The secrets to a long, fulfilling marriage are simple — kindness, love and communication, agreed Tracy and Dorothy Brown, of Gerald.
Walking into the Brown home, it’s evident that the couple of 65 years lives by their own advice. Instead of a television in the living room, two rocking chairs are placed side by side in front of the fireplace.
The Browns spend hours each day sitting in the chairs conversing with one another. They also spend time enjoying each other’s company by playing rummy each night.
“And I always win,” Dorothy said teasingly.
Tracy, 83, and Dorothy, 81, have spent their lives together doing everything they love — raising a family, teaching and traveling.
Tracy and Dorothy met while attending Sullivan High School. Dorothy, originally from St. Louis, was living with her grandmother in Sullivan while Tracy, who moved every couple of years, was living in the Sullivan/Bourbon area.
The couple married in 1948, the year Tracy graduated high school. Dorothy followed closely behind with her graduation in 1950.
Tracy immediately signed a teaching contract and at 17 years old, he was responsible for all the students in Oak Grove District 59, south of Leslie.
He taught all eight grades in the one-room schoolhouse. There were 18 students in all.
The district later consolidated with Gerald’s school district, and Tracy taught in the Gerald district until Dorothy graduated.
“I carried all the furniture from the old school building to the new school building,” he said.
The couple, who had friends living in New Mexico, moved west to attend Western New Mexico University.
“We loved it in New Mexico,” Dorothy said.
“New Mexico was terrific,” Tracy added.
Both received their bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university. They spent about 10 years off and on in New Mexico before they were offered positions in the Parkway District in St. Louis County.
Tracy taught history and physical education for a few years. Eventually, Tracy went into administration where he served as an assistant principal at Parkway Central, then as principal at Parkway South. He was principal for 16 years before he retired in 1980, the same year as Dorothy.
Dorothy taught primary education, mostly third grade.
“I loved to teach reading and cursive writing,” Dorothy said.
Tracy said he was inspired to teach by his high school history teacher and a coach.
“They just insisted,” Tracy said, adding that teaching was a perfect fit for him.
“I like the challenge of a lot of different people having a lot of different thoughts and trying to bring them all together into one theme,” he said.
Even once he became an administrator, Tracy would be invited to teach history classes at Parkway once every several weeks.
During their teaching careers, the Browns made their home in Manchester, yet they enjoyed “getting away” from the hustle and bustle, so 48 years ago, the couple bought their Gerald farm where they live today.
“We would come out when we had time, on the weekends. We liked the solitude,” Dorothy said.
The Browns are only the second family to own the property, and they take pride in the fact that little has changed at the home since they purchased it.
In 2012, Tracy was inducted into the Western New Mexico University School of Education Hall of Fame.
The hall of fame was established in 1985 to recognize and honor exemplary educator alumni.
“Other than my wife and my daughter, nothing in the world compared to being inducted into the hall of fame,” Tracy said.
Dorothy nominated her husband for the award, getting letters of recommendation from 14 past students and colleagues.
“Our family is very proud of Tracy. He has a very strong character and he worked hard to accomplish these things. He is a wonderful husband and great father — a great family man.”
Through the nomination process, Tracy had no idea what Dorothy was up to. The couple has always had a rule that they don’t open one another’s mail.
“I knew we were getting a lot of mail,” Tracy remarked. “I thought, ‘Boy, we have got a lot of pen pals.’ ”
The couple and their daughter drove to New Mexico to receive the award.
After the induction, Tracy said he had the opportunity to read the letters written about him.
“I couldn’t believe what they said,” Tracy said, adding that he was humbled by the experience.
The Browns have traveled all over the world “many, many times,” Dorothy said.
They’ve been to all 50 states and all continents except Antarctica. In the United States, the Browns agreed that their favorite place is Missouri, with New Mexico following closely behind.
“Missouri has beautiful springs and autumns — the color, the beauty; I think sometimes we forget about that,” Dorothy said.
The has couple traveled through Europe — Tracy’s favorite is Scotland — and have been to the famous Orkney Islands, as well as Belize — which are some of their favorites.
The couple also has floated in a felucca on the Nile River in Egypt, which Dorothy said was one of her best experiences.
Dorothy also enjoyed visiting the Island of Sark, located in the Channel Islands in the southwestern English Channel, off the coast of Normandy, France.
With no cars, the remote island is “very, very beautiful,” Dorothy said.
“We always traveled independently,” Dorothy said. “We were very interested in culture and people.”
This past fall, the couple took their first bus tour. The trip to Maine wrapped up the visits to every state in the nation.
Over the years, the couple made friends throughout the world. Dorothy keeps in contact with many of them, she said.
Yet of the many acquaintances and friends the Browns have made around the world, they still have one couple who remain their best friends — Idie and Jim McDonald of Washington. The couples have been friends for more than 60 years.
Tracy and Dorothy continue to do day trips and lunch dates often.
And though traveling hasn’t always been perfect, the couple said it is still one of their biggest passions.
Tracy and Dorothy have one child, Yvonne Byrne, and son-in-law, Mike Byrne, Union.
“My claim to fame is our daughter,” Dorothy said.
Both Yvonne and her husband also worked in and retired from the Parkway School District.
The couple has two grandsons and two great-granddaughters.
The Brown home is filled with flowers given at least weekly, sometimes more often, to Dorothy by Yvonne and Mike.
Dorothy is an avid reader and has learned to spin yarn and knit.
Tracy collects money, including silver and peace dollars (which are kept off premises) and meat grinders.
At one time, Dorothy raised goats and sheep, while Tracy raised cattle.
Tracy sold registered black Angus beef from 1980 to 2011.
The Browns agreed that they wouldn’t change anything about their lives.
“You have to live every day. There are so many good things out there. Count your blessings,” Dorothy said.