The world lost one of its best yesterday; my grandfather, Jerry Brooks, went to be with the angels. I hope that some personal lines will not be taken amiss here in honor of his life and memory.
This greatest of grandfathers is shown here at Christmas a couple years ago, sitting in his favorite chair, wearing a new warm hat, beaming and knowing he was surrounded by those he loved. He enjoyed family time more than anything, and could always be counted on to drop whatever it was he was working on in favor of an impromptu walk, picnic, pizza party, trip to the ice cream place, or a rousing game of hide-and-seek in the hayfields. Some of my earliest memories are of him taking me for rides in the truck, tromping through the woods with the beagles, or letting me help him with the barn chores. He knew the plants and animals of his farm and the woods like the back of his hand, and he helped spark the interest in natural history that I've enjoyed so much. He and I spent many a wonderful hour organizing and talking about the treasure trove of family diaries, photographs, and letters that had come down to him through various ancestors, and he was always delighted to know of any new genealogical research or a new family connection.
Gramp had a great, puckish sense of humor, and always loved a good joke (and boy did he know how to push my Gram's buttons!). You never knew when he might just break out into song (among his favorites were "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay," "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain," "The Hatfields & McCoys", and "Red Wing", the latter of which he loved hearing my Gram play on the piano). Once when I had him read a middle-school story for me and fill out an evaluation form for it, he wrote under the suggested improvements, "Needs more dancing." When I asked what he meant, he said "Well, I just think every story should have some dancing." The night before I left for college, he gave me a piece of advice I've since passed along to many others: "Be good. But if you can't be good, be careful."
Among Gramp's favorites were fresh apple pie with cheese (or any other pie, really), potatoes or sweet corn fresh from the field. If he really liked the pie, his response was invariably "Needs practice" (which really meant "I'd like another pie at the earliest opportunity, please").
He was never happier than when spending time with his family and friends, and he so loved holidays and parties and other times when we could all be together. His care for those he loved, and for his farm and its stability, was depthless. He's been the rock of our family for my entire life, and we'll miss him dreadfully.
I got to spend a very pleasant week with Gramp in early August; we had great weather, and spent much of the time sitting in the front yard under the pine trees, with Gramp swinging in his beloved hammock and loving the breeze. On our last afternoon together, he, my aunt Becky and I walked out to the corner of the yard and picked a pint or two of blueberries from his patch of bushes; I brought some of them (those that didn't go into that evening's pie) back to Boston with me, and none ever tasted sweeter. I will treasure the memories of that week forever.
Gramp's journey ended yesterday afternoon at home, very peacefully. We're all relieved that his pain is now gone, and I'm sure he's enjoying the biggest and most scrumptious slice of apple pie (with cheese) ever, while sitting in a comfortable hammock and enjoying a beautiful fall day.
His toast of choice was always "Mud in your eye," (goes best with root beer) so as you're enjoying your Labor Day festivities today and wish to raise a glass to the memory of a great and good man, he would undoubtedly approve.