Community activist Roxanne P. Brown died on Jan. 10 at her home in the Beverlywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. She was 62.
Roxanne is survived by Marc Spigelman and her cherished family: her brother Bruce (Pam) Brown; her nieces Holly (Tim) Oten, Rachel (Tim) Mitrovich and Bonnie (Josh) Judson; grand-nieces Violet, Leah, Camilla, Cora, Adeline and Aurora; and grand-nephew Remington.
A Midwest native, Roxanne’s life had many rich and fulfilling chapters. She was born on Sept. 29, 1955, in Stanley, Wis. Her parents were Bernetta Lucy and William Andrew Brown; their first child, Bruce, was born eight years earlier.
The family moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., then to Red Wing, Minn., where Roxanne graduated from high school. Roxanne often talked about spending summer days with her grandparents in Stanley and she was especially close to her Aunt Yvonne.
After earning a bachelor of science degree in business, graduating with distinction, from the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, in 1978, she embarked on a highly successful business career – starting as a secretary in New York in the early 1980s.
As extroverted and charming as she was persistent and hard-working, she had an aptitude for sales and became a top performer in the domestic and international markets for home-video entertainment. Much in demand, she held positions at Viacom, Worldvision, Family Home Entertainment and Hi-Tops Video. She started an East Coast division for one employer, selling children’s shows, and singlehandedly brought in $2 million.
In 1983, Roxanne took a yearlong backpacking trip, during which she visited China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and India.
Over the years, she also went to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Tanzania, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Russia, England, Ireland, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Monaco, Mexico, the Caribbean islands, most states in the United States and many provinces in Canada.
Perpetually upbeat, energetic, full of fun and ready for adventure, Roxanne was “wowed” by the world and, in turn, made a deep and lasting impression on everyone she met. She was hard-wired to help, giving freely of herself, and delighted in meeting new people, offering advice, sharing a meal or providing a place to stay.
In the late 1980s, her work brought her to the West Coast and she became a Californian, settling in Venice. Not long after she arrived, she met Rick Schaaf and began a relationship. Together they bought bungalow cottages three blocks from the ocean. After they went their separate ways, Roxanne stayed close to Rick’s children and their families.
Walking along Venice Beach was one of her favorite ways to spend an afternoon.
Another much-loved pastime was to linger over coffee and pastries, then scout the resale shops for neglected treasures and astonishing deals. Often, she would find a quirky gift for a family member or friend – she was exceptionally thoughtful and had a knack for remembering birthdays and other milestones.
She continued to advance in her career. From 1989 to 1993, she was the Western Regional Sales Manager for a creative directory produced by California Design Publications. Under her leadership, the publication’s advertising more than tripled in one month. Known for her ability to launch new products and revive underperforming operations, Roxanne was featured in Success magazine and in a book called “The Sales Athlete.”
A natural go-getter, she was headhunted by Unique Homes Magazine in 1994. During her six years there, she was the top salesperson and turned the least profitable territory into the most profitable.
In 1997, on a blind date, she met Emmy-winning writer Steve Brown – they shared the same last name – and eventually they fell in love; marrying in 2005. The two also shared a passion for the arts, especially theater. Steve and Roxanne lived in London and Paris, and spent summers in Florence and Rome. (They divorced in 2012 but remained good friends.)
Long after she left corporate life, she retained the ability to think big, overcome obstacles and defy limitations. In 2001, she received her master of science degree in career counseling from California State University at Long Beach.
Roxanne loved to connect people, tout their achievements and brainstorm ideas. She coached job-seekers of all ages on career issues and life goals. She worked in a variety of capacities at Loyola Marymount University, Jewish Vocational Service, the Actors Fund, Beit T’Shuvah, Cerritos College and the University of California at Irvine as well as in private practice. She especially enjoyed encouraging other women to pursue their dreams and helping at-risk individuals, such as addicts and felons.
As a star salesperson, Roxanne prided herself on developing thick skin – it was a quality that would serve her well in the next phase of her life. Upon finishing medical treatment for breast cancer, she published a self-help guide for other women: “Chemo: Secrets to Thriving” in 2011. The book, which she wrote in collaboration with noted cancer specialist Dr. John Link, became a top seller on amazon and was featured in “Women” magazine. Roxanne was active in cancer support groups and, as usual, made many new friends.
She continued to work and to be of service. A strong supporter of social justice, peaceful protest, protecting the environment and working to eradicate poverty, she was affiliated with the Heroic Imagination Project, Kindness Rocks and Oxfam, to name a few.
In 2014, spurred by property overdevelopment and increased commercialization in Venice, she co-founded Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset to help protect her beloved bohemian neighborhood. Roxanne devoted countless hours to rallying residents to the cause, questioning city government officials and staging protests. Additionally, she wrote numerous editorials for local press outlets and shared information with fellow citizens about ways they could air their views and help preserve their community’s unique character.
Meanwhile, Roxanne never gave up on the prospect of romantic love. She met Marc Spigelman in the spring of 2016. They connected instantly and began a relationship. Marc and Roxanne took several trips together and she moved into his home in 2017.
Roxanne lived life on her own terms and refused to acquiesce to negativity, even in the face of her cancer’s recurrence. Her brilliant smile, sweet laughter, uncommon generosity and soaring spirit set her apart. Her exuberant confidence changed lives. Her fine-tuned empathy saved lives – in one instance arranging for an ailing friend to seek medical treatment at world-renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
If only the world could stop, just for a long minute, to mark her passing. It won’t, though, and she knew that. But those who loved Roxanne will think of her often, holding her memory dear – honoring her matchless grace and emulating her remarkable humanity.