One of Vail’s strongest heartbeats, Jo Brown, a 45-year resident of the Vail Valley, died while surrounded by her family on June 26 of lymphoma, which she battled for 10 years.
Jo was born Feb. 7, 1929, in Hugoton, Kan., to Carl Edward Jones and Catherine (Kascak) Jones. She was born in the house connected to the jail because her father was the Stevens County sheriff, where her mother cooked and cleaned for the prisoners. She was the sixth of seven children and her mother died when she was 9 years old. Her older sister married when Jo was 11, leaving Jo to cook and clean for her father and three remaining brothers while attending school.
She grew up on a farm with no indoor plumbing during the Dust Bowl Days, graduated high school in 1945 and went to University of Kansas for one year. When Jo returned to Hugoton to work at the front desk of the ration stamps office, she re-met recently discharged Navy sailor Ernest Brown (they had gone to Hugoton High School together) and once Ernie got a look at beautiful Jo, there was no looking back. They fell in love and married on June 21, 1947. They recently marked their 67th wedding anniversary.
They moved to Denver where Ernie completed his accounting degree at the University of Denver, living in an 8-by-24-foot trailer with no running water. Their first child, Cathy Marie, was born in 1949. They often laughed about their getting around Denver on a scooter in January, and breaking ice on water in their tiny home.
Ernie got a job working in the accounting office for Phillips 66 in Bartlesville, Okla., where their three other children were born: Jo Elaine in 1954, Barbara Ann in 1955 and Michael Ernest in 1959.
Ernie worked his accounting job and two other part-time jobs to provide for his family, while Jo kept the house running smoothly.
In 1962, Ernie had an opportunity to move up in the company, and the family moved to Aurora. More transfers led the family to Lamar; El Paso, Texas; and finally Dumas, Texas, where Ernie and Jo said they’d had enough of the transfers.
After trying his hand as an oil broker back in Lamar, Ernie heard of an opportunity to open a gas station in this new town called Vail. He was able to obtain the contract and lease on the new gas station, and in August of 1969, they moved their family for the final time.
They brought three kids (Cathy was already in college), a dog, a cat, two chinchillas and two pet ducks, and moved into a tiny half duplex on the Gore Creek in East Vail.
Ernie opened the Gulf Station located at the four-way entrance to Vail, which is now where the Four Seasons is located. The two girls started at Battle Mountain High School, and Mike went to school at a little elementary school above the clinic, where Vail Valley Medical Center is located.
Jo went to work at Bishop Perry Property Management in the Gold Peak House and Ernie made his 24-hour gas station a success. After his second winter of schlepping tire chains up Vail Pass to motorists stranded in blizzards, he ultimately opened Vail Auto Supply (NAPA) and ran the business for 22 years until his retirement in 1995. Jo, meanwhile, acquired her real estate license, then her brokers license and worked in several offices, including a partnershp in Coldwell Banker, until she ultimately ended up at Slifer Smith and Frampton.
She was Realtor of the Year in 1989, was president of the Vail Board of Realtors that same year, and served on the ethics committee. She worked with senators and representatives to develop real estate law.
They’d work with the Kruegers, the Simontons and other families on Christmas Eve to make paper bag luminarias and line the streets of Vail leading to the Vail Chapel.
Jo was also responsible for locating the property and negotiating the deal to buy land from generous Steve Ruder to build the last interfaith chapel in the valley in Edwards, and served on the Vail Religious Board up until her death.
Jo and Ernie thrived in the Vail Valley and made hundreds of friends during the past 45 years. They were a part of the Bavarian Dancers, who would troop into an event with Dave Pratt and his accordion, and Jo in her dirndl skirt and Ernie in his leiderhosen and the others would perform Bavarian dances. She was a part of a group of Bridge players.
Jo love kittens and puppies and chickens. She loved the Broncos and the Rockies and any other Colorado team. She loved columbines and yellow roses. She loved her mountains. She loved the color orange.
She left each of her children with beautiful Christmas stockings that she hand made, and each grandchild with Christmas tree skirts to be used for generations.
Jo is survived by Ernie; children Cathy Manchee, of Grand Junction, Elaine (Edward) Turnbull, of Edwards, Barbara Schumacher, of Fruita, Mike Brown, of Palisade, and honorary daughter Shoka Tao; grandchildren Jenny (Ryan) Hudson, Adam (Amber) Duran, Megan (Roderic) Rosario, Tosha (Shane) Dixon, Desiree (Justin) Himes, Michael (Whitney) Brown, Benjamin (Tina) Manchee and Catie Manchee and Jennifer (Dave) Neadeau; and great-grandchildren Coby, Addie Jo, Lane, Emree Jo, Louie, Isabella, Raef, McKenna, Cora, Chloe Jo, Dylan, Chase, Collin and yet to be born Aria and Ryan; her brothers Edward Carl (Chicken) Jones and Bruce (Patricia) Jones; and hundreds of co-workers and friends who loved her for her hard-work ethic, her warm smile and wise advice.