Sorority throws member and husband a drive-by surprise anniversary party

Alma and Lonnie Brown are all smiles during a surprise anniversary gathering in front of their Daytona Beach home. The party was organized by Mrs. Brown’s sorority sisters.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF KIM STEWARD PHOTOGRAPHY

BY JENISE GRIFFIN
DAYTONA TIMES

When Alma and Lonnie Brown stepped outside of their Daytona Beach home on Monday evening, they received the surprise of a lifetime.

There was a parade going on outside in their honor.

Car horns were blaring and the motorists, mostly wearing red attire, were cheering, waving, laughing and shouting, “Happy Anniversary.’’ Some made their way onto the front yard, bearing gifts, balloons and festive signs.

On Monday, the Browns celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary. They were married on May 4, 1956 in Frankfort, Kentucky, her hometown.

Because of COVID-19, the Browns, who are in their 80s, had been sheltering at home since March. They had anticipated this anniversary to be a quiet one with some phone calls and emails from their loved ones – children, grandkids and friends.

‘Wonderful surprise’

But members of the Daytona Beach Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority had a different idea. They decided to throw the unsuspecting couple a drive-by anniversary party. Because of the coronavirus, people are coming up with creative ways to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries at a distance.

Mrs. Brown is a member of the local Delta chapter. Joining in the fun were Mr. Brown’s brothers with the Beta Delta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

“It was just a shock and such a wonderful surprise. We’re  still  trying to  savor it. It was  unbelievable,” Mrs. Brown told the Daytona Times on Wednesday.

On Monday, they were actually lured outside by Susan Freeman, who is like a daughter to Mrs. Brown. Susan and husband Nathaniel had planned to stop by just to “peek at’’ the Browns. Or so they thought.

Members of the Daytona Beach Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority help the Browns celebrate their 64th anniversary.

Lured outside

When Susan Freeman knocked on the door, she urged, “Come outside so you can really see this.’’

Mrs. Brown related, “That’s when these cars were coming, and the horns started blowing cars. I thought, ‘What in the world?’ There were cars all the way down the street.

“It was just amazing. The most amazing thing I have ever experienced, to see my sorors had done this.’’

Daytona Beach Commissioner Paula Reed, who is also president of the Daytona Beach Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, had this to say: On May 4th, Lonnie and Alma Brown were blessed to awaken to a new day. It was a day to celebrate, and little did they know, that’s exactly what was going to transpire.

“Confined to their home they’ve had little to no visitors, but on this day that would change. The Browns were celebrating a lifetime of 64 years of marriage and both of their respective organizations came to celebrate and to help acknowledge this beautiful accomplishment.’’

‘A great time’

John Huger, also an Alpha Phi Alpha member, was there with his wife, Trineca, who is a Delta member too.

“Surprising the Browns on their 64th wedding anniversary was such a great time. I commend City Commissioner Paula Reed and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority for organizing and inviting Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity to join in this celebration,” he said.

“It was a joy seeing Brother Brown and Mrs. Brown so happy during these difficult times we are living in.’’

Met in college

The Browns met during their junior year at Talladega College in Alabama. She was an English major from Frankfort, Kentucky; he was a biology major from Orlando.

She had been impressed with him while they were in college. He had ambition, was personable, and had a lot of friends, she noted. “He was just kind of an all-around guy with a lot of ambition. He was just a nice, nice young man.’’

She also liked that he was very active with his fraternity. He had pledged Alpha in 1950; she was initiated into her sorority in 1952.

They dated for two years and got engaged in 1955 after graduation. He joined the Navy in 1956.

The wedding took place at her parents’ home in Frankfort.

Daytona Delta members gather to celebrate the Browns. “It was an honor to celebrate Soror Alma Brown and her King Lonnie Brown. They are both still very active in their respective organizations and we are blessed to be able to glean from their wisdom,’’ said Daytona Commissioner Paula Reed, the chapter president.

Storied careers

While he served at sea, she went home and earned a master’s in English at the University of Kentucky. He left the Navy in 1959, and they eventually settled in Orlando, his hometown.

A job offer led them to Daytona Beach in 1973. Mr. Brown became the assistant district manager of the Social Security Administration in Daytona and would eventually become the district manager. She became a media specialist in Volusia County’s school system.

In 2002, he retired as the state director for the Social Security Administration for North Florida. She had retired in 1991 as head media specialist at Mainland High School.

’64 wonderful years’

The Browns have three children – daughter Lonneen lives in Orlando, son Lonnie Jr. resides in Atlanta and Allen lives in Daytona Beach. There are four grandchildren and six great grands.

She’s 85 and he’s 87.

About the long marriage, Mrs. Brown said simply: “It has been 64 wonderful years.’’

Nowadays, they have been very careful. Staying in, practicing social distancing.

“I’m just thankful we’re as well as we are,” Mrs. Brown said about their health.

“We’re trying to take extra,  extra, extra  precautions,” she shared. “We haven’t really been out since the second week in March.’’

Mother’s Day plans?

When asked about what Mother’s Day would bring, Mrs. Brown said she hadn’t thought about it. She was still “trying to come down to earth’’ from Monday’s celebration.

Mother’s Day is normally spent in Orlando at her daughter’s home, being around family and enjoying time with some of the grands. But this year, it would be different because they are practicing social distancing.

“We just haven’t gotten that far,” she said with a laugh. “We’re still resting and reliving Monday.’’

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