Virginia Donlean Brown

Virginia Donlean Brown soared at her job but was grounded in community

Virginia Donlean Brown soared at her job but was grounded in community

October 05, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Virginia Donlean Brown, who died Sept. 26 at the age of 83. Her obituary was published in the Sept. 28 edition of The Herald-Mail.

In the 50 years she worked at Fairchild Aircraft and Rohr Industries, Virginia "Gine" Donlean Brown had a reputation for attention to detail, frugality and efficiency.

"If Gine had been running our country, we'd be in better shape than we are today," said Mary Ellen Gale, who worked with Gine for 41 years.

Citing an example, Mary Ellen, who worked in personnel, said in order to get two new pencils, a Fair-child employee would have to produce two worn-down pencils to Gine to justify getting two new ones.


Gine worked in the engineering department and spent her last few years at the former aircraft assembly plant as an executive secretary.

After they retired, Mary Ellen and Gine sometimes would go to lunch with another co-worker, Shirley Logue. Invariably, Mary Ellen said, they would end up at the Airport Inn, which is close to the old Fairchild plant.

A native of Thurmont, Md., Gine was active in school plays, athletics, assemblies and the glee club, both in high school and in the Frederick County chorus.

She brought her love of music to Hagerstown, where she sang with the Fairchild choral group and was a member of the Civic Music Association.

She also was a member of the Hager Chapter of the National Secretaries Association in Washington County.

After completing high school in Frederick County, Gine attended Hagerstown Business College. The day after graduation in 1943, she was hired by Fairchild.

Her entire professional career was spent at Fair-child, and by all accounts, Gine took her work seriously.

"I remember how Gine would get irritated with those who did not do their job well," Shirley said in an e-mail.

When Gine retired, Shirley was on the committee planning her surprise retirement party, which was at the Williamsport American Legion.

"She always insisted she never wanted a party," Shirley said. But she enjoyed it once she was there.

In recent years, Shirley said she visited Gine in the nursing home where she was living.

"She seemed to be very content, which was a blessing," Shirley said.

Don Brown was the youngest of nine children - his sister, Gine, was the fourth oldest, he said. Now, only Don and one sister, Beatrice Hess, survive.

"We'd all try to get together about once a year," Don said of the family in earlier times.

At the memorial service for Gine, several former Fairchild employees approached Don and his wife, Kathy, to say they had worked with Gine.

"A man said Gine was once his secretary and he spoke highly of her," Kathy said.

Despite their age difference, Don and Gine often took road trips together over the years.

"We'd go every chance we got," Don said. "I drove ... when we came to an intersection, we'd choose a direction."

Most times of the year, the two siblings would enjoy looking at flowers, then around the holidays, the focus was on Christmas lights.

"Gine loved to look at big houses," Kathy said.

Shirley said Gine, who never married, kept a lovely home of her own on Beechwood Drive for a number of years.

"She would mention that someday, she would tell me of a love she had in earlier years, however, she never really did explain this part of her life to me," Shirley said.

Don said Gine was close to and proud of the children and grandchildren of her siblings.

"Memories of my Aunt Virginia include the time when I was very young. She took me to a Fairchild open house and there was a stunt pilot who did amazing things with a biplane," Bill Wilhide said in an e-mail. "My aunt seemed to know everyone, including the pilot."

"My great Aunt Virginia, or Ginji as we called her, was a wonderful, caring person," Beth Schoop said in an e-mail. "She was proud of her job at Fair-child, loved her soap operas, but most of all, she loved her family."

Beth said she treated her nieces and great-nieces and great-nephews as if they were her children.

"We were all spaced out in age, so we each had time to be the 'special' one," she said.

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