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Daphne Brann, oldest Assembly of God minister, is dead at 110

She was also the oldest county resident and co-founded churches in Maryland and Ohio.

By MATTHEW WAITE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001


HOLIDAY -- Lying in a hospital bed and surrounded by family, Daphne Brann was having either a series of heart attacks Saturday morning, or one big one -- doctors couldn't tell her family which.

Because she was 110 years old, there was little they could do for her that wouldn't do more harm than good.

Mrs. Brann had founded churches and ministered to thousands of people in the 84 years since she was ordained. But there in the hospital, her family witnessed the power of her faith.

Two hours before her death, Mrs. Brann looked to the ceiling and smiled.

"Glory," she said, repeating the praise she was fond of saying. "Glory, glory, glory. Oh, Jesus, you have been so good to me. Glory."

And then, in the midst of a heart attack, she sang, I Am So Happy. "That is the reason why Jesus took my burden away," she sang with a voice that saw three centuries.

On Sunday, the memory of their mother -- the oldest ordained minister in the Assembly of God Church and most senior resident of Pasco County -- singing through a heart attack astounds her daughters. They talk of the moment with the joy of the faithful, and the sadness of daughters who lost their mother after living 80 years with her.

"It was just wonderful," said Naomi Helsel of New Port Richey, the older daughter at 81. "We thought the Lord was going to take her right then."

"She sang it!" said Mrs. Brann's younger daughter, 79-year-old Leona Calabrese of Holiday. "They said she was having a heart attack then.

"We couldn't believe it," she said of her mother's passing. "We couldn't believe she was gone. We thought she was going to live forever."

Mrs. Brann was born Daphne Twigg on Aug. 4, 1890, in Oldtown, Md., and was the eighth of 10 children in her family.

In 1913, she took her first car ride -- one of eight Tin Lizzies in town.

Her future husband, Oliver Brann, had been an ordained minister in the United Brethren for five years when they married in 1916. They both became ordained ministers in the Assembly of God in 1917, the same year America entered World War I.

Together they pioneered a number of Assembly of God churches in Ohio and Maryland before he retired in 1950. He died a year later.

Daphne Brann remained active in the church and moved to Florida permanently in 1985 after years of wintering here with her daughter.

At 104 years old, she became one of the oldest religious pilgrims to visit the holy sites of Israel and the Middle East.

Her 109th and 110th birthday parties were held at the First Assembly of God Church on Trouble Creek Road in New Port Richey. Her funeral will be held there, as well, on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

After that service, her body will be taken to Cumberland, Md., where she and her husband founded the Central Assembly of God Church, for another funeral. She will be buried there next to her husband.

Of their three children, the two daughters survive.

Other survivors include seven grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

"I think having her that many years makes you miss her more," Helsel said. "But the Lord saw fit to take her."

Calabrese said her mother wouldn't say an unkind word to anyone, and guided and inspired more than just her grandchildren.

"If there ever was a saint, my mother was one," Calabrese said. "She was an angel.

"It's heaven's gain. It's our loss, but it's heaven's gain."

- Information from Times files was used in this report.

-- Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waite@sptimes.com.

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