Her Life

Environmental activisim and youth education

Sheila was engaged in the West Seattle environmental activism community, both through her work and as a volunteer.  She was known as a great mentor and courageous leader of teams.

As Education Program Supervisor at Camp Long for 17 years, she was responsible for
initiating the partnership with 4H that resulted in the building of the Challenge course at Camp Long. She was active in race and social justice issues at the City, and committed to getting kids of all backgrounds to appreciate and experience the natural world. She helped create the Leadership in Equity and Environmental Facilitation (LEEF) program for developing BIPOC youth leadership in environmental education. The program has recently been expanded so that youth leaders will be employed to lead environmental programming for the Parks Department. Prior to working for the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, Sheila’s managed education programs for Earthcorps.

As a volunteer, she was a Board member for the Common Acre, a nonprofit involved in community agriculture habitat restoration and bee keeping projects, and was a volunteer in the development of the Longfellow Creek Legacy Trail, and in open space preservation in Delridge.

Sheila received the news that her third bout with cancer was terminal near the end of 2020. She decided to leave a legacy by raising funds for the construction of a gateway at the eastern entrance of Camp Long, designed to match the main entrance on Dawson Street. Nearly 80 donors contributed over $22,000, and the new gateway will be installed later this year. Remembrances for Sheila can be made to the Gateway Project c/o Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association. Donations will support trail and habitat restoration in Camp Long and the Longfellow Creek Watershed. 

Music community

Sheila loved music.  She initially studied music therapy before moving into education, and her hobbies often involved music. She sang with the Northwest Chamber Chorus, and went to Eastern Europe on a tour with that group. She was a staff person at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop for many summers, and remembered as the lively host of many open mikes that went into the wee hours. She was a longtime fan of the Vancouver Folk Festival, even when it involved sitting in the rain wrapped up in a tarp.

Growing up and family community

The daughter of Jorge Diego Brown, from Argentina, and Antje Nancy Brown, a Dutch / Argentine, Sheila was born and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, the eldest of three. She travelled to Argentina often and at age 15 her family moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, where her father worked for Kaiser Engineers, where she completed her four years of high school at the Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro (EARJ).  In high school she played the trombone and French horn, played a lead role in the musical Oliver, and was proud to have received the principal's award to recognize her achievements.  She stayed in touch with many former students from EARJ throughout her life. She planned to attend the 40th reunion for her class of 1980 in Rio last summer that was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID.

Her sisters, Doreen and Yvonne, shared caregiving with her longtime friend and companion Philippa Nye throughout the last 7 months of her life. Friend Sarah Satre and cousin Laura also offered loads of support, as did her vast community of friends in Seattle and Bellingham and her Argentine family members, who lifted her spirits with Zoom calls, text messages and Spotify playlists.
Sheila made a real effort to visit and stay in touch with her sisters, nephews and nieces, whom she loved dearly, always finding time to read with them, play board games, celebrate their achievements, and empathize with their struggles.  She had a special bond with her nephew Nico, who lived with her for his last two years of high school.  She also stayed in touch with and supported her many cousins and their children. 

Living with depression

Sheila struggled with depression for most of her life.  On the very first page of one of her journals, Sheila identified the following thoughts ...
"Of what use am I to the larger society?
I am not contributing any thing of significance.
Resources of the planet are wasted on me."

and feelings ...
"lonely, lack of purpose, shame, unhappy, despondent, unfulfilled."

Her depression affected her sense of self, her satisfaction with work, and her relationships with those closest to her.  About love, she wrote: 
"We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, kindness and affection.  
Love is not somethin we give and/or get; it is something that we nurture and grow; a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them - we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows.  Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.

Spiritual growth, NVC and ATB communities

Sheila was a seeker of spiritual truth and community all her life. She was active in a successful effort to save Camp Gallagher, a Catholic Youth Organization camp at which she worked in her 20s, which was transferred to a new nonprofit owner and reopened recently. She was also very involved in the Non-Violent Communication (NVC) community. NVC is a theory and practice of communication based in Buddhist principles and seeking to resolve conflicts in ways where everyone gets their needs met. She dreamt of promoting NVC and Awareness Through the Body (ATB) principles to help youth enhance self-knowledge and to facilitate reconciliation between people disconnected by vastly different perspectives.