Hemelt: Mother Brown leaves loving, faithful legacy

Published 12:03 am Saturday, April 11, 2015

My grandmother was big on lighting candles. A faithful woman by nature, she was a regular at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington.

She died Dec. 13, 2014, and some of my favorite memories involve grandma lighting candles for those she felt needed it most.

Generous and faithful — sometimes traits only truly appreciated after one passes away, but always deserving of praise.

With those memories fresh in my mind, I had the pleasure of learning about an equally impressive member of our community.

Rita Perrilloux, church administrator for Riverlands Christian Center in Reserve, called me last week to share the story of Mayola A. Brown, who died March 29 at the wonderful age of 98.

Family and friends prepare to release balloons at Mayola A. Brown homegoing service.

Family and friends prepare to release balloons at Mayola A. Brown homegoing service.

Rita and her husband, Pastor Steve Perrilloux, started the Christian Center in 1988, and Brown was one of the first members. However, most people knew her by Mother Brown or Ms. Clara.

Mother Brown became a member of the choir and was a faithful participant in Bible study and Sunday service for more than 20 years until she moved into Twin Oaks Nursing and Convalescent Home.

“Mother Brown sang soprano,” Rita said. “She learned the lyrics quick and rocked with the best of them. She really shined when she sang her solos, ‘Like Pathway of Duty,’ ‘How Great Thou Art’ and ‘He Touched Me.’”

Rita said Mother Brown’s pleasant attitude was something appreciated by all who knew her and cherished by those who loved her.

“She always asked about your family members and was always handing out compliments,” Rita said. “She would say, ‘I never get lonesome, the Lord is my company keeper.’”

When you hear a story like that and have a chance to share in those memories with a fellow community member, it becomes a special conversation. It’s the absolute best part of working for a community newspaper.

Rita was sweet enough to share the contact information for one of Mother Brown’s stepchildren, daughter Stacy Brown Hampton.

When I spoke with Stacy Wednesday morning, via a call to her cell phone, it was early in the morning and I got embarrassed when she told me she lived in California. I figured, with the two-hour time difference, I woke her from her sleep.

She quickly assured me everything was OK, as she was still in St. John the Baptist Parish following the funeral and, if the conversation was centered around Mother Brown, every time of the day was good for conversation.

Stacy said Mother Brown was a stabilizing force in her family following her biological mother’s death in 1966 when she was 6 years old. From that point on Mother Brown raised nine children as her own (she had one biological child) after reconnecting with Stacy’s father.

Stacy said Mother Brown’s daughter Tracey Breaux was an amazing rock for their mother toward the end of her life, and many friends and family appreciate all she did.

“Mama was also known in her neighborhood, where she lived for many years on East 26th Street in Reserve, because she ran a sweet shop out of her home,” Stacey said.

“Kids were excited to see what she had, whether it was store-bought or homemade.”

What many remember about Mother Brown, according to family and friends, is her uncanny and, perhaps, unmatched ability to quote seven of her favorite passages word for word from the Bible’s Book of Psalms.

Psalm 91 was her favorite, and checking in at more than 275 words, it must have been a sight to see when Mother Brown felt inspired to recite it.

“She quoted them with feeling and sincerity just like when she was singing,” Rita said. “You knew she was sharing about someone she knew very well.”

I was never lucky enough to meet Mother Brown, but I’m thankful for what she brought our community. I’m thankful she was such a special lady that she inspired others around her to share her story.

Mother Brown may have left us March 29, but everything she gave this community remains with us today.

Stephen Hemelt is general manager and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.