Sally Sarosa Sally of Norway celebrated her 100th birthday on Sept. 12 at Norway Center for Health & Rehabilitation. Supplied photo

NORWAY — Sally Sarosa Brown, one of Norway’s oldest residents has worked, lived and traveled throughout the United States since her birth in 1920. She also experienced deep loss, after her father died during the Great Depression and her husband passed away when she was 38, leaving her to raise two young boys on her own.

Sarosa Marie “Sally” Melick Brown was born in Annandale NJ. An only child, her father was ill from the time she was very young and she was mostly raised on her grandparents’ dairy farm, providing her a stable retreat that she treasured.

Sally fought through her own illnesses, missing a year of school after coming down with rheumatic fever. Once recovered, she returned and was able to skip a grade to catch up, and from there enrolled at Ryder College in Lawrenceville, NJ.

“She had a hard time as a child, and she went back and forth from her mother’s home to her grandparents’ farm,” said her son Robert Brown. “Her favorite memories were at the farm, especially riding the work horses.

“As a young woman during World War II, she served as a volunteer airplane spotter in Plainfield NJ.”

Then Sally’s life literally took off, as she met her future husband Robert V. Brown, Jr. at Calco Chemical Company in Bound Brook, NJ, where she worked as a secretary.

Brown, Jr. worked at TWA and his career took Sally and their young son Robert to live in a number of places, including Kansas City, MO, Brooklyn, NY and Wilmington, DE before finally settling in Croton-on-Hudson, NY, where the couple’s second son James was born.

“Mother was a homemaker until she was 38, when my father died,” said son Bob Brown. “She was a very caring mother, taking my brother and me swimming at Silver Lake, walks along the Croton River, and the Hudson River at Croton Point Park.

“She organized activities for us. She was involved in Cub Scouts with us and started a science club. She put on a production of Peter Pan in our basement. My brother Jim had the starring role and she had him flying through the air, aided by a dog harness and rope.”

When Bob and Jim’s father was still alive the brothers recall many vacations she organized for the family from Canada to Robinhood Cove in Maine’s Sheepscot Bay, where they spent long, happy days at Reid State Park. Brown also became something of a rock hound and explored gemstone sites during their Maine vacations.

The family’s fortunes took a hard turn when Brown, Jr. passed away in 1958, forcing Sally to be a single parent as well as breadwinner. She returned to the workforce to provide for her sons, first as a school librarian and then as an executive secretary at Geigy Chemical Co. in Ardsley, NY.  She also stayed active with her church, teaching Sunday school and serving as a church deacon.

“I suspect it was hard for her to go back to work then, but she made sure her difficulties weren’t apparent to us,” said younger son James Brown. “There was no change to how she found time to foster our changing interests over the years.

“She organized a little theater group for me, then an Army club for me and my friends, then a science club. She held all these activities at our house. In 1960 she started a junior Civil War Round Table to study the war in local schools and churches. She took my brother and me on tours of the Civil War battlefields.”

The boys’ road trips with their mother included tours of U.S. Navy ships when they docked in New York City and to auto races at a track in Connecticut.

“She also provided me with a guitar and guitar lessons,” added Jim Brown. “That led to rock bands rehearsing in our basement … which were loud.”

Besides jump starting her own career and filling her children’s lives with activities and education, Sally instilled in them a strong work ethic.

As a nine-year-old Bob wanted to take horse-back riding lessons, which was not in the family budget. However, rather than seeing him denied a pastime that she loved as a child, Sally made a deal with him – if he found a way to pay half she would cover the rest. Jim got his first job, selling Christmas cards door-to-door for the Cheerful Card Co., and his mother helped pay for his lessons.

“She fostered in us the need to work,” said Jim. “We both cut lawns and gardened, delivered papers. As I got older I got a job at the local conservatory and went on to work weekends, playing music in bands.

