Our beloved mother, wife, grandmother, and best friend, the larger than life energizer-bunny, Helen Brown, passed away during the early morning of Thursday, October 13th, 2011, after suffering a catastrophic stroke.
She died doing what she loved best: on a sunny autumn day, she walked her two dogs up and down a mountain, gardened for hours in her new Nelson home, and then moved boulders around to complete her landscaping vision. Mid-afternoon she collapsed, and left us a few hours later surrounded by her daughter Fiona, grandson Christopher (Kip) and son-in-law Brian.
She permeated our lives with love and a never-ending energy. She was our go-to person, whether it was for fixing something, lending an ear, or giving a hug. She lived for the future not the past. She thought outside of the box and lived life on her terms. She acted closer to a 50 year-old rather than the 72-year old grandmother that she was.
Born in Godalming, Surrey, England, to Brigadier Cuthbert Arnold-Edwards and Norah Gabbett-Mulhallen, she moved to Vancouver when she was 18, with her parents and brother John. Shortly afterwards she set out on a world voyage, ending up in Nairobi, Kenya, where she met her husband of 47 years, Robert John Brown.
Helen and Robert married in 1964 and settled in Vancouver where their daughter Fiona and son Tim were born. Helen cherished her children, supported their dreams, cultivated her garden, cared for her aging parents, took time for her friends, and adored her many animals. She vacuumed with a Kirby, made gooseberry jam, learned Scottish dancing, loved to write, wore odd socks, and could dress herself to the nines in 5 minutes.
For 45 years, she walked almost daily in the Capilano Canyon below their home, in awe and wonder of the great forest. She built sculptures along trails, chased bears out of the kitchen and deer out of the garden, felled trees, hauled and split firewood, built arbours, galloped horses through the surf at Spanish Banks, and hosted extra-ordinary dinner parties.
She embraced adventure and disliked shopping, wastefulness, and musicals. She spoke her mind, challenged common practices, and reluctantly took no for an answer. She traveled light, made friends easily, mis-placed her keys often. She rose to challenges, owned and managed properties, teared-up at the opera, made leaded-glass windows, and insisted on cleaning her own gutters.
She sought companionship, classical music, wine, cheese, and chocolate, craved sunshine in winter. She adored her 3 grandchildren Niko, Sophie, and Christopher, taught them to tie their shoes, catch a ball, ride a bike, and use a knife and fork properly. She spoiled all her Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, especially Pemba, and kept a tin of English toffies or sweets in the glove box of her car.
Helen found both artistic expression and sanctuary in her garden. She created magical spaces with plants, ponds, and pergolas. She re-cycled, re-used, and re-created found objects and elements from the natural world, inevitably adding something unexpected.
She always had a project and could be found stripping an old chair, scavenging house parts, polishing a piece of copper, patching a wall, or cleaning up a neglected corner. She drove her MGB with the top down, scarf around her head, her favourite dog riding shot-gun in the passenger seat, nose to the wind.
She had 2 lives, one close to her son’s family in Vancouver and one beside her daughter in Nelson. She traveled to 60 countries, renovated houses, manifested her dreams and was a constant source of support and brilliant ideas. She instinctively created beauty, with an eye for detail and a heart for people.
With her natural and enviable strength, abundant vitality, and huge capacity for love, she was snatched far too early from life. She delighted in the creative process and will be remembered saying, “Is a 72 year-old supposed to have so much fun?”
Helen leaves behind her husband Robert, son Tim, daughter Fiona, daughter-in-law Zoi, son-in-law Brian, young grandchildren, Niko, Sophie, and Christopher, brother John (wife Sherrill), many loving friends, and her besotted hound Pemba.