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Special Wingtappers Tribute to

Marge Brown, my #ScienceGirl Hero

Special Wingtappers Tribute to Margory Brown

Publishers Note: Marjory (Marge) Brown, along with her husband, Richard (Dick) and their faithful dog, Orion, passed away on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 from a car accident and they will be missed dearly. She served as an advisor to My Girl Power™ Project, with a special focus on MyScienceGirl, which we were hoping to launch together shortly.

This is a special tribute in her honor. (Video below updated 2.1.2020)

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First time meeting Marge Brown

I first met Marjory (aka Marge) Brown while strolling through the silent auction path at the 2016 Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. A good friend of ours, Bob Edison, knew how much I loved girls and science, and made it a point to introduce me her, who happened to be a dear friend of his, also.

She was the mother of Dr. Laurel B. Clarke, one of the 7 astronauts that perished back on February 1, 2003 in the Space Shuttle Columbia STS107, as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere. I felt honored and humbled to meet her, and was excited that she lived here, in Tucson/Oro Valley area, out by where I lived. I knew at that very moment that I had just met a very special woman.

Ever since my own mother passed away, in 2001, I have found myself longing for the wisdom and guidance from her generation, and I instantly gravitated towards Marge, for this reason.

Her infectious smile, witty energy and passion to make sure that her daughter’s life, filled with science all along the way, meant something (and would continue to mean something) really inspired me and I really wanted to help her make that happen in some way shape or form.

She was passionate about making sure that everybody, particularly girls, had the access and enthusiasm for science, which is why I instantly fell in love with her. I asked her to join My Girl Power Advisory Council, to help provide support, guidance and connections, especially as we looked to develop a program together, called My Science Girl, and she accepted on the spot.

Well, before we knew it, February 1, 2017 was already upon us, and I had not been able to pull off the big event and project that I wanted to, so I called her and apologized and she didn't care. Instead, she told me of a special tradition she did every year, and asked me if I wanted to come over to her house to join her this year. Again, I felt honored and humbled, but didn't really know what to expect and took her up on her offer.

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When I arrived, she was just starting to get ready for her special tradition, which starts in the morning and culminates at dusk. She told me the story of why she released a butterfly balloon, as I snapped a few pictures, and was able to capture this special moment in this video here.

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Afterwards, we sat in her home and we talked about Laurel, and girls, and science.

She told me that Laurel has ALWAYS loved and appreciated all types of science, and didn’t really think about space exploration until later in life.

Her eyes lit up, as she recalled Laurel’s early love of animals from growing up on a farm back in Iowa and Wisconsin. She actually graduated from the University of Wisconsin Racine, with her degree in zoology. Dick, a retired doctor, was in the room, also, nodding his head, and smiling along, as Marge told story after story.

After obtaining her degree in zoology, Laurel later graduated as a medical doctor, with a specialty towards pediatrics, but had also started training with the Diving Medicine Department at the Naval Experimental Diving Unit, and did several submarine rescues and dives with the Navy Seals. She was designated a radiation health officer and undersea medical officer. She loved the earth and the ocean. According to Marge, Laurel didn’t really think about becoming an astronaut and space until after meeting her husband, and the rest is history.

What Marge wanted me to know about her mission...

As Marge was telling me this story, it was evident that she had three main points that she wanted me to understand and possibly do something with:

  1. Her daughter, Laurel, loved all types of science, from the farm, through our own human bodies, under the ocean and ultimately out to space…it doesn’t get any more well rounded as a science lover than that.  She wanted others to discover and love science, too.
  2. Laurel was soooo thrilled to have another female, Kalpana Chalwa, to train with, at NASA.  Laurel thought that Kalpana, the first woman of Indian descent in space, was the smartest person she had ever met and really credited her for helping each other get through a grueling and challenging training regimen in a typically male dominated environment.   Just the presence of one other woman made all the difference in the world, a sentiment that many strong and powerful women, who are trying to trailblaze into the unknown, can all appreciate. We call this a form of Wingtapping.
  3. Marge was totally committed and passionate about carrying on Laurel’s legacy, mainly through the Arizona Sonoran Desert’s Earth Camp, started and sustained in her honor,  and was open to anything else that we could do to amplify our mutual cause to get more kids to love and appreciate science.
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I spent about two hours with them, she showed me this letter that Laurel had written from space, and I went on my way.

