Mary Brown, who served 18 years in state House, remembered as ‘warrior’

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — State leaders are mourning the loss of a former representative who made her mark through almost two decades of public service.

Mary Brown, who represented Kalamazoo in the state House of Representatives for 18 years, died of natural causes Sunday at the age of 86.

From 1977 to 1994, Brown was a familiar face in the state House chambers, chairing multiple committees and organizations advocating for women’s rights. She was on the front lines of women’s issues ranging from pay equity to domestic violence and reproductive rights.

Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, one of Brown’s many successors before being elected to the state Senate, said her drive was “indomitable” and “nonstop.”

“It was extremely centered on advancing women who’ve been held back and their rights and their freedoms. That was the hallmark of Mary Brown in so many ways,” McCann said.

Throughout and after her time in Lansing, her friends and colleagues say she was a “good neighbor” and a “trailblazer beyond definition.”

While she retired from her House seat in 1994, she wasn’t finished with public service, with her helping local Girl Scouts in Kalamazoo and sitting on the state’s Natural Resources Commission.

Rep. Julie Rogers, D-Kalamazoo, who now occupies the same seat Brown did, could not say enough praise about her predecessor.

“She was such a warrior, working hard for whatever cause she believed in, right until the very end,” Rogers said.

Brown received recognition as a YWCA Woman of Achievement and was inducted a member of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007.

“She just always had time for you. She always had a heart for the people,” Rogers said. “She really walked the walk, if you will. So not only did she champion these causes, but she would help you out in a heartbeat. All you had to do was ask.”

In a statement, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Brown was “a passionate person and a fighter for her constituents.”

Brown is survived by her husband Don, her four children and many grandchildren.

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