Jane Legge Brown, age 89, died peacefully in her long time Oak Bluffs home on April 18. Her son, Chris Legge, her dog Mac, a close friend, and two Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard nurses were at her side. Ms. Brown had been a summer and later a full-time resident since her family built their house here in 1932.
Born in Patterson, New Jersey, in 1922 (to be near her mother she liked to say), Jane grew up in White Plains, N.Y. In her memoirs, Jane recalled her cousin, Dr. Dean, at the time the Island’s only doctor, coming to visit her family in White Plains and urging them to come visit the Island with stories of “the wonderful ocean, the pine woods, and the friendly laidback Islanders.” He later offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse — 3 lots in Oak Bluffs that he bought at a tax sale for $5.75 each. They built their cottage the next year when Jane was nine years old. She recalled traveling to the Vineyard in the early days when it was a two‑day drive to reach the Island ferry in New Bedford. But her family made the pilgrimage every year.
After graduating from White Plains High School, Jane attended Middlebury College in Vermont, graduating during the height of World War II. She fondly recalled the hours she spent with her father on the bluffs outside Oak Bluffs harbor spotting planes during the war.
In 1950, Jane married Roger C. Legge, a shortwave radio engineer. They moved to Virginia where he worked with the Voice of America and she became a reading teacher. They raised their three sons in Virginia, but they always continued the tradition of returning each summer to the Vineyard.
Jane was a lifetime learner, writer, and reader. At age 70, she earned a Masters in Psychology from George Mason University. She was a long-time member of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and an active member of the Vineyard Friends Meeting, often hosting Meeting for Worship at her home.
Jane’s first marriage ended in divorce. In 1977, she married US Department of Agriculture economist W. Herbert Brown, of Fairfax, Va. After Herbert’s death in 1979, Jane winterized her East Chop home and moved there permanently in 1992.
She became an active member of COMSOG, the Island Community Chorus, joined an Island poetry group, a Great Books group, and the Island Peace Council. Through her many activities she extended her wide circle of friends among both summer and year‑round Islanders. As a full‑time resident, one of her favorite activities was picking beach plums, wild grapes, and rose hips, which she made into much-treasured jellies and jams.
For Jane, poetry was both joy and solace. She was a constant and prolific writer. She self‑published two well‑received books, “Home at Last” and “Breaking Through,” which were sold at Bunch of Grapes. In a review in 2006, the Martha’s Vineyard Times said, “After returning to her family home in Oak Bluffs, she has become free to share her life more fully with her friends and readers in the intimate act of writing poems. She finds comfort, a sense of belonging, and heightened self‑confidence, as she grows older. She now ascends to the status of neo‑octogenarian with much remaining to tell.”
Jane enjoyed an active and independent life well into her late 80s: swimming regularly at State Beach, working weekly at the COMSOG greenhouse, and delivering Meals on Wheels. Her cottage flower garden was a treat to visit throughout the seasons. She and her succession of (rescued) Brittany spaniels were a familiar sight in their neighborhood walks.
Her three sons — William S. Legge, Robert D. Legge, Chris S. Legge — and four stepchildren — Gertrude B. Rogers, Marianna B. Diggs, Dorothy B. McDowell, and Walter A. Brown — and her dog, Mac, survive Ms. Brown.
A service and reception will be held on Saturday, May 21, at 1 pm at Howes House in West Tisbury. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557 or the Martha’s Vineyard Friends Meeting.