Chance Meetings Resulted In Best Life Experiences

PAYSON PEOPLE

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In the 1960s women working as newspaper reporters were relegated to the society department. In her position at the Phoenix Gazette Carol Osman Brown was no different, yet hard work paid off and she started writing some columns.

Then she backed into doing her own photography when the paper nearly ran a story about a well-known portrait artist with a picture of a guy on a ladder painting his house.

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Carol Osman Brown

"I've always considered journalism a license to be nosy. It gives you a permit to go around and ask people questions when normally they'd say, ‘What? get out of here,'" Brown said.

She has always stayed busy. She worked as a Girl Scout camp counselor in the Groom Creek area of Prescott when she finished high school so she could ride the horses that she loves. At the same time, she contacted The Arizona Republic and the Prescott Courier and was hired as a stringer for the summer at both papers.

It was that summer at the Girl Scout camp when she met the man she would later marry.

She and another counselor had taken their charges on an evening hike and had stumbled into a solemn ceremony at a neighboring Boy Scout camp. Brown's fellow counselor was afraid the incident would cause her to lose her job and she wanted to talk to a 4-H leader for advice.

Brown took the girl to the leader's home in the middle of the night.

When she stepped out of the car a big boxer dog pinned her to the car and started licking her all over. Out of the darkness came a deep, bass voice saying, "Down Fang!" That was her first meeting with Bing Brown.

The couple dated all summer.

Brown bribed the other counselors with blueberry tarts from town, so they would not tell their bosses she was sneaking out of camp to date Bing.

One night, coming into camp, laden with tarts in both hands, she heard footsteps behind her. When she stopped, the footsteps did too. Fearing it was the escapees from the mental institution in Phoenix who were supposed to be wandering in the Yavapai County forest, she tried to decide whether to run away, climb a tree or turn around and throw the pies at her attacker. Finally she just whipped around and there in the light of the full moon stood a cow.

Brown remained busy when she started college: carrying 17 credit hours at Arizona State University, while working 30 hours at the Phoenix Gazette and dating the man with whom she was threatening her parents that she'd elope, Bing. She would later tell her students at ASU when they complained that, yes they did have enough time to do their work.

As a journalist with a minor in psychology Brown said she likes, "...figuring out people's motivations, how they got the way they are and life circumstances that got in the way and changed their path."

Brown's own path meandered one day when she was picking up her photographs.

She met a woman in a photo shop who was part of a medical missionary group that went to Africa each year. The two woman struck up a conversation and Brown was invited to go as a reporter to document the group's work. She declined. A year later in the same photo shop the women met again. "The brass ring rarely comes around twice," Brown said with a laugh. This time she accepted the offer.

"Something funny happens about the time you turn 50. You don't ask permission anymore. You just say, ‘I'm doing it.'" Brown said.

Her husband took over teaching her ASU classes for three weeks and off she went to document the trip to the small village in Kenya, about 200 miles from the border of Somalia. She killed her Nikon camera shooting 80 rolls of film and one can hear the awe in her voice when she speaks of the wild animals she saw.

Sorrow and anger can be heard in her voice when she speaks of how women are valued less than cattle and whole villages were decimated by AIDS with 6-year-olds raising 4-year-olds because their parents were dead. A seasoned traveler, Brown didn't realize how far ahead we truly were in the United States until her trip to Africa.

Brown enjoys freelance feature writing because in the longer format of a magazine she can explore the iceberg below the waterline. Typically she works on several projects simultaneously, but in different stages. She admits that she tends to back up to deadlines.

Brown's next goal is to write a children's book.

Profile

Name: Carol Osman Brown

Occupation: Writer/ photographer and teacher

Age: 63

Birthplace: Schenectady, N.Y. (lived in NYC as a child; lived in Phoenix area for 40 years before moving to Payson full time in 2001)

Employer: Self-employed writer/ photojournalist and teacher for Rio Salado College (taught in ASU's journalism department for about 12 years)

Family: Husband, Bing Brown, grown sons, Jim and Bryan Brown, both are musicians who live in Los Angeles

Personal Motto: Dream it, do it and help others along the way.

Inspiration: Gladys T. McGarey, M.D., 84, who is the mother of holistic medicine in America

Greatest Feat: Building a writing career while raising two active boys.

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Traveling and reading

Three words that describe me best: Optimist, curious and persistent.

I don't want to brag, but ... I have the best husband in the world. He cooks and laughs at my jokes!

The person in history I'd most like to meet: Ghandi

Luxury defined: Having a private library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Dream vacation spot: Alaska, where I can photograph animals and the Northern Lights.

Why the Rim Country? I love living close to nature, where I can see animals and the Mogollon Rim daily.

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