By FRED KRONER
This is one of a continuing series the Mahomet Daily will publish about the ordinary men and women from the community who have done or accomplished extraordinary things in their lifetime. We encourage readers to submit nominations for other deserving individuals who warrant consideration. We are delighted to tell the stories of these persons who have contributed so much, often without the recognition they were due.
Charlotte Brady’s influence and impact in Mahomet started in the classroom, continued onto Main Street and wound up globally.
“The world would be better off if there were more Charlottes,” said Bruce Swartz, a family friend for decades.
An Urbana native, the former Charlotte Nesmith found Mahomet to her liking when she joined the faculty after one year of teaching in Champaign.
The art teacher arrived in time for the 1964-65 school year and split her time between various locations.
“Our art, music and P.E. teachers would all go from school to school in the same day,” said retired Lincoln Trail principal Robert Sinclair. “They had a weekly schedule and moved from elementary to elementary. She was not only in my school, but she went to Seymour and Sangamon.
“It was fun putting the schedule together so there were no conflicts. It was like putting a puzzle together.”
Brady’s interest and aptitude in art was matched by her passion for business.
She owned and operated Olde Town Gallery on Main Street at the location which is now J.T. Walker’s.
“She was an educator, an artist and an entrepreneur,” said Dan Brady, who has been married to Charlotte for 32 years. “Teaching was most important to her.”
Judy Ferris and Connie Hatfield eventually became partners in the antique shop.
“Charlotte is the one who initiated getting stores to come to Main Street,” said Ferris, who now lives in North Carolina. “It was very thriving.
“It was more or less her who got it going. She was instrumental in having a wonderful Main Street.
“We’d have women come from the Chicago suburbs to spend the day in Mahomet. Everybody loved her in the community.”
Swartz, a rural Champaign resident, remembers how the Main Street area was transformed in the 1980s.
“Downtown was drying up,” Swartz said. “The presence of her store enticed others to show up.
“We went from one antique store with arts and crafts to all of a sudden, Main Street from the bank to Elm Street was lined with vendors on both sides.
“It all goes back to Charlotte taking a chance. She was the driving force behind the Christmas Walk, too.”
Brady’s oldest daughter, Laura Williamson Techico, remembers how her mom remained in teaching mode during summer vacation.
“Growing up, we had the Blackberry Arts Center out of our barn, one or two sessions each summer,” said Techico, who lives out west in Washington.
It was a summer camp setting with an emphasis on variety.
“There were arts, several pottery wheels, a kiln and she’d bring in people to do music and nature walks,” Techico said. “It was definitely inspiring to grow up with someone who had a broader focus.”
Charlotte Brady — who was also a foster parent — had two stints teaching art in the M-S district.
The first began in the fall of 1964 and lasted for about a decade, during which time she was also part of the committee that started the Mahomet Public Library.
A former student, Emily Moon Kroner, remembers a project her art teacher — who was then Charlotte Williamson — helped her with in fifth grade in the 1960s.
“We were doing seed mosaics and mine was a clown face with a ruffled collar,” Kroner said. “I used rice, barley, pearl tapioca and peppercorns, and thoroughly enjoyed doing it.”
Brady’s second teaching stint, spent at M-S Junior High School, began in 1985 through 1997.
Brady found time to write two books between her teaching assignments, “Sangamon River People,” was published in 1982. A year later, “Champaign County Sesquicentennial Recipes 1833-1983” was published.
In the late 1990s, for about a decade, after retiring from the public school system, Brady founded an art program and was a contributing volunteer at Swann School for Disabled Children, in Champaign.
“She fostered ways of giving severely disabled a way of physically expressing themselves with art projects,” Dan Brady said. “This work has been displayed around the Champaign area, at nursing homes, Parkland and the Swann School.”
Charlotte Brady has more than 100 prints on the walls of the neo-natal unit at Carle Foundation Hospital.
“The head nurse (in neo-natal) knew of her work and wanted Charlotte’s work in the unit when it was remodeled,” Dan Brady said. “Often someone comments that they saw a print above the birthing bed, either the new mother or relatives who were with her.”
Brady, 77, has been less active in many of her endeavors since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about a decade ago. She is now in the advanced stages.
“She has always been dedicated to the preservation of natural areas,” Dan Brady said, “and in 2014, donated 20-plus acres along the Sangamon River to the Land Conservation Foundation for preservation.”
The land is located behind the family’s home and is referred to as the Brady Trail. It is located east of the Piatt County Forest Preserve’s 60-acre Sangamon River Park.
Charlotte Brady has a special fondness for watercolor paintings and Dan Brady said, “her sense of expression centered around the country and area around her, especially flowers.”
She has transformed typical scenes into beautiful images.
“She specialized in nature,” friend Barbara Herriott said, “and painted our corn and soybeans. Each son has a print.”
Herriott remembers meeting Brady at the First Baptist Church, in Mahomet, in 1968.
“She was my first friend (from church),” Herriott said. “She invited Bill and me to go to lunch, maybe the first day I met her.
“She was that kind of person. She wanted to make people feel welcome, at ease and comfortable. We’ve been the best of friends and shared our lives with each other.”
Years ago, the Bradys created a website that is still in existence — www.charlottenesmithbrady.com — where more than 150 images of her prints or cards are for sale.
Her work hangs in galleries throughout North America as well as overseas in England and Italy.
Brady’s youngest daughter, Kate Williamson Jordan, lives in Decatur, but said, “when I go to Mahomet now, I expect to see people who know her.
“She grew up in Urbana, but Mahomet became her town.”
Swartz believes it’s Brady’s caring, giving and generous nature that has enamored her to so many.
“You talk about friends of the heart that get inside you and are part of your life no matter where you are,” Swartz said. “She has one of the kindest hearts I know.
“She wants everyone to feel included, like they mattered.”
Brady is also not one to leave her passion for art behind.
Techico recalls receiving instructions before her mom would arrive for a visit to see two of her grandchildren.
“She’d email me a list of art supplies to have on hand,” Techico said.