Sarah Browning
Sarah Browning

Obituary of Sarah Benson Manning Browning

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Sarah Benson Manning Browning, known to friends and family as Robin, died on May 28. 

Robin was born on July 15, 1961, in Chapel Hill, NC, the daughter of Phillip and Diane Manning. At the time, Phillip was in graduate school at UNC. After graduating, he took a job with Du Pont, and the family moved to Camden, SC, where her brother Michael was born.

Du Pont regularly moved their employees, and the family was soon off to Kinston, NC. Robin recalls this as the happiest period of her life. Phillip had a boat moored on the coast, just an hour or so from Kinston. On a typical weekend, Diane would pack a lunch, and the family would drive to Morehead City and hop in the boat for the short trip to Shackleford Banks, which was, at the time, deserted except for a dozen or so wild horses. What followed was walking, swimming, and lunch on the beach.

While in Kinston, Robin made good friends with our next-door neighbors. Although she later lost contact with Mark and Kim, Robin remembers them as two of the best friends of her life.

After several more moves, Phillip left Du Pont to start a new business with his partner, John Fogle. The venture capitalist who supplied the start-up capital lived in Charlotte and asked him to move there, which they did. Robin then began the next phase of her life.

Diane had played the trumpet in high school and still had her old horn. Robin started playing, and turns out she was a natural. She was soon playing in the school concert band and the marching band. She then tried out for the all-state band and later became First Trumpet. She was always proud of that, as were her parents. Even after she quit performing, Robin always had a trumpet around somewhere.

Because of her proficiency with the trumpet, Robin was accepted to the N.C School of the Arts and then to UNC Greensboro. She majored in Classics and met her lifelong friend Julie Moser Cooley. She soon graduated and went to work. Robin found her calling in the emerging field of information technology, becoming director of the then-new Microcomputer Center, which served the student body at Wake Forest University. She found a demand for her IT skills at growing healthcare management companies in Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Amid all this, Robin met her husband, Chris Browning, who was a working chef at the time. The twins, Matthew and David, soon came along. The couple then bought their first house in Winston-Salem and launched into raising twin boys.

Because of the technology boom, Robin found herself well-paid enough that Chris could stay home to raise the boys. She became the breadwinner and spent the next twenty-five years doing work that she loved and was good at. She went into IT consulting for higher education and became Director of Information Services at Cape Cod Community College. So, Robin and their family picked up and moved to Sandwich, MA, on Cape Cod. A new job brought her and the family back to Chapel Hill and then to Durham. The boys were in high school, and Chris went back to work, also in IT. Robin reconnected with her high-school band days when the boys joined the brand-new Carrboro HS marching band. She became a committed band Mom and loved every minute.

After the boys were successfully launched into adulthood, Robin continued to work in IT consulting, living with Chris in Durham. Robin loved North Carolina beaches, gin and tonics, and listening to old Byrds records. She looked forward to holidays every year when she could cook a feast for family and friends. She would scour yard sales for old church group and women’s league cookbooks to add to her collection.

For the last few months of her life, Robin was bedridden at the Manning house in Chapel Hill and cared for by her brother, Michael. Most evenings, her dad would fix a small gin and tonic for himself and lemonade for Robin. They would then sit and talk about the good times in her life. Those days were important to her and her dad. Goodbye, Robin. We love you and will miss you. 

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