Mary Ann Brewin lived in over 20 locations in her first 30 years, but once she got to Berkeley in 1969 she never moved again. In Berkeley she made a home, raised a family, and enmeshed herself as an active member of the community. Here she found an abundance of intellectual opportunities to challenge her curiosities, arts and culture to partake in and, above all, people to befriend.
Mary Ann was born in 1939 in Santa Monica, California, to Dorothy & Michel Oliveau. Post-war the family moved to Belgium, where she met lifelong friend Ninette. At 12, Mary Ann followed older brothers Mike, Vance and Don to Ecolint in Geneva, Switzerland. When she was 13, her sister Nancy was born and soon after the rest of the family moved to Geneva. Mary Ann fell in love with Greece on a trip with lifelong friend Ann (Pudding). She attended Antioch College in Ohio, then went to Harvard for a master’s in teaching. She taught elementary school in Washington, DC, stopping in 1963 to move to Vermont to live with her brother Don and help take care of her nephew Kevin.
While in Vermont Mary Ann met and fell in love with Austin Brewin Jr. They married in 1964 and moved to Staten Island. There Mary Ann took up teaching again until the birth of her first child, Austin 3. Her second son Michael followed in 1967 along with a move to California. In 1969 they moved to Berkeley where Elise was born. Although the marriage did not survive, Mary Ann and Austin coparented and remained friends.
On Summer Street in Berkeley, Mary Ann settled in and began making many new friends; one of the first and best was neighbor Becky Osborne Coolidge. They shared an immediate bond because they were both pregnant, indeed, Elise and Katy would be born just one day apart soon after Mary Ann and Becky met! Mary Ann’s initial years in Berkeley were dedicated to being a mom. Her three kids would start out at Children’s Community Center on Walnut, then attend Oxford Elementary and on. Summer Street was alive with kids in this period. Kickball and hide and seek games would go on until kids got called in for dinner; the older kids babysat the younger ones. In the summers Mary Ann sought activities for her kids to attend, and recognizing the dearth of information in those pre-internet days, she and two other CCC moms set about righting the situation by producing a booklet called “Things to Do this Summer in and Around the Bay Area.” It was a labor of love they carried on for a few years.
As the kids got older Mary Ann again joined the the labor force with a few part time jobs — processing shoes in a parking garage on Bancroft was the nadir, Pooh’s Corner the pinnacle (at least her kids thought so!). In 1978 she started working full time as the office manager at Maybeck High School, a job she held until she retired in 2003. At Maybeck she joined an eclectic crew of educators, held her own in hours-long staff meetings, learned accounting and taxes, and helped guide the school through good times and bad. She made many lifelong friends through Maybeck.
Throughout her days Mary Ann never stopped learning and volunteering. She loved languages and in her later years challenged herself with ASL and Arabic to add to her repertoire. She partook in writing workshops for years, especially poetry. Mary Ann loved music and voice, singing with the Berkeley Community Choir and Orchestra (BCCO) for decades. When she loved an organization she always volunteered to do a little more, serving as treasurer for several organizations to help them flourish. Her volunteerism and love for new learning and experiences found her ushering regularly at local theaters and as a docent at the Oakland Museum.
In retirement Mary Ann continued to engage in the many things she loved. Gardening in her yard, crafting blankets for her friends (and their children and grandchildren!). Lunching and attending movies with her good friends and family, outings that often ended up in long conversations in her car dissecting the plot or ruminating about life. She loved babysitting her grandchildren when they were young and hanging out with them as they got older. She loved poetry and writing, clouds, French, language jokes, political activism, questionable TV and especially singing with the BCCO.
Mary Ann had a few bunnies when we were young but in the late 90’s reached a tipping point and they started multiplying like … rabbits! Mostly stuffed, some ceramic, paintings, and every other format you can imagine.
Mary Ann was a warm and generous friend, coworker, sister, aunt, partner to Steve; mother to Austin 3, Michael and Elise; grandmother to Lindsey, Austin 4, Danielle, Alden, and Hazel. Many people who knew her have remarked on how well she listened to them and genuinely cared to know all about them. Her friends and family especially miss her on birthdays, which she always remembered and acknowledged with a perfectly curated card.
She died June 16, 2020, surrounded by family, due to complications from a stroke. Yep, 2020, not a typo, we delayed announcing this so we could arrange a date for a proper send-off, now scheduled for 4:30 p.m. this Sunday, Oct. 2, at the picnic area in Codornices Park! Please join us to, in her words, “remember what we liked about her.” Her family will be giving away her stuffed bunnies as mementos.