Barbara Lowe Brown

Barbara Lowe Brown (1931–2020) moved with her parents from Milwaukee to Orcas Island in the 1930s, and grew up on Arcady Farm outside of Deer Harbor. As a child, she immersed herself in all that the island had to offer: riding her beloved horse, Coonie; playing with her dog, Yip; learning to sail in her little catboat; or just hiding out in the treehouse with a good book. (On the very best days, her father might dole out some of the Hershey’s chocolate he always kept hidden on a high shelf in his workshop.)

She developed an early interest in photography and went on to capture thousands of images of island events and excursions over the years. A large collection of her photographs, spanning eight decades, now resides at the Orcas Island Historical Museum.

Aside from brief stints away for high school and college, Barbara called Orcas Island home for the rest of her days. Her deep sense of place translated into a range of community and philanthropic activities, from serving on the county planning commission to throwing her support behind causes like affordable housing, bald eagle protection, marine science, music programs, local history, and many more.

Land conservation was a natural fit for Barbara, and she served several terms on the board of the San Juan Preservation Trust during the 1980s and 1990s. She remained a regular supporter—annually, for capital campaigns, in her estate plans, and through the donation of a forever-wild conservation easement on part of her property.

During the last decades of her life, Barbara lived in a house on the water at Guthrie Cove. She always kept a pair of binoculars on the kitchen table, alongside a small notebook where she recorded her observations—a mink with a crab at the shoreline, a pair of ravens flying overhead. She had learned to treasure every glimpse of the island world she loved, and she wanted future generations to have that same opportunity.

(Submitted by Thor Hanson)