Coping with Grief
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IN LIEU OF FLOWERS AND TREES, please send your tax deductible check or money order donation to the Leola Lucille Travis Foundation, Inc, c/o Dr. Felicia Jones Ross, Secretary/ Leola Lucille Travis Foundation, 60 S. James Rd., Columbus,, OH, 43213. Thank you.
Graveside Service for Mr. Willie "Bill" Brooks will take place Friday, December 15, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. at Dayton National Cemetery, 4400 W. Third Street, Dayton, OH 45428.
We will leave at 9:00 a.m. from White's Funeral and Cremation Services.
Prelude: A Wife’s Perspective
My mother was the first to lay eyes on the man I would soon marry. Bill and I first met at my office. When I came back from lunch, there he was standing in the waiting room with his account executive, Bob Cunningham. We were introduced and after a brief chat, they left, Mama asked me what I thought of him. I told her that he was handsome and had a really nice voice, but he was too “proper”. Mommy replied, “You are just not used to a man with class.” She was absolutely right.
All who know Bill would definitely agree with my mother, I am sure. The epitome of class, Mr. Bill Brooks has always exemplified an aura of grace and dignity, a perfect gentleman. A caring husband, a loving father and a genuine friend; this wonderful man will be greatly missed!
Just a month shy of his 80th birthday, this New Year’s baby went back home to be with the Lord on November 22, 2023. We look forward to seeing Bill again at God’s appointed time.
A Glimpse into the Life of Willie “Bill” Brooks:
Born to Morteal Lee (Callier) and Robert Brooks, Willie James, as he is known mostly by his Cleveland, Texas family and friends, was the eldest of ten children. Willie has been the pillar of his family and is a widely respected role model for the siblings he helped raise and the communities where he has lived and worked. Young Bill was nicknamed “Red” as the Native American side of his lineage radiated through the undertones of his skin. Bill shared many stories with me about his family and close friends, summers with his aunt at the beach in Galveston, his best friend Billy Soloman, cousin Margie (Toots), sister Barbara who he calls “Bo” and many more tales of his fondest childhood memories. I cannot recall every one, but you all know how special you are to him. Of his many accomplishments, Willie James has earned the title of “the greatest son/brother in the world” as he took good care of his family.
Bill and I would often talk of his days as an air traffic controller in the United States Air Force. During his service, Bill received several commendations, including the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and the Air Force Good Conduct Medal. Following Bill’s deployment to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, he was stationed at Lockbourne Air Force Base, now called Rickenbacker, in Lockbourne, Ohio, until his honorable discharge in 1967 as an Airman First Class.
Following his military service, Willie James Brooks attended Prairie View A&M University and Texas Southern University, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature.
Bill returned to Ohio and first became known throughout the Columbus community as a disc jockey and a local concert promoter. Highly respected among his peers, Bill was the man behind the scenes, and worked closely with his fellow promoters, Maurice and Pablo, to bring many soulful artists to Columbus, including popular vocal group The Delfonics.
An avid music lover, Bill had a special appreciation for the art of blues and jazz. For over 25 years, Mr. Brooks was the general manager of WVKO-1580 radio station, serving as the voice of Columbus’ Black community. Bill Brooks worked alongside some of the station’s early greats, namely, “The Man About Town", Les Brown, the legendary Bill Moss, Blue Monday’s, Kirk Bishop and Gospel Enthusiast, Eddie Saunders. Later, Bill collaborated with K.C. Jones and his Morning Drive; co-worker, Horace Perkins and many others. My husband often told me of the times he met with many of our nation’s Black entertainers and well-known personalities like Jimmie Walker, who played “J.J.” on the television hit series “Good Times,” and actress Vivica A. Fox. Whenever anyone notable came to Columbus, they would always stop by and visit the station. What a special time it was for Black people in those days! We were proud and encouraged by WVKO's powerful radio programming designed to uplift and promote our community’s race and culture. Unbeknownst to most, my husband, Bill Brooks, played a key role in it all.
In 1992, Bill and I were married. The next year, we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Maurina Lee, into the world.
After his tenure at Saga Communications radio and WVKO, Bill worked as a general manager with Cumulus Media, serving various markets in South Carolina and Georgia until he retired.
