Jo Ann Fitzpatrick Brown, whose warm smile and uncommonly generous ways were well known to many throughout the Berkshires, died peacefully at her home in Stockbridge on January 28th, after a courageous battle with cancer. She was 66.
The daughter of the late state senator John Hitchcock Fitzpatrick and Jane Pratt Fitzpatrick, Ann was born in Rutland, Vt., on Dec. 27, 1949. She moved with her family to Stockbridge at the age of 6 and spent many of her formative years in the village of Stockbridge. She attended the former Stockbridge Plain School and later, the Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y., and Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado in 1971.
An avid traveler, Ann made her way to Europe after college. There, she found work managing a hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland, where she honed her skills making people and guests feel welcome. Her family had purchased the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge in 1968, so innkeeping was in her blood.
She later moved to Vail, Colo., where she could ski and pursue a career in interior design. While recuperating from a ski accident there, she began creating designs made of candy. This creative skill blossomed into a successful entrepreneurship. Ann opened her business, Gum Drop Square, in the historic building that had once housed the Stockbridge firehouse. From there, her beautiful and intricate castles and other sculptures became well known, and at Christmastime, her imaginative creations were displayed at Bloomingdale’s. Her original candy kits were sold through Filene’s, Neiman Marcus, and Bloomingdale’s.
One of her proudest legacies is Blantyre in Lenox. When her parents purchased the 46-acre country manor, Ann enthusiastically used her artistic talents to restore and refurbish the property. Spirited and optimistic, she traveled to Europe to research similar country estates and brought back ideas to return Blantyre to a state of elegance. Later, when Ann became the sole owner and operator of Blantyre, she continued to use her keen interior design skills to ensure every space was elegantly appointed with stunning antiques and lush fabrics. She took special pleasure in collecting wine for Blantyre’s renowned cellar. She poured her heart and soul into Blantyre, and her energy and determination made it into the graceful setting it is today. Her efforts led Blantyre to earn a rating of five stars and to become a member of the elite Relais & Chateaux hotel community.
During her lifetime, Ann also spent time working in her family’s business, Country Curtains, where she developed and produced the City Curtains brand, while also lending her design talents to the gifts and accessories that were sold through the company’s retail stores.
In 1989 came her greatest love, her son, Alexander John Fitzpatrick Brown. During his youth, she and Alexander divided their time between Stockbridge, New York City, and Martha’s Vineyard. It was on the Vineyard where Ann discovered her love of wheaten terriers, and she went on to raise three of them.
Eager to give back to the community, Ann donated much of her time to local causes and boards. She was on the Advisory Council of the Austen Riggs Center and on the Advisory Board of the Edith Wharton Restoration at the Mount. She was also a trustee of the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Lenox Library, the Emma Willard School, and the High Meadow Foundation. She had also been associated with the Central Park Conservancy, and had served as governor of the West Chop Club of Martha’s Vineyard.
Ann leaves behind her son, Alexander John Fitzpatrick Brown, her nephew, Casey Meade Rothstein-Fitzpatrick, her sister, Nancy Jane Fitzpatrick, and her wheaten terrier, Sophie Jane Fitzpatrick Brown, and many beloved friends and devoted employees. Ann will be greatly missed.
There will be calling hours at Blantyre on Sunday, Feb. 7, from 3 pm to 5 pm.
A celebration of Ann’s life will be held Feb. 8 at 2 pm at the First Congregational Church in Stockbridge, with a reception following at the Red Lion Inn.
Donations in Ann’s memory may be made to the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter through Finnerty & Stevens Funeral Home, 426 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230. To send remembrances to her family or sign the guestbook, go to finnertyandstevens.com.