Wanda was born to Jessie (Brooner) and Admer Medcalf, the 5th of 6 children, on January 26, 1925, in Dale, Indiana. This was a little town in which her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had been born, and so she had a rich childhood, surrounded by sisters and a brother, cousins, aunts and uncles. Her parents supported and encouraged her artistic and creative spirit. She graduated from Dale High School in 1943, and from Indiana University in 1947 with a B.A. in English/Journalism and Fine Arts. She later completed a Master's Degree in Education from IU. Wanda met a Brown County native, Orval Brown, while traveling though the...
Wanda was born to Jessie (Brooner) and Admer Medcalf, the 5th of 6 children, on January 26, 1925, in Dale, Indiana. This was a little town in which her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had been born, and so she had a rich childhood, surrounded by sisters and a brother, cousins, aunts and uncles. Her parents supported and encouraged her artistic and creative spirit. She graduated from Dale High School in 1943, and from Indiana University in 1947 with a B.A. in English/Journalism and Fine Arts. She later completed a Master's Degree in Education from IU.
Wanda met a Brown County native, Orval Brown, while traveling though the county to see the fall colors in the fall of 1956. She had found her soul-mate, and she and Orval moved with her daughters, Pat and Kitty, and built a home near Bean Blossom; she and Orval later had two sons: Ishmael and Sam.
Wanda taught in the Indiana State School system for nearly 30 years, primarily in Brown County. She taught English & Journalism at Helmsburg High School in the late 1950's, and later she taught art for many years in all of Brown County's elementary schools. In those years, she had no classroom, and no closet for art supplies. Her "supply closet" was the trunk of her car, and she provided a break for regular teachers by holding art class in their rooms, or by taking the children out-of-doors to collect material for their art projects (twigs, flowers, and feathers from the woods, stones and clay out of the creeks). She knew a thousand fun things to do with a single sheet of paper. She made art a joy for her students.
After Wanda's much-loved husband, Orval, died in 1988 after a lengthy and debilitating illness, she moved to a home in Nashville, where she lived until a few months ago. She loved her Nashville home, and it was during these years that she became most prolific in her artwork, working in many mediums: acrylics, oil, water color, pencil drawings, gourds, painted saws, clay figures, mosaics, as well as writing: poems, essays, books, and an occasional letter-to-the-editor (for labor unions, against war).
Wanda was also a "philosopher", and a searcher for meaning, ethics, and truth. She loved to read about ideas, and have lively conversations with her friends. She had the courage to question popular ideas and beliefs; she read, pondered, discussed, and came up with her own answers. A particular joy for her during these later years was in helping to write and edit, for 15 years, the quarterly Brown County "Reflection Rag", with co-editors and close friends, Pam Raider and Davie Ericson. And for many years she hosted in her home a circle of students/readers of the Course of Miracles. She was also a sharp scrabble, cross-word puzzle, and card-player (she never let the grandchildren win – they had to learn to win by mastering the game).
Wanda loved Brown County, the mists in the valleys, the dogwood and redbud of spring, the beauty of the flowing creek water in summertime, and the brilliant colors of fall leaves. She loved nothing better than to drive the back roads of this county, and enjoy the views and the new scenery over each hill, and around each curve of the road.
Wanda died peacefully in her sleep on January 4th, at age 88. She was preceded in death by all of her siblings (Jeanette, Sadie, Charlotte and Donald), and her husband -- all died too young. These were the sorrows of her life. She is survived by her four children and two daughters-in-law (Pat Brown, Kitty Brown, Ishmael & Darla Brown, Sam & Michelle Lynn Brown), 10 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren, many nieces and nephews and friends. She will be sorely missed by all of those who loved and admired her.
Enormous thanks from the family go to Darla, Wanda's daughter-in-law, who, with such love and care and dedication, kept her healthy and supported for many, many years -- so that she could remain able-bodied and independent enough to stay in her lovely home for longer than anyone thought possible. Particular thanks also goes to Pam Raider, who gave enormously of her time and energy for years and years, as a close and dear friend, intellectual sparring partner, and companion/chauffeur to weekly breakfast and lunch gatherings with interesting friends. Wanda's life was immeasurably lengthened and enriched due to the love and devotion shown by both Pam and Darla.
In lieu of flowers to honor and remember Wanda, we suggest that you could send a donation to the Friends of the Brown County Library in Nashville, or Mother's Cupboard food pantry in Bean Blossom. Or set aside some time in the next few days or weeks to spend some joyful and soul-satisfying hours in "doing some art" – of whatever kind. This would most honor her, as this was Wanda's life, legacy, and joy.
A Celebration of Life for Wanda will be held on Thursday, January 9th at the Bond-Mitchell funeral home in Nashville at 1:00. Visitation will be from 11:00 to 1:00. Burial will follow in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, north of Helmsburg.