Bill showcased many talents and hobbies throughout his career, earning his real estate license in Texas, South Carolina and Georgia, and once owned a trucking/hauling company. As a dedicated, self-taught amateur pianist, he occasionally graced us with his favorite old standards. At the beginning of the tech revolution, Bill and his crew, Lou, Hopewell and Ross, used to tinker around and build computer systems. Bill even engineered the very first computers used in my private dental practice.
Mr. Brooks often gave back to his community by organizing and participating in several causes, including WVKO’s annual toy drive, “Christmas for the Kids”, and by serving on the board of directors of the Leola Lucille Travis Foundation Inc, a non profit charity for underserved youth. Bill is credited with creating the name for the foundation’s annual jazz music event, “Cookies, Popcorn and Jazz”.
After retiring from the media-broadcasting industry, Bill joined the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) moving up in rank to a supervisory role in COTA’s radio room where he assisted bus operators as they navigated Columbus’s intricate bus route system. Bill told me how grateful he was for his acquired air traffic controller skills, which he used regularly in this challenging position.
After his final retirement, Bill spent much of his time at home with wife, Susan and daughter, Maurina, reminiscing on happy times and playing one of his favorite games, dominoes. Once he taught his little girl how to hold her dominoes, score points and pick from the boneyard, Maurina became a master player. Daddy hardly won a game with her after that (smile).
We had some of the best family cookouts! Everyone looked forward to summer holidays when Uncle Bill would bring out the grill and make the most scrumptious barbecued ribs and chicken you will ever taste. He created his own special sauce that everyone loved. Delicious and fun times, they were. Bill was also known for his famous chili recipe. He once won the station’s (WVKO & Sunny 95’s) “Chili Cook-off” competition.
I remember when Bill bought his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He enjoyed riding around town on it whenever he wanted to relax. Sometimes he would ride his bike out of town when his other cycle buddies called him up for a group outing. This gave Bill hours of joy as he left all of his problems to the wind. Bill was also a competitive bowler. He played in several leagues at Holiday Lanes on Broad Street. I am sure Reggie and the fellows will miss seeing him there.
Baking became a real hobby for my sweet husband. It seemed like every other week a new small appliance or special utensil was delivered to the house. He would bake all kinds of cakes, pies and cookies from scratch, then display them for a day on the kitchen table. Eventually, most of Bill’s creations were gifted to Mr. Martin, our beloved neighbor across the street.
Some of our happiest times have been sitting outside on the front porch chatting with friends and neighbors. Bill would speak to everyone who passed by. Such a friendly guy. Robert may come over and chat for a bit. Pam, Joyce or Diane would wave from their porch. Mari and John or Bill and Pat would stop to chat as they took their evening stroll; Frank and Barb or Neal would drive by and honk as they turned the corner. Great neighbors, great times.
One of my husbands’ proudest moments was in 2018 when he watched his daughter walk across the commencement stage, be hooded by her mother and receive her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Ohio State University, College of Dentistry as their first Black female legacy. That is a day he will never forget.
As our marriage strengthened, so did the bond between Bill and his mother, and his bond between my mother and my dad. Bill calls my mother endearingly, “Moms” and my dad he refers to as, “J.W.” Bill became a very special and respected son-in-law to both my mother and father and he, too, loves them very much.
Willie James was preceded in death by his father, Robert Brooks, mother, Morteal Lee (Callier), his younger brother Darrel Lee, beloved aunts, uncles and other family members.
Bill is survived by his wife, Susan K. Wilson-Brooks, daughter, Maurina L. Brooks McCray (Justin), son Adem Brooks, siblings Barbara Nero (Woodrow), Ronnie Brooks, Charles Anthony Lee, Danny Lee (Barbara), Linda Brooks, Leisha Lee Himes, and many cousins, nieces, nephews, relatives, neighbors and friends.
Bill, I love you. Thank you for loving our daughter, Maurina, and me so very deeply and providing us with a secure home and lots of fond memories we will always cherish. It has been a pleasure sharing the past 32 years of my life with you, discovering many of the beautiful things about you. I miss you, but I know you are with Jesus. Until we meet again.