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Mother of 9 kept open door, open kitchen

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By Jerry Vondas
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

In the city's Lawrenceville neighborhood, Mary Jane Brown was considered one of her bank's premier customers, a caring mother who maintained a loan account that she continued to renew during the years she was educating her nine children.

“When we all reached 16, we were expected to find a job to help pay for the tuition needed for educating an older brother or sister, who were also attending Catholic schools,” said her daughter, Lynne Gratter of Lawrenceville.

Mary Jane Belleno Brown of Lawrenceville died on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, in UPMC Shadyside. She was 77.

“Throughout her life, my mother had a strong work ethic which she passed down to her children that included paying their bills,” her daughter said. “She was often quoted as saying, ‘If you want something and don't have the money, you work for it.' ”

Mary Jane Belleno was raised in Lawrenceville, the daughter of limousine driver Henry Belleno and his wife, Margaret.

She attended St. John the Baptist Grade School in Lawrenceville and in 1952, at 16, she married Robert Brown, who spent 44 years working for the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. in Lawrenceville.

Her daughter recalled how the people in Lawrenceville considered her mother a matriarch who ran her own version of a soup kitchen in her home.

“The door of our house was always open for anyone who needed a hot meal or advice on any problem they might be experiencing,” her daughter said. “My mother also used her cooking skills in fundraising for St. Stanislaus Church in the Strip. She'd leave her home on Mondays and spend an entire day making the pierogies that the church would sell that Saturday as a fundraiser.”

Mrs. Brown's niece, Joann Cantrell of Cranberry, described her aunt in an article she wrote for a trade magazine. “Aunt Mary Jane taught her children early to find humor to get through the rough times.

“To these days, being in the presence of my cousins for only a few minutes can cause even the most serious to break into laughter,” her niece said.

In addition to her daughter, Lynne, Mrs. Brown is survived by her children, Robert J. Jr., Muffin Peluso and LuLu Martin, all of Lawrenceville, Ronald of Hampton, Rege of Oakmont, Rick of Plum, Lisa Brown Rohr of Florida.; 21 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Brown was preceded in death by her husband, Robert J. Brown, in 2000, and a son, Raymond Brown.

Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Stanislaus.

Arrangements by Walter J. Zalewski Funeral Home in Lawrenceville.

Jerry Vondas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7823 or jvondas@tribweb.com.

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