Edith Lee Dunton Brown left this world at the age of one hundred on February 26, 2020 in Columbia Maryland.
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She entered this world in Baltimore, Maryland on March 11, 1919 as the third and youngest child of Maggie Lee Fatherly Dunton and Thomas Jefferson Dunton. Her childhood was spent with her parents, sister Frances Audrey, brother Purvis Boyd and her grandparents Mary Ellen Widgeon Fatherly and Lloyd Fatherly on farms of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. The stories she told of her childhood were filled with long days outside on the farms working, playing, and getting into trouble with her brother; and working inside the farm houses doing dishes, cleaning, and “girly stuff” with her sister. She frequently claimed she was driving her parents’ Model T Ford on the country roads by the time she was ten years old.
In 1937, she graduated from The Tidewater Institute, a private Baptist high school for colored students. She continued her education at The Bordentown School, a residential Vocational School for Negroes in New Jersey, where she received a 2-year degree in Beauty Culture.
She headed to Baltimore in 1940 and began her work life as a beautician, eventually becoming part owner of a small beauty shop located near what is now, the Baltimore Inner Harbor. During her years in Baltimore, she also worked as a cook in private homes, a nurse’s aide in the segregated wing of The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and for a period of time she was a Baltimore city taxicab driver.
In 1942, she met Alzo Charles Brown from Jacksonville Florida and within three months they married, beginning a thirty-six year marriage of adventure and travel. They had a very active social life including membership in a motorcycle club. They spent weekends riding the highways of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. During this time, Edith agreed to bring her brother’s 18-month-old daughter, Toni into their home when his wife, Norma Custis Dunton, became ill. Norma died in 1951 and after a time they adopted Toni.
Edith and Alzo left Baltimore in 1955 and subsequently resided in Florida, New Jersey, and New York. In 1970 they retired from their positions as Cottage Parents at the New York State Training School for Boys in Warwick, New York.
In keeping with their adventurous spirit, they moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico. For three years they hosted numerous family members and friends, traveled the country from north of Mexico City to south of Acapulco before Edith decided they were too young for retirement and returned to Jacksonville, Florida.
After Alzo’s death, Edith went to back to Virginia to be near her family. She worked as a caregiver for the elderly until 2003. Later, she and her sister, Audrey moved in with her nephew, Wayne and his wife, Evelyn. In 2012, she moved to live with her daughter, Toni in Columbia, Maryland.
Anyone who knew Edith knew she spoke her mind (fasten your seat belts), she made the world’s best clam fritters, and she usually drove as though she was chasing someone. She had a life-long love for motorcycles, a passion for camping in both tent and motor home, never saw a western on TV she didn’t like, and loved animals. Can you name all of her dogs? Her one stated regret was that at 4’11” she was too short to join the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. We all know that what she lacked in physical stature, she made up for in undeniable fortitude.
Edith was preceded in death by her husband Alzo (1978); sister, Frances Audrey Orton (2012); brother, Purvis Boyd Dunton (2016); and niece, Myrna O. Robinson (2009). Her living family includes her daughter, Marie “Toni” Dunton-Butler; granddaughter, Nia I. Butler; nephew, V. Wayne Orton (Evelyn); great nieces and nephews, Kimberly Orton Jones (Rodney), James L. Robinson, III (Kia), Vernon A. Orton (Megan), and Ashlee Orton-Meget (Ryeheim); eleven great-great nieces and nephews; grandchildren who joined the family when her daughter married Leon E. Butler (d. 2017), Brian C. Butler, Tracye R. Hernandez-Bynum (Darryn), and Heather Butler Taylor (Billy); five great-grandchildren; and god daughter, Helga Burney.
There is a saying, “You are not really dead until the last person says your name.” Mother, Aunt Edith, Grandma, Grandma Brown, Aunt Edie-fa will live a very long time in our hearts.
Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about people who have died so that you won’t mourn like others who don’t have any hope.
1Thessalonians 4:13 CEB