Wilton resident celebrates 100 years of family and homecooking

WILTON — A lifetime dedicated to family and serving the community was top of mind as longtime resident Mary Braun reflected on her life ahead of her 100th birthday on Friday.

Oh, and cooking.

Braun has always been passionate about cooking for her family and being able to pass her scrumptious recipes on to the next generation.

In the days leading up to her birthday, Braun sat with her daughter, Carolyn Fahey, and reflected back on her long life that started just north in Ridgefield.

Braun was born Mary Bedini in August of 1922 — the sixth of seven siblings. “We had a very good family,” Braun said, reminiscing of her childhood.

While both of her parents had died by the time she was 10, she grew close to her siblings and the group worked to raise each other. She said that she had lived a simple life growing up, but one that was centered around family.

“I’d climb trees, swing, chase squirrels, catch animals,” she said.

As Braun grew older, she went off to work. And one of her first real jobs, unsurprisingly for the family-centered Braun, was as an in-home nanny taking care of children.

She learned some basics in the kitchen while working at this job and soon she fell in love with cooking, Fahey said.

Braun said her family had always been around the kitchen growing up, cooking for each other, and it had always been a part of her life. But as she herself became more passionate about it, she became known as the go-to cook in the family.

Italian food became her specialty.

“Homemade lasagna, homemade sausage, homemade bread,” Fahey said of her mother. “Everything was made from scratch. Homemade sauce, everything.”

Braun later wrote and published her own cookbook full of original recipes she had followed all of her life. She distributed copies to each member of her family, including her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“They cherish that,” Fahey said. “So she could pass along the love of cooking to everyone.”

During World War II, Braun worked at Remington Rand, an early American manufacturer that also produced firearms and ammunition during war time.

“I was packing bullets,” Braun said of her initial role at the company. “It was not healthy.”

She then transfered to Rand’s research labs for a number of years after moving to Wilton. Deciding it was time to move on from the manufacturing company, Braun looked for work in her new hometown.

And for the rest of her professional career, that is exactly where Braun stayed — Wilton.

She worked as a guidance counselor at Miller-Driscoll School and as a receptionist at Wilton Meadows Nursing Home, just a stone’s throw from where Braun currently resides at The Greens at Cannondale.

“She had the kids that she was assigned to for her job, and she loved it,” Fahey said of her mother’s time at Wilton Schools. “She loved helping each kid with whatever they needed.”

Braun also remained at Wilton Meadows, helping the local seniors well into her 80s.

All the while, the uber family-focused Braun had settled down and decided it was time to raise children of her own with husband Edward.

Braun and her husband, who died in March 2020 at 97, had three children: twins Robert and Edward Jr., now 71, and Carolyn, 66.

Her daughter called her the “rock” of the family.

Braun was ecstatic when her grandchildren were born and became a big part of their life, Fahey said. “She was always involved,” Fahey said.

As her family grew older and great grandchildren were born, Fahey said that the Braun matriarch remained adored by each member of the family, not to mention the lot all looking forward to her homemade lasagna during family gatherings.

Braun, despite having outlived her six siblings and late husband, will celebrate her 100th birthday in style with not just her family but all of her friends at The Greens at Cannondale as they host a birthday bash for her on Saturday.

And the secret to living such a long life, Braun quipped with a light chuckle: “Mind your own business.” Propelled by her family, faith and purpose to serve, Braun said she wouldn’t change anything in her 100 years.

The focus, as it always has been, was on her family when reflecting on her life. And the most important part of it?

“Just giving them happy memories,” she said.