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Women's Equality Day 2017 featuring Marge

The year flew by and the next time I found myself calling Marge was the week before August 26, 2017, to invite her to celebrate Women’s Equality Day at the Pima Air and Space Museum.

My Girl Power™ had just hosted the Legacy and Wingtappers trip, for 7 high school girls, to NY and DC, to celebrate and honor women who have left their marks in civics and science, and the girls were going to be giving some brief presentations of their experiences, while celebrating our national right to vote anniversary.

She enthusiastically accepted by invitation and I captured her brief and heartfelt message here. Marge always answered the call and showed up, when she could. This video truly captures Marge's special message for girls.

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Feb 1, 2019 - Special Wingtappers at Legends

2018 flew by, and other commitments kept many of us too busy to concentrate on My Girl Power™ at all, but another February 1 had snuck up on us...yet again.

It was January 29, 2019, just 2 days before February 1, and I felt compelled to try and pull off another “last minute Lucy” plan, so I called a short list of powerful and inspirational girlfriends and My Girl Power™ Advisors (aka my Wingtappers), and asked them to meet up at Legends, a neighborhood bar at the Omni Tucson National, if only for an hour, to help kick off another science celebration, and pay special tribute together.

Many people don't realize this, but February 1 also represents kicking off a 2 month, statewide celebration of science with Arizona Sci Tech Festival, but in my mind, it will always be the anniversary of the Challenger accident, and Marge’s annual tradition, which kicks off our own special celebration of science then, throughout the spring.

I called Marge to see if she wanted to join us at all, and of course, like always, she enthusiastically accepted. She brought her balloon, this time in the shape of a patriotic star, and our small, but powerful group, paid our tributes and celebrated the special moment with her, as she remembered her daughter, on another anniversary of the tragic accident.

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Among us were other incredible strong warrior women, like Roxanna Green, Jeannine Sharp Mason, Kathy Bell, Kalpana Pandit, Trina Callie, and Alana Shuma, all coming together and connecting with more in common than we knew. It was an incredibly special night for me, being surrounded by women that I admire so much, and reminded me that it’s always ok to just make special moments like this happen…even if it is last minute!

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Last time I saw Marge...

The last time I saw Marge and Dick was at a special night celebrating Women Scientists across the Americas with Dr. John Boright, and why it was important to support these types of opportunities to connect with young girls for inspiration. She and Dick arrived together, as they also did, and enjoyed a great conversation with us all.

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Marge and Dick were an amazing couple and I admired, respected and loved them both, even if they never realized how much I did. I hope they did. They were so special to me.

They were 85 years old, and still living life to its fullest. I learned recently that they had both just visited with all of their children just last week, which could be seen as a small silver lining in this tragic story, but it still makes me upset because this did not have to happen.

They were simply doing what they do nearly every day...coming home from visiting with friends at the local dog park when the accident occurred.

I am grateful for the short but special moments that we shared together and we will carry your legacy forward. Rest in peace my ScienceGirl heroes.

In a related story...

This time last year, another one of My Girl Power’s founding Advisory Members, Larry Sakin, also passed away due to a serious car accident by someone who ran a red light. Larry gave so much to this world, promoting education, civics and equality, even though he, too, suffered immeasurable loss when a drunk driver killed his wife and one of his daughters early in his family days, also.

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The issue of car safety and driver attention is hitting our small family quite hard, especially as I look at this picture of with both Larry and Marge, now no longer with us because of another driver!

Please be aware when all times

Please, please, please… remember when you are behind the wheel, that there is no guarantee that tragedy can’t happen at any time. Please be aware of the road, don’t be distracted by phones, eating or make-up, and just pay attention…please…too many families have been affected by reckless driving. Don’t be the cause of this type of pain to anybody.