Cora L. Brown, 104: Devoted decades of service to community, others

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PORTLAND — Cora L. Brown, 104, died peacefully at her Brackett Street home on Nov. 18.

She was born Aug. 21, 1910, in Blaine, a daughter of Ralph B. and Ella Crabb Tompkins. She attended schools in Aroostook County and was a graduate of Presque Isle Normal School.

Brown was an extraordinary woman who devoted her entire adult life in service to others. At the height of the Great Depression, after teaching fourth grade for several years in Aroostook County, she moved to Portland and continued her service there. Even before the days of bread lines, she helped those with empty out-stretched hands.

Over more than 75 years, she had several careers, including working as a dietitian at Maine General Hospital and operating a Woodfords Corner restaurant. She also became a successful businesswoman and owner for 28 years of the Hearing Aid Institute of New England.

She was an active church member, rose to the leadership of many civic organizations, and became involved in community affairs, even working on the Charter Commission of the city of Portland.

Brown served alone for over 60 years as agent for the Widow’s Wood Society, which granted fuel assistance to needy people in Portland.

She also served since 1936 in the Portland Diet Mission, assisting needy people with food, clothing and rent. The organization was renamed the Cora L. Brown Foundation in 1997 in her honor.

In addition, she was active since the 1950s in the Chestnut Street Methodist Church, in various capacities that included chairwoman of the Welfare Committee, president of the United Methodist Women of CSMC, president of the Pastoral Relations Committee, and a volunteer in the soup kitchen.

She also was president of the Church Women United of Maine. In 1993, she was presented with the Church Women’s International Award of the Valiant Woman, honoring her for outstanding service to church and community.

Brown was director of the First Radio Parish Church of America since the mid-1970s, and was a president of its board of trustees.

Beginning in 1936, she became very active in the Republican Party, and served as president and parliamentarian of the Portland Republican Women, a member of the Maine Federation of Republican Women and president of the Lincoln Club of Portland. She was given the club’s Citizen of the Year Award in 1994. She also was a faithful warden at Portland’s voting polls.

Among the many other organizations in which she participated, she was a member of the Deering Grange, the parliamentarian of the Women’s Literary Union and president of the Business & Professional Women’s Club of Greater Portland. The honors she earned for her service also include The Jefferson Award, the Lion’s Club Award and the Kiwanis Club Distinguished Service Award.

In 1935, she married Walter Brown, an Oakhurst Dairy milk wholesaler. The couple had one child, a son, who died shortly after birth. Her husband also predeceased her in 1950.

She is survived by two nephews, Earl Savage and his wife, Sally, and Wayne Tompkins and his wife, Pat; a niece, Sandra DuPrey; and other nieces and nephews.

Visitation was held Nov. 21 at Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home, with a funeral there Nov. 22. Burial was at Forest City Cemetery, in South Portland.

Those desiring may make memorial contributions to the Cora L. Brown Foundation or to the Widow’s Wood Society, c/o Tim Griffin, H.M. Payson, 1 Portland Square, 5th Floor, Portland, ME 04101.

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