Honoring Mother Brown

Her Legacy

Barbara J. "Mother" Brown, whose mission in life was to help San Francisco's poor and homeless people, died Monday at the Kaiser Hospital in South San Francisco after a yearlong battle with leukemia.

Mother Brown, who was the founder and guiding spirit of Mother Brown's Dining Room in San Francisco's Bayview district, was 62.

Her dining room -- in reality a soup kitchen for people down on their luck -- served 400 meals a day, including breakfast and lunch. "She knew there was a need," said Sharon Williams, who was her operations manager. "She believed no one should ever go to bed hungry."

Mother Brown, who was the daughter of a Baptist minister, began her life's work more than 20 years ago, when she would park her big, old Cadillac Seville on San Francisco's Skid Road along Sixth Street and serve meals she cooked in her own kitchen. She offered red beans and rice, ham hocks, greens and sometimes even home-cooked catfish.

"She was fantastic," said her son, Frederick Shumatè who remembered his mother cooking at home. Later, Mrs. Brown served needy people in various parts of the city, on Third Street, near the YMCA on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin, and in the Ocean View and Bayview districts.

She served all comers: the down and out, drug addicts, homeless people, anybody. She did it, said Williams, "for a love of God's people."

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