Phyllis Brown, 84, formerly of Cherry Hill, co-owner of the popular Paperback Forum Cherry Hill Books when the Cherry Hill Mall opened and through the early 1980s, died of emphysema Tuesday, May 25, at her home in Oakland, Calif.

For the first 15 years of Ms. Brown's marriage to her ex-husband Stanley Pogran, she focused on raising a family. But they both had envisioned owning a little bookstore one day, their daughter Lynn Kahn said.

When the couple heard about Cherry Hill Mall's opening, they jumped at the chance to open a bookstore there.

The store, opened in 1961 before the era of big boxes and chains, turned out to be far from a quiet country shop. One of the area's few booksellers, it was an instant success, and Ms. Brown ended up being a natural at running the business, her daughter said.

Ms. Brown was in charge of ordering children's books, which she loved to pick out, and hard covers. But her biggest contribution to the store was her artistic talent.

"She had a good eye for displays, how things should look," her daughter said.

Shortly after Ms. Brown and Pogran divorced in the early 1980s, they sold the bookstore.

Beyond running the store, Ms. Brown was active in the community, especially at election time. A big advocate of voting rights, she often worked as a poll watcher, her daughter said.

She also tried to be an emergency medical technician but could not do the required lifting because of her petite size, her daughter said. She was still able to work with the Mount Laurel ambulance squad, which she enjoyed.

When she was in her 40s, she went to flight school and obtained a pilot's license. She loved to fly and continued her hobby until her health started to decline several years ago.

After she retired from book selling, she worked for two years for the Peace Corps and was sent to Belize to help start small businesses there.

When she returned in the late 1980s, Ms. Brown settled in Oakland, near one of her daughters.

Ms. Brown was born and raised in Chicago's Highland Park area. After she graduated from high school, she became involved in social justice and civil-rights issues by attending marches and protests, her daughter said.

Throughout her life, she was an advocate for social justice and women's rights and always encouraged her children and grandchildren to take a stand. She was a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

In 1945, she married Pogran, whom she had met while he was stationed at Fort Sheridan, Ill. The couple lived in Long Island, N.Y., for several years before moving to Livingston, N.J., in the late 1950s.

In addition to her daughter Ms. Brown is survived by sons Jed and David Pogran; daughters Judy Pogran and Amy Roman; and three grandchildren.

A celebration of Ms. Brown's life will be held July 1.

Contact staff writer Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917 or cvargas@phillynews.com.