In Memoriam: Greta P. Brown

JANUARY 20, 1933 – MAY 28, 2016

Greta Petaway Brown, a dedicated Smithsonian volunteer since 1993, passed away on May 28. She was 83. For more than two decades, Mrs. Brown served as a Visitor Information Specialist at the Arts and Industries Building, the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the National Museum of African Art, the Postal Museum and most recently, at the Castle Information Desk.

A native Washingtonian, Mrs. Brown credited her mother, the late Laura Mae Petaway, a well known local jazz entertainer, with instilling her love of life and her desire to give back to the community. She attended Dunbar High School and earned a Bachelor of Science from Howard University in Washington, where she met her husband, the late Theodore M. Brown. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she ultimately received a master’s degree in early childhood education.

Mrs. Brown spent most of her career teaching at P.S. 185 in Harlem. She also taught English as a second language to adults for many years. One of her favorite quotes is credited to the artist Michelangelo: “I am still learning.” On her quest to learn and discover throughout her life, Mrs. Brown was ever the educator and community-minded activist. She touched the lives of those around her through participation in numerous youth programs, food and clothing drives, and was a consummate mentor and a source of information.

Once she retired, Mrs. Brown returned to Washington, D.C. Her love of adventure and learning continued as she traveled extensively, experiencing many different cultures. She channeled her love of art and education into volunteering for the Smithsonian for 23 years and the National Gallery of Art for 16 years, where she was well known for her witty personality and her fashionable sense of style. She also continued her community involvement by volunteering at the board of election, soup kitchens. Mrs. Brown’s strong spiritual roots were at John Wesley AME Zion Church, where she was a consecrated deaconess and an active member of the Parent body of the Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society.

Greta Brown is survived by daughters Ramona and Maureen, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Mrs Brown at information desk

Greta Petaway Brown

Posted: 23 June 2016
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