Betsy Brown, a member of South Seattle Friends Meeting, died unexpectedly of a heart attack on July 6, 2018, at age 78. Her final days had been spent at her beloved summer home, Riverbrink, at Pocono Lake Preserve, PA, during a week-long family reunion that included her sister, brother, son, daughter, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. She told a niece that it had been “the best day ever.” Her family was the center of her life so it was a wonderful gift to have so much of it together at the time of her passing.
Betsy was a birthright Friend born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 19, 1939, the oldest daughter of Jane Elisabeth McCord and Edward Rhoads Potts. For most of her childhood, her family lived at Bryn Gweled Homesteads in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, an intentional community founded by Friends. She was raised in Southampton Monthly Meeting, attended Abington Friends School, and graduated from George School in 1957. She had two younger siblings, Lydia Rhoads Potts Quill and Edward Rhoads Potts, Jr; and two step-sisters, Susan Maxfield and Anne Ogan, added to the family after her mother died in 1966 and her father remarried to Grace “Mimsey” Olmsted Peterson.
Betsy met Allan Brown through connections from attending Swarthmore College and they married in 1962. At the time she was living in Philadelphia and working at the Philadelphia College of the Arts, having graduated from Pierce Business School. From 1963-1965 they lived in Vietnam, working at the American School in Saigon – Betsy in the school library and Allan as a teacher – before traveling around the world back to the US to start a family and build their careers. Betsy and Allan raised their children, Jonathan Wistar Brown, Rebecca More, and Sarah Elisabeth Brown at their home on School House Lane in Philadelphia, and as members of Germantown Monthly Meeting.
Once the children reached school-age, Betsy went back to school to earn a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s degree in Library Science from Drexel University. She worked in the libraries at the Medical College of Pennsylvania in East Falls, the American College in Bryn Mawr, and the Springside School in Chestnut Hill before serving as the Haverford College Library Quaker Collection Bibliographer for the final twenty years of her career. During this period she served for many years as Secretary of the Friends Historical Association and as a member of the Germantown Friends School board. Incidentally, she loved fast cars and claimed that, in an alternate life, she would have been a racecar driver. The Mini Cooper she owned near the end of her life was a dream come true and a nod to that other self.
After divorcing in 1988, Betsy moved to Tanguy Homesteads in the early 1990s and lived in that intentional neighborhood until she retired in 2002. She moved to Seattle to purchase the final unit in the newly formed Jackson Place Cohousing where her son Jonathan and his partner Brynnen were about to have her first grandchild. Betsy played an integral part in helping to raise Ezra and his younger brother Gibson. From her apartment overlooking the community courtyard, she kept an eye on everyone’s comings and goings. As a member of the Kitchen Team, she cooked, baked, and managed the produce shopping for the cohousing community’s shared meals program for over a decade.
Betsy was a vital part of South Seattle Friends Meeting, having transferred her membership first to University Friends and then to South Seattle when it became a Monthly Meeting. Betsy had a favorite place to sit during worship and her focused presence was very much appreciated by the community. Up until her last year, she faithfully attended business meetings where her kind, direct wisdom helped guide the formation of the meeting and leavened weighty issues. She served for a number of years as recording clerk and on Arrangements Committee. Most recently Betsy was an integral member of the Older Friends group where she shared her journey and challenges, albeit briefly and to the point, and sometimes with intensity.
Betsy was a conservationist and lover of nature, whose Quaker values influenced all aspects of her life. She was devoted to her family and community, and was always looking for a way she could help. She lived a spare home life, but was generous with her possessions, her time, and her love. She was witty and had a wry and quirky sense of humor. She’d dress up for Halloween in goofy homemade costumes and jumped into any community gathering or happening. A lifelong learner and constant reader, she was curious about the way things worked and enjoyed music, math, language and words. She loved household projects – her own and other’s – and made a series of beautiful and functional quilts, including assembling one for her son and daughter-in-law of pieces made by attendees of their wedding.
Betsy enjoyed traveling and visited her children in all of the varied places across the United States where they took up residence. But she was also happy sitting at her kitchen table and viewing the seasons and wildness of her own backyard, which she recorded in letters to her family. She was particularly delighted when the fox was on ‘the mountain’ in her garden at Tanguy, and when the Spring Peeper frogs were in full song in the pond. She always had cat companions – in chronological order: Blackie (the first of several childhood cats), Andy, Tkt, Marigold, Spakl, Gia, and Moon – and dogs Obie and Sadie, plus a special friendship with her cohousing neighbor’s dog Wolfie.
Betsy’s final few years were more difficult, as she struggled with anxieties stemming from mental illness and confusion brought on by the early stages of dementia. After choosing to move to the Horizon House retirement community in downtown Seattle, she never felt completely comfortable there, despite making numerous friends through her involvement in the library, choir, worship group, and circle of cat lovers. Betsy was blessed with a family and a dedicated group of f/Friends who loved and supported her, accompanying her on walks, errands, and to her many daily activities. She will be remembered as kind, cheerful, caring, intelligent, and straightforward, with a ready smile and a bit of a silly side that made her endearing to all.