Friends, family speaking out about deceased businesswoman

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 7, 2013

In the months since Rebecca Brown died, the Farmers Insurance Agency that bears her name has not missed a beat — it is now run by her older brother — while the community that she was such a part of is still reeling from the news that she died of a drug overdose.

Brown and 26-year-old David Casares, of Grosse Pointe Park, were found dead in Brown’s house on Jane Street Jan. 15. A heroin overdose was ruled to be the cause of death for both.

That ruling from Macomb County Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Spitz at the end of March is at such odds with the person Brown’s friends and family knew. They say they want Brown to be remembered as the person she was for all of her 38 years, not just her last night.

“We know who Becky was, we know what she was about and she would do anything for anybody,” said Mary Cebulskie, of Eastpointe. “She would give the shirt off her back to anybody. We just want the people to know who she was.”

Kelly Harrold, of St. Clair Shores, had known Brown since they were 5 years old. The pair played baseball together as children and graduated together from St. Germaine Catholic School and Lake Shore High School.

She described a woman who was always very energetic, happy, smart and driven. Even when out with friends, Harrold said, Brown was always very focused on her work and the fact that she had a business to run the next morning.

“That business … meant everything to her,” Harrold said. “It was her baby.”

Brown was the type to always lend a helping hand, Harrold said, explaining that Brown was there to help Harrold’s husband when he was starting his own business in the area, giving advice and even office space while he got established.

“When you were with Becky, Becky was always about you. She always wanted to help you,” Harrold said. “I never met somebody in my life that did so much for people.

“She made you want to be a better person when you were around her.”

Cebulskie is the operations manager at Brown’s Farmers Insurance Agency on Harper Avenue, but she met Brown when they both worked at Fisher Dynamics. When Brown opened up her insurance agency in 2010, she hired Cebulskie.

Cebulskie said they worked long days, 13 or 14 hours a day, six days a week at the agency, but Brown was still involved with local charities — including the St. Clair Shores Optimists, Kiwanis, the St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade, animal foster organizations and local chambers of commerce.

“She would go do her charity events and would be back to work,” Cebulskie said. “She was so busy with all of that; she just gave so much back. Every night, there was a charity event she was going to.”

Dick Brown, Rebecca Brown’s father, said the heroin overdose his daughter died from is far from the way she lived her life. He said she was a blood donor who last gave in December 2012 and was registered with the Be The Match bone marrow registry.

He is still pushing the Police Department for a further investigation into the January incident at Brown’s home on Jane Street.

“She’s a good kid. She didn’t want this,” he said. “I think it can be reclassified.”

St. Clair Shores Police Detective Dennis Kozikowski said they have investigated the lead given to them by Dick Brown but have not been able to locate the individual named.

“We got some new information from (Dick Brown). It was looked into … with negative results,” Kozikowski said. “If any new leads appear or new information, definitely, everything will be looked into.”

Brown’s brother, Brent, has obtained an insurance license and has taken over the business, Cebulskie said.

“They want to keep it running,” she said. “We had so many hopes and everything.”

Cebulskie said she and Brown had discussed their goals for the business in December and Brown was adamant: “She would always say to me, if anything ever happens to me … just make sure that you keep the agency running, which is what prompted them (her family) to go ahead and do that.

“She lived for her business. Everything she did … was for the business and it was how can we better the business and what can we do.”