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Margaret P. Browne, a longtime resident of Los Alamos, died peacefully April 27 after a brief illness. Margaret was born Sept. 15, 1923 in Richmond, Va., the third of four children born to Rev. Leland Jerome Powell and Mabel Richard Powell. She spent her childhood in Norwood, Ohio, where her father was the pastor of a large Baptist church.
Growing up, Margaret excelled at both academics and sports, graduating as valedictorian of her high school class. Margaret attended Franklin College in Indiana as an undergraduate and then earned her master’s degree in clinical psychology at Ohio State University. It was there that she met Philip Browne, the brother of one of her friends.
Margaret and Phil were married on June 12, 1948 in her home church, with her father officiating the ceremony. While Phil completed his doctorate in physics, Marg worked at the Methodist Children’s Home in Worthington, Ohio for three years. After Phil’s graduation, the young couple decided to come to Los Alamos for “a couple of years” because they had never lived in the Southwest. They arrived in Los Alamos on Aug. 1, 1951 and never left. Like so many others, they fell in love with Los Alamos and lived out their lives here. Two daughters, Kathy and Pam, completed the family.
In the early 1960s, a group called the Los Alamos Association for Mental Health was seeking a way to provide one-on-one mental health counseling to individuals regardless of their ability to pay. In January 1963, Margaret became the first director and only counselor for the newly formed Los Alamos Family Council, a community mental health agency designed to do just that. She continued as both executive director and a practicing therapist at LAFC for the next 27 years. Under Margaret’s leadership, the Family Council first focused on providing direct counseling to individual clients and then added additional services as needs became apparent. During her tenure, LAFC added programs such a Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Friends Tutors, RSVP, the senior van service and later a Senior Center and the Day Out Program. Margaret also initiated a 24-hour crisis phone line and provided services to Los Alamos County and Los Alamos School district staff. She retired in September 1990, having overseen the growth of the Los Alamos Family Council from an agency open one day a week, in borrowed office space with a single therapist, to an agency housed in its own building, open daily, with a staff of more than 20 employees. She always believed that the success of the agency was due to the many wonderful staff and board members who brought so much talent and dedication with them to the organization.
Margaret was named a Los Alamos Historical Woman by the American Association of University Women in 1981. The National Association of Social Workers named her Citizen of the Year in 1985 and she received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women in 1990. She also was named to the New Mexico Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990, and in May 1995, the Los Alamos Family Strengths Network honored Margaret for contributing significantly to the strengthening of the family unit. In April 2001, Margaret was named a Los Alamos Living Treasure.
Margaret spent her retirement enthusiastically gardening and landscaping her canyon lot on Barranca Mesa, traveling and doing volunteer work for the Family Council and the United Church. A member of the church since 1951, she sang with the choir for many years and served on a variety of church boards and committees.
Margaret was a wonderful wife, mother, sister, friend and counselor. Service to family, friends and community was very important to her. She always met life’s challenges with courage, grace and humor. We will miss her very much, but are grateful to have had her in our lives.
Margaret was preceded in death by her parents; husband Philip; older brother Byron Powell; and grand-niece Amy Watkins. She is survived by her daughter Kathy (Eric) Bjorklund of Los Alamos; daughter Pamela Browne of Dallas, Texas; sister Muriel Hatfield of Rolla, Mo.; brother Donald Powell of Burr Ridge, Ill.; and many nieces and nephews.
There will be a memorial service to celebrate Margaret’s life at 2 p.m. May 23 at the United Church, with refreshments to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Los Alamos Family Council or the United Church Building Fund.