When she’s not traveling the world with her friends of 65 years, Nancy “The Brownie Lady” Brown can be found mixing salads at Valpo Velvet.
“I work there just for fun,” Brown says of the shop her daughter Cathy and son-in-law Mike own. “I make egg salad, tuna salad, whatever they want me to do. Then, I get free ice cream!”
Brown is proud of all her children, boasting that Cathy was one of the first- ever recipients of the Good Life Awards from Ideas in Motion Media several years ago. She even counts Ideas in Motion Media founder Chris Mahlmann among her “kids.”
“He says ‘you remind me of my mother,’ and I tease him that I can be his mother if he wants me to.”
It’s this easy way of accepting what life brings that solidifies Brown’s place in the community.
For 30 years, she ran the bookstore at Valpo High School. For 27 of those years, she helped with high school girls’ basketball and softball.
“Working at the high school was the best,” Brown said. “All the kids that worked for me were usually athletes. Bryce Drew, girl basketball players, they all got scholarships. I still keep in touch with them.”
Through her work at school, Brown came to know many of the student athletes she worked with and saw every day. From Bryce Drew to Robbie Hummel to the Samardzija family, Brown remembers them fondly, having known their good hearts and generous spirits before the world ever knew of their incredible talents.
“I used to make brownies for all the girls’ basketball trips,” Brown said. A newspaper article once dubbed her “The Brownie Lady.”
“I still make brownies, it got to be a habit,” she added.
Brown carried this habit from the bus to the road and beyond, treating her lifelong friends to the treats on their many trips. For years, she and her eight childhood friends have traveled together up to five times per year.
“We’re still just as close as we were in high school,” Brown said. “It’s really, really fun.”
This year they are looking forward to touring Germany. Brown’s granddaughter Greer won the Fullbright Scholarship to teach there, and she absolutely loves it. Since Greer can’t come home until June, Brown’s friends all agreed to visit with the reassurance that Greer is fluent in German.
Last year, they visited Ireland. Twice, Brown has been to Africa, and 20 years ago, the friends toured Cuba with an educational group out of Philadelphia.
“They took us to the mountains, the hospitals, rooftops where they danced. They all loved Fidel, they never did say a word against him. The waiter in our hotel made more money than the doctors. It’s kind of a backwards place. There was a boy on a dialysis machine that they got from the US in the 70s, so they’re way behind,” Brown said. “It was interesting, and we had a good time.”
From Canadian cruises with her siblings to quarterly trips to her hometown in coastal Florida, Brown sums up what she does with so much of her time: “We travel as much as we can!”
“It’s a fun life,” she said.