“And she bought me a camera which is something I pursued the rest of my life, along with music. During my career I produced and directed television documentaries and concerts as well as teaching documentary production at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I still do both.”

When son Bob decided to become a riding instructor at a camp on Lake Tarleton in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Sally found a job working at a nearby inn for the summer and moved there with Jim while renting out their own home. That adventure produced many more fond memories for the brothers and an appreciation of nature, as they spent time with her exploring the outdoors and rock-hunting.

After Bob and Jim became adults and started building their own lives, Sally continued her adventures without them. After retiring she decided to drive across the United States with a friend in a van. They traveled extensively and spent time living in San Diego, CA and Fort Collins, CO where she panned, unsuccessfully, for gold.

“A funny Mother story,” Bob recalled. “She and her friend were traveling through Idaho in their camper van, in a somewhat remote area. It was getting late so they decided to pull over and camp near a river for the night. The next morning, they awoke to find themselves surrounded by a herd of beef cattle.”

In 1988 Sally decided to move to Norway after Bob and his wife bought an old farmhouse in North Waterford. The farm became Bob’s summer residence and Sally split her time between Norway, house-sitting in North Waterford and Jim’s home in Hudson to care for her granddaughter Sarah during periods when he worked in New York or had to travel to make films.

Bob sold the farm in 1995 and Sally went to live with him full time in Colorado. But after a year of pining for Maine she decided – at the age of 75 – to move back to Norway by herself.

“She wrote to a friend who worked at Norway Savings, asking if she knew of any places to rent,” said Bob. “Her friend sent her a copy of the Advertiser. Mother found a little home for rent on Whitman Street, and back she went. She loves the rural beauty of Norway, and the people too.”

Sally spent the next 22 years in her home on Whitman Street, assisted by her close friend and caretaker Barry Small. In 2017 she moved into Norway Center for Health & Rehabilitation, where her zest for adventure and learning continues.

Birthdays at Boomer’s in Norway is a tradition for Sally Brown. She celebrated her 99th birthday there on Sept. 12, 2019. Supplied photo

“She lives vicariously through our work and activities,” Bob Brown shared. “She is always asking questions. She still has an excellent memory and she loves recalling our family’s experiences.

“These days, Mother’s favorite activities are reading, writing letters, watching television (the news) and talking with people. She is still fond of nature and loves the change of seasons.”

Bob does not exaggerate when he tells of his mother’s fondness for reading and letter-writing. She has befriended several writers of books that she has enjoyed and turned them into pen pals.

“Mother was in a bookstore once and was taken by a children’s book,” he said. “She liked the hand drawn pictures of horses and the cute story.  She bought that book and then others by the same author, Jane Monroe Donovan. She enjoyed them so much, she wrote a letter to her to let her know how much they meant to her. Then Jane replied and a friendship through correspondence began. Jane Donovan has even come to Norway to visit Mother. They still communicate.

“Sally is also a fan of Danielle Steel’s novels. So she wrote to her too, complimenting her work.  Ms. Steel wrote back, thanking Mother for her interest and also sent a signed copy of a newly published novel.”

Sally Brown of Norway, enjoying the deck at Boomer’s on her 99th birthday. Supplied photo

“She corresponds with many people,” added Jim Brown. “She writes relatives, friends in Norway, our friends, even our ex-wives and ex-girlfriends. Her approach to people probably explains why she has so many friends (and in normal times, visitors) for a person her age. It’s pretty remarkable.

”One of the most amazing things about her personality is that she rarely complains, although she has had a challenging life. She has never wanted more than she has, she is empathetic to all and she stays incredibly positive.”

The pandemic put a major wrench in Sally’s plans to celebrate her first 100 years.

“Lunch on the deck at Boomer’s has become a birthday tradition,” Jim said. “She was looking forward to celebrating there again this year. But she understands it won’t be possible. We still plan to bring her a pizza from there and get a video of the servers there singing Happy Birthday to her.

“And she is already making plans to have her 101st birthday there next year!”


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