OCEAN CITY — An Ocean City icon with a remarkable past was feted this week on her 96th birthday with a proclamation and a key to the city.
Sheila Brex was honored on the occasion of her 96th birthday with a special ceremony at City Hall on Tuesday. Brex served in World War II in England and moved to the U.S. with her newlywed husband in West Ocean City. For decades, the couple operated fishing boats out of the commercial harbor in West Ocean City along with a restaurant and a motel.
Mayor Rick Meehan read the proclamation and issued a key to the city on Tuesday to Sheila Brex, who was clearly taken aback by the attention.
“We do have a very distinguished guest with us here today,” said Meehan. “We wanted to bring Mrs. Brex in here to recognize her accomplishments as a resident of the Ocean City area for 75 years. This is quite a biography and quite a list of accomplishments over an awfully long period of time.”
According to the proclamation, Brex was born in Chester, England in 1925, one of 11 other siblings. Upon graduation from a Catholic girls’ school in 1941, she went to work helping the war effort in a civil service position with the Ministry of Food. In February 1944, she was drafted into World War II, joining the Women’s Royal Navy Service as a specialist small arms gunnery.
For 18 months, Brex was based on the east coast of England, attached to the 65th Canadian Flotilla of Military Torpedo Boats. She was honorably discharged from military service in 1946. During her war service, Brex met Edward Oscar Brex, Jr., a midshipman with the Merchant Marine Reserve with the U.S. Naval Reserve.
In 1946, Sheila and Edward Brex were married in England and immediately came to the United States, landing in West Ocean City where she has resided for the last 75 years. Upon learning of Sheila Brex’s illegal status in the U.S., the couple returned to England to follow the proper channels to gain citizenship in America.
The couple returned to West Ocean City in 1947 and Sheila Brex was recognized in 1957 with her Certificate of Naturalization as a United States citizen by the Wicomico Circuit Court. Sheila and Edward Brex purchased a dock at the commercial harbor in West Ocean City in 1960 and Captain Brex purchased two head boats as a business. The Taurus was named for Sheila’s birth month, while the Pisces was named for Edward Brex’s mother’s birth month.
For decades, Captain Brex operated the head boats and Sheila Brex operated the Mast Restaurant and the Mast Motel, both on Harbor Road in West Ocean City. Sheila Brex has resided in West Ocean City for 75 years, during which she has also been a parishioner at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church in downtown Ocean City.