From the miscellaneous drawer

by Anne Swenson

Someone said it Friday: With the passing of Mary Catherine Brown one of Ely’s well known characters is gone.<BR><BR>Someone added: She never saw a performance in Ely that she didn’t like and write about. <BR><BR>Boosterism at its best, another remarked.<BR><BR>Her life was also commented on before the city council meeting when it was noted that car drivers will no longer have to part the avenue as they did when Mary’s little red car appeared in the vicinity. Just a few dents peppered her vehicle.<BR><BR>For me, I remember Mary Catherine (as she liked to be called) not so much from her working at the Echo. She had been hired by Miles Aakhus, the Echo’s original owner (1972-1977), and wrote a piece about the history of Winton among others. She had gone on to other challenges when I started working at the Echo in 1976.<BR><BR>She used to get under Ely Miner publisher Columbia Childers’ skin as an irritation when Columbia saw Miles and Mary Catherine having lunch out and whispering. <BR><BR>There will be lots of stories told and retold about Mary Catherine this week.<BR><BR>But here’s one of mine. <BR><BR>Mary Catherine came forward to volunteer as a host for journalists of the World Press Institute the first year that home stays in Ely were offered. <BR><BR>Given the mix of nationalities and skin color I was hesitant to assign any journalists and instead asked each prospective host to look at the brochure and make first, second and third choices from the eight to ten people who had been chosen for the program. <BR><BR>Mary Catherine said, “Give me the black ones.” There were two African gentlemen listed. So those were the two I assigned to stay with her.<BR><BR>The following year Mary Catherine again volunteered. Again she said, “Give me the black ones.”<BR><BR>Now I was curious. “Why is it,” I asked Mary Catherine, “that you prefer to host the ‘black ones’?”<BR><BR>“Well,” she explained, “all my life I’ve wanted to travel to Africa and know I will never be able to do so. So before the guests come I read up on each of the country’s history, politics and culture so I know what I’m going to talk about and can learn firsthand from the experiences of my guests.”<BR><BR>She put me to shame for not exercising as much attention to the details of our guests’ life as she had done. Since then, a brief outline of each journalist’s country is made available to host families and those attending the Echo’s Open Forum.<BR><BR>This year the journalists of the World Press Institute are expected be in Ely August 6-9. The Open Forum will take place on Monday, Aug. 8. They will be in the States from Aug. 1-Nov. 18.<BR><BR>Sleep well, Mary Catherine. May you travel ever beyond your wildest dreams...