Lydia Alberta Ward Brown arrived to begin her earthly journey in Cumberland County, Illinois, on October 10, 1920, to parents Grace Fern (Green) and John Harrison Ward, the 6th child but first of their 10 children to be born in “the big house” built along the Old National Road (Rt 40) about three miles west of Greenup, Illinois. Alberta ended her earthly journey in the home of daughter Doreen Brown Tatnall in Indianapolis on March 30, 2021.
Funeral services will be held at 12:00 PM, Saturday, April 3, 2021 at the Calvary Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church in Toledo, IL. Visitation will be held from 10:00 to service time at the church. Burial will be in the Greenup Cemetery. The Barkley Funeral Chapel is assisting the family with arrangements.
On August 15, 1940, and just prior to her mother’s death on November 14, 1940, Alberta married her life partner, (Jesse) Edsel Brown in Henderson, Ky. To this union were born five children, Jerald Erwin Brown of rural Toledo, James Ward Brown (deceased), Ruth Elaine Brown Blankenbaker (Von) and Doreen Adele Brown Tatnall (Edward), both of Indianapolis, IN, and (Myra) Michelle Brown Matteson of rural Toledo, IL.
As the mother of five children living on a farm, Alberta arose early to help Edsel with morning chores, feeding chickens, gathering eggs, churning butter, planting acres of corn and tomatoes and potatoes and green beans, pulling weeds, snapping beans, canning thousands of jars of vegetables, baking dozens of pies, teaching her kids how to kill, pluck and dress a chicken (because that was a life-skill all farm kids needed), going blackberry picking, bathing chiggers off her kids, building 3-story tree houses, taking her kids camping in the back of the old truck down by the river, fixing untold thousands of meals for her kids and their dozens of cousins, helping with homework, sewing beautiful dresses created from “made-up” patterns, driving her kids to church camp, writing and directing Christmas plays and Easter Cantatas, teaching Sunday School, directing summertime Daily Vacation Bible Schools, yet still finding time to stretch out on the sofa to read her children stories, often falling asleep with her children gently shaking her head to wake her to finish the story she’d started.
Alberta’s extended family was one of her valued lifelines. Faithfully, for over 60 consecutive years Alberta kept a promise to her mother’s deathbed request that she keep their family together. And so Alberta did, each year hosting the Ward Family Reunion that grew from being held in her home to having her ever-expanding family gather in the Greenup Municipal Building. In later years, tables were set up along the walls where family members could display Ward family artifacts and treasures beneath the banner Thornton and Elizabeth Would be Proud, commemorating her Ward great grandparents. And, as the last of the 10 children to survive, we can truly say that Alberta fulfilled her mother’s dying wish until her siblings were no longer with her.
As Alberta’s children grew and required less of her time, she entered the workforce (which was more like a vacation) and became a keypunch operator/verifier in the data processing department of Ettelbrick Shoe Company in Greenup, IL, a position she held till her retirement in the early 1980’s. Shortly before her retirement, Alberta and Edsel had purchased land from her father Harrison Ward’s estate sale, a 26 acre plot of land with an old barn on it. Never one to shy away from seemingly impossible tasks, she and Edsel started the renovation of that old barn, turning it into their eventual home they called Brownwood Acres, about a ½ mile north of Jewett on the Toledo Road. Brownwood became the old home place where their grandchildren built lifelong and lasting memories of love and a deep sense of security in the arms and at the table of their grandmother.
When Alberta and Edsel weren’t renovating their barn home, they gave their time to the Cumberland County Life Center, where Edsel logged over 305,000 miles and over 10,000 hours of Peace Meal deliveries. On the rare occasion that her husband couldn’t drive, Alberta became his “approved substitute driver.” As Edsel’s health began to fail, she would help him out the door, often holding on to the back of his suspenders until he could climb behind the wheel to deliver meals to the “old folks who needed him” (his words) in Casey and Martinsville, Illinois.
Alberta lost her husband on December 7, 2001, and not too long after that, the old leaky Brownwood Acres barn-home was replaced by a home positioned so that from her favorite room she could view the plot that still held her heart. And it was in this room that Alberta created treasured cross-stitched blankets for each of her grand and step grandchildren, for several of her great grandchildren, and beautiful pieces of cross-stitched artwork now framed and gracing their homes.
As Alberta’s family scattered, she longed for a way to keep her reunion spirit alive. So, at the age of 94, she became a student again when grandson Kevin Ward Brown purchased her first iPad, which she never called anything but her FaceBook. From early mornings till late at night, Alberta scrolled through FaceBook photos and stories posted by her family and friends, often writing comments that could raise an eyebrow, but always doing so in her flowery, artistic style.
When it was no longer safe for Alberta to remain alone, she made her home in Indianapolis, IN, alternating between the homes of daughters Doreen and Ruth, where, at 99 ½ years, she conquered the iPhone, which she thoroughly enjoyed by punching the picture of her favorites to make a call instead of having to look up and dial the phone number of all family and friends. Count yourself blessed if you were not on her list of favorites, as those folks “on the list” learned to develop a special kind of patience as Alberta called them repeatedly, always saying that she was just practicing (repeatedly) to learn how to use her little phone that she had to use because landlines were disappearing.
A special thanks to Dixie Lee Kuhn Howard must be inserted here for her extreme patience in enduring the (often) multiple calls per day she received from Alberta, just wanting to know “what’s going on in your part of the world.” Known for her persistence, Alberta once called Dixie so many times in a row that AT&T blocked her number on Dixie’s phone, as the number of calls exceeded an algorithm known for spam calls. When pressed for an explanation, Alberta, known for her flair for the dramatic, assured us she knew Dixie must have fallen in the bathtub and therefore needed help.
Alberta was especially loved by her grandchildren, Quent Cordair, Kevin Brown, Darin Brown, Kyra Brown, James E Brown, Jason (Brown) Fischer, Aaron Blankenbaker, Kelli Blankenbaker Scott, Andrew Blankenbaker, Aaron Neese, Marcia Washburn Sams, Sarah Tatnall, Kenneth Warfield and Beth Warfield Sowers and a host of great grandchildren, nephews and nieces she treasured so greatly.
Preceding Alberta’s death was that of her son, James Ward Brown, June 26, 1974, and her husband, Jesse Edsel Brown, December 7, 2001. Alberta’s life survived not only her parents but each of her nine siblings: Mary Ar-Minnie Ward Burr (Garrie), John Lester Ward (Ilse Kuss), Bessie Lucille Ward Brandenburg (Elmer), Lyle Franklin Ward (Yvonne Minear), Nettie Alene Ward Earl (Paul), Russell Eugene Ward (Evelyn Kincaid), Kenneth Wayne Ward (Minnie May Cisney), Velma Iverna Ward Browning (Bobby Max), and Carroll Theodore Ward (Anne Louise Weston).
We will always remember Alberta as a loving and caring mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, friend, neighbor and faithful listener through earbuds plugged in to her “Facebook,” where she nourished her godly soul with the old gospel hymns and sermons on the SonLife TV app, which, most recently, became her favorite way to “rest her eyes” in her rocking/swivel chair while dreaming of her heavenly home. If ever a woman deserved to celebrate along the streets of gold, it is this godly woman, Lydia Alberta Ward Brown. And Mom, we all hope you heard us join you as you raised your hands in “Happy Salutations” as you entered the pearly gates of heaven.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Cumberland County Life Center (507 East Main Street, Toledo, Illinois 62468) or Traditions Health Hospice (7164 Graham Road, Ste 150 Indianapolis, IN 46250). Online condolences can be expressed at www.barkleyfuneralchapels.com
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