Audrey Patricia Pickens of Sag Harbor Hills, a retired New York City public school guidance counselor, died from cancer on Saturday, August 1, at her home. She was 72 years old.
Born August 31, 1942 in Queens, New York, she was the daughter of James and Barbara Brannen, long-time residents of both St. Albans, Queens and Ninevah Beach, Sag Harbor. Known popularly as “Pat,” she grew up surrounded by celebrities and strong families. A brilliant student, she graduated from St. Catherine of Siena grade school, then qualified for admission to the prestigious Bishop McDonnell High School in Brooklyn, from which she graduated in 1959. Next, Mrs. Pickens graduated from the State University of Oswego, New York in 1963 where her classmate was well known author, Ken Auletta.
Upon graduation, Mrs. Pickens toured Europe with her Aunt, Dott Halsey, then returned to a teacher’s position at the Howell Road School in Elmont, Long Island. From there, she joined the New York City Board of Education as a Title I teacher, working in both public and parochial schools. In June, 1964, she married William Pickens III, whom she had met in Sag Harbor in 1962, a young businessman and former United States Air Force officer in Japan. His Yale educated grandfather, Dr. William Pickens, Sr. was a founder and organizer of the NAACP in 1909. Their marriage produced three children, Pamela Alison, William IV and John Montier.
Beloved by all who knew her, Mrs. Pickens enjoyed her profession and the pristine beaches of Sag Harbor. Along with raising children, she earned a masters degree in guidance counseling from Queens College in 1969. The family resided in Laurelton, Queens for nearly 40 years and Sag Harbor for more than 50 years. As a young lady, Mrs. Pickens joined the “Brownies” and “Girls Scouts” where she developed enduring friendships and life skills. She was also active in the Queens chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc., a nationwide African-American family leadership organization. Mrs. Pickens served as president of her chapter. She and her husband traveled the world throughout their 51-year marriage, including Europe, Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, China, Japan, Korea and the Caribbean, especially Barbados. Two months ago, they visited Bermuda. Upon retirement in 2003, the Pickens spent each winter at the Brannen family home in Orlando, Florida.
Mrs. Pickens was active in community life on the East End, helping to launch the historic 1986 Sag Harbor Initiative. Their deliberations took place at Pierson Auditorium with the late Betty Friedan and E. L. Doctorow. She also served on the Board of Overseers of Southampton College at the behest of family friend, Chancellor, Angier Biddle Duke. She shared her expertise and love of life with numerous organizations. Among them were Tony Duke’s Girls and Boys Harbor in East Hampton, the NAACP, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, PBS, the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation, the Sierra Club and the Paul Robeson Foundation, of which her husband was founding Trustee and President.
Mrs. Pickens leaves behind her mother, Dr. Barbara H. Brannen, her husband, Bill, the three aforementioned children, three siblings, airline Captain James “Buddy” Brannen, Barbara “Tinka” Newton, John H. Brannen, granddaughter, Bree Pickens Reed, first cousins Jack and Lena Duguid, sisters-in-law and a host of cousins, nieces and nephews. Moreover, she leaves behind a multitude of dear friends and associates from around the world. Mrs. Pickens was a member of St. Andrew’s RC Church for 40 years.
A memorial service will be held at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor on Saturday, August 8, at 11 a.m. Viewing will take place at Yardley & Pino Funeral Home on Friday, August 7, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Overall arrangements are being coordinated by J. Foster Phillips FH, Inc. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Audrey Patricia Pickens Fund to endow a cancer care sensitivity/ counseling room at a hospital to be selected by the family.