Marie Browning

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. — Marie Rose Browning, widow of Judge James R Browning of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, passed away peacefully in Marin County, California, surrounded by her family. She was 97 years old.

She was born in Red Lodge, Montana, and was the only daughter of L. E. Chapell and Jeanne Chapell (Mora). Her parents came respectively from Italy and France to a remote and undeveloped land in Montana and there built a life for themselves. They were owners of the Grove Creek Ranch, located on the Old Meeteetsee Trail between Red Lodge and the Wyoming state line. They developed the Grove Creek Ranch into one of the largest stock operations in southern Montana. This is where Marie Rose was raised and nurtured, and where she developed her sense of independent spirit and self-confidence.

Marie Rose attended school in Belfry and Red Lodge, graduating from high school in three years. She went on to receive a BA degree in zoology and French from the University of Montana. She met her future husband, James R. Browning, at a high school week debate competition at the University of Montana, and later joined him at the university. After graduation, they married and set off to Denver, where he worked at the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. During the war, she came back to Montana and taught English at Bridger High School for two years. After a short time in Hawaii and Seattle, they found themselves in Washington D.C., where she was known in political circles for her elegant and memorable parties. She dazzled diplomats with her gourmet meals and ability to speak fluent French and understand Spanish and Italian. She chaired many D.C. fundraisers, such as the National Symphony and the Friendship House benefit for underprivileged children and was involved in the Inauguration Committee for John F. Kennedy.

After the appointment of her husband as a federal judge to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1961, they relocated to San Francisco, where she continued her involvement in the community and with the court. She was a member of the Executive Committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, developed a substantive program for judicial spouses and led in improving the arcane Federal Judicial Survivors Annuity system. Her imagination, taste and intense personal attention to every detail made the social aspects of the court conference warmer, more gracious and more productive. She was also president of the Southern Marin Branch of American Association of University Women from 1989 to 1992, where her personal attention greatly increased its multicultural membership. In 1991, she received the First Distinguished Service Award in Recognition of Outstanding Contribution to the Judicial Conference of the Ninth Circuit; in 1992, the Distinguished Alumna Award, University of Montana; and in 1993, the Educational Foundation Named Award – Southern Marin Branch AAUW.

Along with these commitments, she traveled extensively with her daughter and her grandchildren, opening their eyes to what the greater world had to offer. She was a poet in secret and an active trader in stocks, maneuvering with skill all aspects of the financial markets.

Mrs. Browning is survived by her daughter, Jeanne Sommer and her children, Lauren Sommer, Greg Sommer, Mark Sommer and great-grandchild, Sophie Warner; her nephews, Rene Mora Jr., Roland Mora and Sam Mora and their children. Marie Rose was part of our family and part of our hearts for all those wonderful and unforgettable years, and she will never really leave us.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 6, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave., with interment to follow at Mountview Cemetery.

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