Anna Marie Brosnan devoted life to learning

Published 8:07 pm Monday, August 13, 2007

By Staff
We were saddened to hear of the passing Aug. 8 of Anna Marie Brosnan, 85, who devoted her life to learning.
Miss Brosnan, who was selected a Dowagiac Daily News Hometown Hero in 1996, taught for 44 years before retiring in 1984, including the 1953 opening of Justus Gage Elementary School.
Decades in education did not quench her thirst for knowledge or dull her passion for sharing it with others.
After leaving the classroom – she spent 37 years in the neighborhood that housed first the Oak Street school and later Justus Gage – she channeled her love of learning into the Cass County Literacy Council.
Miss Brosnan became treasurer of the Dowagiac Literacy Council, which grew into the Cass County Literacy Council in 1989.
"The treasury was very modest and I had very few duties, but I kept going to these different meetings and I was very interested because it was an extension of what I had done" in teaching.
Eventually she coordinated Dowagiac for the council, matching tutors with students. There were also coordinators serving Cassopolis and Marcellus, and about 45 students being tutored countywide, 25 adults and children in Dowagiac.
Miss Brosnan was adamant on including children.
"First they wanted to limit it to adults, but I insisted that if you can get them help younger, you won't need so much when they're older."
Miss Brosnan went to County Normal after her 1939 graduation from Dowagiac high school, which qualified her to teach rural school.
She taught for seven years – two at Mayflower School in Pokagon Township, two years in Berrien County at Mead School near Buchanan "during the war when cars didn't run well and we couldn't get tires, so my sister (Katherine Carlson) and I lived over there" and then Red Mill School, which she attended as a child in Silver Creek Township.
"I was real hesitant to take what they call your home school, but I did teach there three years," recalled Miss Brosnan, who followed her mother into teaching. "She taught in Berrien County for about nine years before she married my father. And after she had seven children (Anna Marie's brother Dan was Dowagiac's longtime postmaster) she had plenty of opportunities to teach. We gathered around the kitchen table in the evening and everyone did homework."
Miss Brosnan lived as an adult in the same house she grew up in as a child. It was her great-grandmother's home, the destination for a family of Irish immigrants who came over in 1852. "Then they got enough money to build a nicer house in about 1885," she explained.
Her interest in history extended beyond her family's genealogy to encompass taking on the project of getting an historical marker for Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church 30 years ago in 1977.
"We talked world events around the supper table," she recalled.
A Democrat, when teachers picketed Gov. John Engler outside Caruso's, she was there, even though she likened her party to a "secret society" in conservative Cass County.
As the daughter of a township supervisor, she grew up interested in politics, among many things.
She belonged to Cass County Historical Society, Southwestern Michigan College Museum and the Women's History Project, which presented books to county school systems and aimed in general to "write women back into history."
Jackie Bishop nominated her for Hometown Hero based on their 20-year mutual association with Business and Professional Women's Club.
"Anna Marie is a hard worker and seldom receives the amount of credit she deserves for her hard work. Her quiet, yet strong, leadership impressed me from the time I first knew her. Anna Marie is one of the most giving people I know – earlier as an elementary school teacher, as a leader in BPW, as a leader in the literacy council in Cass County and in her church."
Quiet. Strong. Giving. That's how we remember her, too.