The generosity of Dorothy Brown, who died this week, and her late husband, LaVerne, are legendary in Joliet.
Their names appear on schools, hospitals and other institutions.
But the Browns never asked for recognition – at least not at the University of St. Francis, where the library and science building carry the names LaVerne and Dorothy Brown.
Or, as they were known by their friends, Bitz and Dottie.
The university board named the buildings, USF President Arvid Johnson said.
The Browns “didn’t give with an agenda,” Johnson said. “They didn’t say, ‘Here’s money, and we want you to spend it this way. When I met Bitz, he said, ‘I’m going to give you money, and I’m going to trust you with it.’”
Laverne died in 2013. Dorothy continued the giving until her death at their Joliet home Monday.
“It’s the end of an era,” Johnson said.
Their story was a Joliet story of hard work and love of community.
Dorothy’s obituary tells how she worked at the Joliet Arsenal during World War II “while her high school sweetheart Bitz” fought in the Navy.
After the war, the Browns married and teamed up with high school friends Paul and Vicki Lambrecht to form Brown and Lambrecht Earthmovers, a company that took on projects far beyond Joliet.
The success of the company formed the basis for the Browns’ philanthropy.
Institutions that benefited include Silver Cross Hospital, AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center, Lewis University, Providence Catholic High School and Joliet Catholic Academy.
“Bitz worked very hard for what he achieved in his life, but they gave from their hearts,” said Tony Brandolino, chief development officer for the Diocese of Joliet.
Brandolino remembers reading from a passage in the Gospel of Luke to describe the Browns at a ceremony dedicating the courtyard at the Blanchette Catholic Center.
“Where your treasure is, there also is your heart,” Brandolino said. “They were very good people. They will be very much missed.”
Dorothy Brown’s funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. John the Baptist Church, the same Joliet church where she was baptized, the same church where she and LaVerne were married, and the same church where they went to Mass all their lives.