Nature 10

Anna Irene (Tarnowski) Brown

July 28, 1924 ~ December 20, 2020 (age 96)


With sadness, the children of Irene Brown (Anna Irene Brown) announce her passing on December 20,2020. She was 96. 

Irene was born to immigrant parents on July 28, 1924 in Spring Valley, NY. She was very proud to share that birthdate with Millie Shuler, a Mecklenburg neighbor, and Jackie Kennedy. She lived through the depression, finished high school and eventually attended the New York School of Agriculture at Farmingdale, where she and her future sister-in-law, Dorothy Hope, became part of the “Land Army” leaning how to farm to help feed America during World War II. She met her future husband, Charles Richard (“Dick”) Brown there. Their common interest in agriculture led them to apply to Cornell University upon completing their Associate Degrees from Farmingdale. While Dick was accepted, Irene received a letter that politely rejected her application to the School of Agriculture, and suggested the Home Economics Department would be more appropriate for women.

Dick and Irene moved to Mecklenburg, becoming neighbors of John & Millie Shuler, Howard & Hazel Russel, Henry & Mary Kelsey, Edna Strong and many others. When their first child Dorothy was ready for 1st  grade, she started in the Mecklenburg one-room school. Irene, Mary Kelsey and other parents in Mecklenburg campaigned to bus their kids to the Trumansburg Central School, which had many more facilities, classes and sports available. The following year, there was a full transition, and Mecklenburg kids all shifted to Trumansburg Central School.

Both Dick and Irene became 4-H leaders, teaching traditional skills in cooking, sewing for the girls and electricity for the boys, but also carpentry and basic electrical wiring to both boys and girls, basic sewing repairs for boys, and tree and insect identification and hiking in the local forests. Irene loved flowers and had a unique “horseshoe” garden with all her favorites. She, like all her neighbors, had large vegetable gardens and froze canned for the winter.

Big changes came in 1964, when Dick was hired by the US Dept of Ag to provide advisory services to poor farmers in the Middle East. The family lived in Beirut Lebanon, where the kids went to school, and where Irene’s dreams of traveling the world started to come true. She studied French and avidly engaged with her Lebanese neighbors to learn the culture, traditions and of course the cuisine. She became well known for her amazing Lebanese dishes. She also sought out every opportunity for weekend and school holiday excursions throughout the Middle East, and gave mini-history lessons to her children. After Lebanon came Taiwan, and Irene again dove into the culture, cooking and sightseeing the country’s points of interest. She regularly attended shadow boxing sessions, a tradition among the Chinese.

Upon returning to the US, Irene settled in Trumansburg, and began her work on the Homing Pigeon project at Cornell. She became the “chief operations officer” ensuring that project experiments followed research standards. She was a co-author of several published research papers. She met many young Cornell students who would work during summer holidays on the project, and formed lasting ties with many.

Irene eventually moved back to her Mecklenburg neighborhood, sharing Wixom Farm with Keith Kelsey. She put many of the old buildings into  the Finger Lakes Land Trust, and succeeded in having the swamp declared as a protected wetland. She also became very active in the National Forest to protect it from gas drilling, and worked with the Catherine Marsh lands to preserve and promote its unique features and wildlife. She enjoyed working with younger children, stimulating their interest and understanding of nature. Her classroom presentations with pigeons were always highly anticipated by both students and teachers. She was also a member of the Board of Hector and had a small tourism business.

In looking back at her life a few years ago, Irene wrote that her great joys were her 5 children, her grandchildren and her wonderful neighbors. She enjoyed teaching young children about the wonders of nature and science; walking through the local forest, summertime swimming at Underdown’s pond and the annual neighborhood get togethers. Keith and Irene had a croquet field enjoyed by young and old during Irene’s summer get-togethers.

Irene is survived by daughters Dorothy Brown and Margaret Brown (Jean Gaillard), and sons Andrew Brown (Jessica) and Michael Brown (Tanya Radecker). Her grandchildren are Andrew Berrian, Corina Brown, Ian Brown Jourdan Brown Dornier and Quinn Brown.  She was pre-deceased by former husband Charles Brown and daughter Elizabeth Brown.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Finger Lakes land Trust (

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