Pat Wynn Brown's mother died on March 5.

Pat Wynn Brown's mother died on March 5.

After making the funeral arrangements for Dorothy M. Wynn, Brown returned with her grief to her Clintonville home. The mail had come while she was away. Glancing through it, the founder of the Wig Fund to help boost the self-esteem of women and girls who lose their hair during cancer treatments discovered that she had been nominated for a Jefferson Award.

Created on a national level in 1972 by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and former U.S. Sen. Robert Taft Jr. of Ohio, the Jefferson Awards seek to highlight the work of unsung heroes.

"Here at home, the Jefferson Awards finalists serve central Ohio in a variety of ways," according to the website of the local recognition program, which is presented by Nationwide, WBNS-TV (Channel 10) and ThisWeek Community Newspapers. "They volunteer at schools, community centers and service groups. They build houses through Habitat for Humanity. They deliver meals for Meals on Wheels. They provide school supplies for children who otherwise may not get those supplies. They are 'seasoned citizens' like Bob Perry, who helps seniors and veterans with legal aid. And they are our younger citizens like 9-year-old Blake Li, who raises money for kids with cancer; people of all ages, all walks of life, all on the same mission: to better the lives of the people around them."

Brown was nominated for the award by friend Jenn Bajec, a graphic designer who created a line of jewelry called "Thrive Theory" in the wake of her own mother's death.

"Pat Wynn Brown is a cancer survivor who appreciates the value of laughter and good hair in a healthy and happy life," the nomination form states. "Pat started the Wig Fund to provide wigs to women who are losing their hair for health reasons. So far, the Wig Fund has donated 605 wigs to women who wouldn't be able to afford wigs. Pat founded the Hair Theater, producing and performing in shows about the drama women suffer because of their hair. These shows raise money for the Wig Fund. The women who receive the wigs are able to work, live and fight one more day because they look better than they may feel."

The thing is, Brown said last week, Bajec attempted to nominate her for a 2010 Jefferson Award. A computer glitch of some sort sent the online form off into some electronic netherworld, from whence it magically returned in time to include Brown among this year's nominees.

Just when she needed it the most.

Just when it would do her the most good.

Just when her spirits truly needed lifting.

"I don't think it's any coincidence that it came that day, perhaps, instead of the year before," Brown said. "It was something my mom would be really, really proud of. We're from Columbus and to do service in the city was something she felt very strongly about."

Because the nomination information is more than a year old, Brown said the figure for those helped by the Wig Fund has grown to 723 women and girls in central Ohio.

The Wig Fund received a boost from people who sent in contributions in response to the appeal Brown included in the obituary for her mother, who was 89 at the time of her death.

Brown said that she herself got a big boost when, in the wake of the obituary, the Wig Fund received a letter from a woman who wrote that she had just shaved off the last of her mother's hair after it had thinned so from cancer treatment. Her mother was too proud to ask for help herself, but could the daughter perhaps ?

Brown called the woman to plead with her to accept a wig for her mother "to honor my mother, to honor her memory."

"It's very hard to receive," Brown said last week before leaving for Iowa to perform. "It's much easier to give. It's much easier to volunteer and to serve ... especially women, because we help other people.

"That was very much a consecration of my mother's memory."

The past two years have been rough ones for Brown and her husband, Stephen.

Including her mother, his father, various aunts and uncles as well as children who have been part of a Hair Theater show Brown created called "Dude, Where's My Hair?" the couple has weathered the deaths of 14 people they held dear.

"It is part of life, and we do need to deal with that, but I've found the best way to heal in life is to do something for someone else," Brown said. "When I help another person, I am really soothing my own soul."

Finalists for this year's Jefferson Award will be honored at a luncheon on April 5.