By Phil Anderson
THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL
Dona Brown says she isn’t one who likes to get out of her comfort zone very often, but when she won $1,000 a few years back from a local radio station, she felt a sudden boldness.
When asked by 94.5 Country radio what she would do with her winnings, Brown immediately said she was going to take a trip to the Isle of Man — a place she grew up hearing about but never thought she would visit.
True to her word, Brown, 65, and her daughter, Rona Brown, 46, of Kansas City, Mo., visited the Isle of Man in October. The radio winnings helped pay for the trip.
The small island, home to about 80,000 people, is located in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Great Britain.
Dona Brown’s grandfather, Jack Kelly, came to the United States in the early 1900s with several other family members from the Isle of Man.
Kelly, who was 18 when he came to the United States, never made it back to the Isle of Man, perhaps because of bad memories of the difficult boat trip he made to the United States, Brown said.
But he never forgot about his roots, and neither did family members he left behind, many of whom remained in contact with their relatives in the United States.
Brown said it was because of the commitment of her relatives on the Isle of Man to stay in touch that she ended up taking the trip.
“They’re travelers,” she said of her Isle of Man relatives. “Many of them have come to the United States. Some have been to more states than I have.”
Upon reaching the Isle of Man last month, Brown stayed with her cousin, Elaine Taggart, and her husband, John. A Kansas flag was flying on a pole in front of the Taggarts’ home as a welcome to Brown.
Flipping through a photo album, Brown showed pictures of old stone cottages, narrow roadways, picturesque castles and craggy shorelines she saw while on the Isle of Man.
But mostly, her photos — and recollections — are of her family members, most of whom she saw for the first time.
Isle of Man residents are known as Manx, and don’t consider themselves to be Englishmen, even though the island is a self-governing British Crown Dependency.
The Isle of Man, which is 32 miles long and 14 miles wide, is “a very prosperous island — very up-to-date on everything,” Brown said.
When she was on the Isle of Man, Brown said she found out just how important family is to her relatives, as she was given some old black-and-white pictures, including one of herself and a brother when they were small children.
She said her mother, Echo Carter, of Valley Falls, who died at age 87 in 2009, would have been thrilled that she took the trip to the Isle of Man.
“It’s something I would never have pictured myself doing,” she said, “and it was the most thrilling thing I’ve ever done. I think I fulfilled my whole bucket list right there.”
Brown said she took a few stones from her grandfather’s old driveway and planned to put them on his grave near Auburn.
Since Kelly, her grandfather who died at age 90 about 25 years ago, was never able to make it back to the Isle of Man, Brown said, she thought she could bring a part of the island back to him.
Phil Anderson can be reached at (785) 295-1195 or email@example.com.