Out of all the recognitions and awards accorded May Brown during her career, perhaps the most inconspicuous can be found on Beach Avenue nestled between Hornby and Howe in downtown Vancouver.

May and Lorne Brown Park is a small but peaceful green space full of grassy play areas, trees, and an oversized harvest dining table where visitors can relax. A fitting tribute to a woman who devoted much of her life to Vancouver playing fields and parks—competing, coaching, creating new facilities, and fighting to improve existing ones. As the first-ever female W.A.C. Bennett Award recipient, Brown must be considered among the most highly principled individuals in the volunteer world of sport and recreation this province has ever known.

Born in Hardisty, Alberta, Brown’s family settled in the Strawberry Hill area of Surrey when she was seven. Surrey was much smaller in those days with few sports facilities. At Cloverdale High School no gymnasium existed, so she and her teammates played basketball in a shed. Badminton took place at the Strawberry Hill community hall, a building so small the court’s boundary lines extended up the walls.

They made do, but perhaps here the seed for improving sports and recreation facilities was planted.

After teaching physical education in New Westminster, Surrey, and Fernie, Brown spent two years at Montreal’s McGill University earning her Phys. Ed. Diploma. She returned to Vancouver in 1947 just as a job opened up in UBC’s burgeoning women’s athletic program. Besides teaching, Brown would serve as UBC’s first hired women’s field hockey coach. Until leaving the position upon the birth of her second child in 1955, Brown set the foundations for UBC field hockey that remain to this day. Several of her players, including Bim Schrodt and Charlotte Warren, went on to Hall of Fame careers of their own.

Witnessing first-hand the deplorable condition of Vancouver’s playing fields prompted Brown to get into politics and make a difference. Twice she was elected to serve on the Vancouver Park Board in 1972 and 1974—serving as chair during her latter term—and was responsible for the creation of many new sports facilities and parks. For a decade beginning in 1977 she served as a Vancouver city councilor.

The breadth of Brown’s volunteer contributions to sport is incredible. In the 1950s, she was critical to the development of synchronized swimming in BC. From 1961-76, she and her husband founded and directed the Camp Deka boy’s camp in the BC Interior. From 1969-74, Brown served on the National Advisory Council on Fitness and Amateur Sport that established the Canada Games, created Sport Canada, and approved grants for national sports governing bodies. Brown was a member of the BC Advisory Council for Sport and Recreation from 1987-92, the 1994 Commonwealth Games Society from 1989-94, and the sport sub-committee that worked for six months to encourage Vancouverites to vote “Yes” in the City of Vancouver referendum on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games bid.

A few of the more prestigious accolades bestowed upon Brown include the Order of BC, Order of Canada, YWCA Woman of Distinction, and Sport BC’s Daryl Thompson Award.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Brown is also inducted in the UBC Sports Hall of Fame. For his UBC biography, please visit www.ubcsportshalloffame.com