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Vail pioneer Vianne Brown was a gift to her family, her many friends and her community

Vi and Byron Brown were cornerstones of the Vail community

Vianne 鈥淰i鈥 Brown
Courtesy photo

There was no one like Vianne Brown.

Vi and her husband, Byron, were among Vail’s earliest full-time residents, moving to the fledgling resort in 1964. Those early days found the Browns living in a tent. The Browns’ eldest son, Mike, was just older than infancy, and Vi was pregnant with the couple’s daughter, Cindy.

Vi died Oct. 10, leaving a legacy of giving and friendship. Byron, who formed a real estate development company and built the first house in West Vail, died in 2017 at the age of 86.

Honoring Vi

A celebration of life for Vi Brown is set for Nov. 1 at 2:30 p.m. at the Donovan Pavilion in Vail. The family asks people to give in Vi’s memory to the nonprofit of their choice.

Longtime friend Summer Holm, another early resident, was among the few people in Vail with young children in those early days. As the kids came to school age, Vi and Holm would drop the kids at school, and then head to the original gondola to catch some turns.

Vi wanted to try to ski Look Ma, but Holm told her, “We can’t ski that well.” Eventually, they both could ski that well.

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Vi and Byron Brown and their kids on Vail Mountain.
Daily archive photo |

As the kids were growing, Vi and Byron “gave their all” to the Buddy Werner youth ski program, Holm recalled.

Serving youngsters was a long-running theme with Vi. Mike Brown recalled his mother as being an early, active member of local parent groups, working to ensure Vail’s kids were accounted for in the county’s school system.

Vail’s kids at first went to school in Minturn.

“It’s odd that we fashion ourselves as pioneers when there was this whole community already here,” Mike said of Vail’s established neighbor.

Classes for Vail’s kids soon moved to a small room above the town’s first clinic, located roughly where the Starbucks is today in Vail Health Hospital. The school then became the Vail Town Council chambers, and then Minturn again, at the town’s old high school.

Plenty of room in her heart

Through those years, all the Brown kids 鈥 Mike, Cindy and Todd 鈥 had Vi available for support. But countless other local kids were in Vi’s heart.

“She had three kids, but I suspect she secretly wanted 19,” Mike said. Holidays always packed the Browns’ home, and the Christmas parties were “legendary,” Mike said, with people gathered on the porch, singing Christmas carols, all of which were off-key.

In the 1970s, Vi was also a member of the Happy Hikers, a group of local women who’d get together to hike mountains and socialize. Those women became lifelong friends.

Elaine Kelton, then Elaine White, and her then-husband, Gerry, moved to Vail not long after the Browns. The two families quickly became friends.

The Browns were community leaders in every sense of the word, Kelton said. Vi, she added, “Is what every person as they grow up wants to be.”


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Vi and Byron lived with integrity and honesty, Kelton added. They also made that community work fun.

Life anywhere has its rough patches. Through those tough times 鈥 particularly Todd’s death in 1993 鈥 Vi and Byron “managed to be examples of how you handle the difficult things in life,” Kelton said.

The Rummage Sale

Pulling people together was part of Vi’s essence. She and Byron were instrumental in creating the Eagle Valley Community Fund Auction and Rummage Sale.

Daily archive photo
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Created in 1964, the rummage sale long supported nonprofit groups. But those groups had to send volunteers to help to reap any of the money raised. Vi and a host of other volunteers spent countless hours getting items ready for sale.

Kelton recalled that sale prep for a number of years was held at the Lodge at Vail.

“It was a super community effort,” she said. “You talked, you laughed, you connected.”

Those connections extended beyond just community residents. It’s said of many people that they’ve “never met a stranger.” That was doubly true with Vi.

“She’d do anything for anybody,” Holm said. Holm and Vi spent a number of years at Vail’s information desks. Visitors would often get more information than they’d bargained for.

“I’d tell her, ‘We can’t talk too long'” to guests, Holm recalled. That rarely worked.

Vi genuinely liked just about everyone. She and Holm were longtime election judges during Vail’s municipal elections. After the town joined Eagle 久久热精品视频app’s coordinated ballot a few years ago, Vi and Holm would still spend time at Vail Town Hall, directing voters to the Lionshead Parking Structure to cast ballots or check their registration.

“What a unique personality she had,” Mike recalled. “I’ve never remotely come across anyone who’s so consistently positive. 鈥 She would say “hi” to absolutely everybody. It was like her superpower.”

Mike recalled, “She’d walk up to people and ask ‘Where are you from? Is there anything you need to know?’鈥 It was one of the single biggest miracles I’ve had the privilege to witness.”

The Browns’ community service was well-known, of course, and the couple in 2017 were honored with one of the town’s first Vail Trailblazer awards.

Vi at the time said, “Byron and I didn’t know you could get an award for living in and loving Vail.”

Vi Brown’s personality is “Hard to encapsulate 鈥 into words,” Mike said. “She was truly a gift.”


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