Ginger Brown, classical pianist, dies at 79


Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 5:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 5:47 p.m.

As a child in Mississippi, Virginia “Ginger” Brown used the nickels from her piggy bank to buy piano sheet music.

A musician throughout her life, Brown played classical piano, was a music teacher and received a master’s in music education.

On Sept. 23, Brown died at age 79, following several months of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Brown was born in Clearwater but grew up in Jackson, Miss. She moved back to Florida, living in Williston and eventually Gainesville, in the early ’70s with her three sons.

Brown was a woman of diverse talents. She pursued writing, painting, dancing and teaching humanities at Santa Fe College in addition to her ongoing music interests.

“She lived like an artist,” daughter-in-law Laura Cox said.

Brown painted abstract, floral watercolors on large canvases as well as small scraps of paper, the backs of envelopes and on anything she could find.

“She told me one time she didn’t know where it came from,” Laura Cox said of Brown’s artistic talents.

She was also spiritually inclined. She was an ordained minister with the Alliance of Divine Love and participated in several spiritual and religious organizations, at one point taking a class titled “A Course in Miracles.”

She had a special affinity for nature. Family members recalled birds, raccoons and other animals wandering about her property when they came to visit.

“Here’s one of her swimming with a manatee,” her son Steve Cox said, handing over a photo of Brown swimming underwater, hugging the back of the bulbous mammal.

Other photos showed her hosting in her home with trays of brightly colored vegetables circled around her, and in one she was smiling with a red flower tucked behind her ear.

Brown was married three times, divorced twice and widowed once. In the later years of her life, she lived alone and she told her son that’s the way she wanted it.

“She was one of those women that was just considered beautiful,” her daughter-in-law said.

She was interested in nutrition and dedicated to her health, using food as medicine and avoiding Western approaches to healing.

But despite her dedication to conscious living, she became ill and on May 7, the same day Oran Cox, the father of her three sons, died, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

“It was odd that she was diagnosed terminal the same day my dad died,” her son Steve Cox said, suggesting there may be some spiritual connection between the two events.

But Brown refused to tell her close family the details of her ailments when she first found out. She kept the information between herself and a few close friends and attempted to treat her illness with alternative medicine.

“I think that for a while we were angry with her for not telling us, but I think we all would have pushed her to have surgery, pushed her to have chemotherapy, you know we would have pushed her in a way that she didn’t want to go,” Laura Cox said.

Several weeks before she died, she sent letters to her family letting them know she was living in a hospice home, telling them the reality of her situation.

“Surgery being not feasible, chemo and radiation were only choices of treatment in traditional medicine,” Brown wrote. “Two complete surgeries and anesthesia would have been followed by pneumonia abscesses, bronchitis and infection.”

Days before she died, she described to family members what she was seeing in her last moments: A bright path and hardly any bumps.

She was buried in Paynes Prairie, dressed in a chenille robe, the day after she died. Family and friends tied biodegradable ribbons of all different colors to her wicker casket.

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