Either as a young farm girl or as a woman in her second century, Mary Brown says a positive outlook goes a long way.
“I had a good time as a little girl, and I always have a good time wherever I am,” said Brown, who celebrated her 105th birthday recently at Ivy Hall Assisted Living in Johns Creek.
Brown’s family goes way back in Duluth and Johns Creek. She was born and reared on Findley Farms in Johns Creek. Brown said growing up on a farm shaped her as an adult. She learned how to cook and keep house, and everyone worked.
“We cut cotton in the fields, and when we weren’t doing that we were always doing something,” she said. “We grew everything we needed along with hogs, chickens.”
On her advice for longevity, Brown said, “I worked hard, didn’t smoke and only drank alcohol at parties.”
Brown also stands at the crossroads of local history. Her maiden name is Rogers, and she grew up on farmland established by the Findley family in the 1850s that covered much of the Shakerag area. Brown’s family farm was located off of Medlock Bridge Road near what is today Emory Johns Creek Hospital.
Her family was also one of the founders of Findley Chapel on land donated by the Findley family and was later named Antioch United Methodist Church.
According to Joan Compton, president of the Johns Creek Historical Society, the Findley family owned over 2,000 acres between McGinnis Ferry and Abbotts Bridge roads. Parcels were sold off over the years, but Findleys farmed the area well into the 1950s.
The Findleys established Findley Chapel and also built a school next door for African-American children in the area and paid for a teacher. The church and school were located on Findley Chapel Road, a road no longer on the map that follows Johns Creek Parkway.
Brown lived with her family on the farm until she moved out with her husband, James O. Brown. They married in 1941, and he served in the U.S. Navy. She traveled with him to Ohio where he trained and later to California where he was stationed.
The Browns returned to Georgia after James was discharged. Eventually, they built a home in Dacula. Her husband worked many years as an independent electrician and as a forklift operator while Brown worked on the custodial staff at Joan Glancy Hospital in Duluth.
Her son, James M. Brown, and his wife, Carrene, said she had always been independent. After her husband died in 1989, Mary Brown continued to live in Dacula, and she cleaned houses for families in Duluth and Johns Creek until she was 86 years old.
Her son said the construction of the Mall of Georgia made her commute difficult, and she stopped driving at her family’s request. She lived in her home until she was 98.
“We never wanted to take away her independence, and we felt good about where she was although she was alone,” James, Mary’s son, said. “The neighbors were good to check in with her. They called her ‘Miss Mary’ or ‘Mama Mary.’ One day, she told us it was time, and she didn’t feel comfortable living alone anymore.”
At Ivy Hall, Brown starts each day early and reads the newspaper. She is a long-time Atlanta Braves fan and names Andruw Jones as her favorite player. Brown said she developed a love for baseball as a little girl on the farm where she played the game with her cousins.
Saturday’s celebration at Ivy Hall included her two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Brown said she is looking forward to seeing everyone and, as always, looking to have a good time.