STOCKBRIDGE — Jo Ann Fitzpatrick Brown, the younger sister of Berkshire lodging entrepreneur Nancy Fitzpatrick, died at her home in Stockbridge on Thursday following an 11-month battle with cancer, her sister said Friday. She was 66.
The daughter of late state Sen. John Fitzpatrick and Country Curtains founder Jane Fitzpatrick, both noted Berkshire philanthropists, Fitzpatrick Brown had been the owner-proprietor of Blantyre, a luxury lodging establishment in Lenox, since 1981.
Blantyre, a Gilded Age estate built in the early 1900s, was abandoned and falling into disrepair when John and Jane Fitzpatrick bought it in 1980. The Fitzpatricks, who had saved The Red Lion Inn from destruction when they purchased the Stockbridge lodging establishment in 1968, gave Blantyre to their daughter to run.
Under Fitzpatrick Brown's stewardship, the estate was restored to its former glory. Blantyre's hotel has earned a five-star ratting, and become a member of the elite Relais & Chateau hotel community. In 2010, TripAdvisor ranked Blantyre first among Lenox's 14 area hotels.
It took a small fortune to restore.
"Blantyre cost us three times what we estimated," Ann Fitzpatrick told Berkshires Week in 1982.
"My family does not talk about money," she said.
In the 1970s, Fitzpatrick Brown became nationally known for creating intricate candy sculptures, including a seven-foot, 300-pound version of George Washington.
In 1976, Fitzpatrick Brown's work became so well known that she appeared as a mystery panelist on the television show "To Tell The Truth" with a 26-inch candy replica that she had made of Pittsfield's iconic popcorn wagon.
Friends and family on Friday remembered Fitzpatrick as a passionate, creative person who was extremely detail oriented.
"Creative, passionate, energetic, beautiful," said Fitzpatrick Brown's son, Alex Brown, in describing his mother. "When she put her mind to something she could be very passionate. She was one of the most determined people I've ever known."
As an example, Brown cited his mother's determination to keep flowers placed in every room at Blantyre during a period when hotels around the world were trying to cut back on extraneous expenses. "To her, every detail was important," Alex said.
State Sen. William "Smitty" Pignatelli's sister once worked at Blantyre.
"She will be missed," the Lenox Democrat said.
The Pignatelli and Fitzpatrick families also knew each other well through their involvement in local politics.
"I love her dearly," Pignatelli said. "She was a kind, kind person who really did things that were very special. What she did to bring Blantyre back to life was a real credit to the town of Lenox."
"We lost a great hotelier yesterday," stated an item that was posted Friday on Wheatleigh resort in Lenox's Facebook page.
"Ann Fitzpatrick-Brown was one of the drivers of luxury hospitality in the Berkshires and a great leader of Blantyre," the posting stated. "Ann supported the community to the utmost and her generosity was unparalleled.
"We will miss her but she will be remembered for all what she was and what she did."
Born in Rutland, Vt., on Dec. 27, 1949, Fitzpatrick Brown moved to Stockbridge with her family when she was six. She attended the Stockbridge Plain School, the Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y., and Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C. She graduated from the University of Colorado in 1971 with a bachelor's degree in art.
After college, Fitzpatrick Brown went to Europe. In 1974, she worked in a mountain climbing and summer-skiing camp in Zermatt, Switzerland, and spent one winter running a small 20-room hotel in Zermatt with two friends.
Fitzpatrick-Brown returned home in 1974 to work on political campaigns for her father, who served as a Republican member of the state Senate from 1973-80.
She later moved to Vail, Colo., to ski and pursue a career in interior design. In Colorado, she began creating designs out of candy. That led to the formation of her business, Gum Drop Square, which was located in an historic building that once housed Stockbridge's firehouse.
Her creations were displayed at Bloomingdale's and received so much notoriety that her business was profiled in People Magazine in 1978.
Fitzpatrick Brown also worked at Country Curtains where she developed and produced the company's "City Curtains" brand.
She was a member of the advisory council of the Austen Riggs Center and on the advisory board of the Edith Wharton Restoration at the Mount. She also served as a trustee of the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Lenox Library, the Emma Willard School and the Central Park Conservancy. She has also been associated with the Central Park Conservancy and had served as governor of the West Chop Club of Martha's Vineyard.
Fitzpatrick Brown is survived by her son, Alexander Fitzpatrick Brown, a nephew, Casey Meade Rothstein-Fitzpatrick, her sister, Nancy J. Fitzpatrick; her Wheaton terrier, Sophie Jane Fitzpatrick Brown, and many friends and employees.
Calling hours will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. at Blantyre on Sunday, Feb. 7.