. A minute of silence was given for Aunt Vivian, who was so beloved by all, and she was deeply mourned for a very long time.
Pleasant Grove parishioners still talk about the memories of Vivian and her happy children. At the 150th and 175th anniversary celebrations we attended stories were told and pictures handed round of those years in the early 60’s.
Vivian’s death was especially devastating to her children. I can attest that they received the best of their qualities from their mother – the love and care they show to others – and their beautiful smiles! How I would have loved to meet this woman that gave me the most precious husband on earth! But I can see her through him. And now qualities of this special woman have been handed down not only to her grandchildren, but her great-grandchildren. So even though she
may be in heaven, the guardian angel watching over all her precious brood, she
lives on in the legacy she left behind.