James (Jim) Edwin Brooks, longtime resident of Port Townsend, passed away peacefully on Nov. 10, 2020 after a long illness. Born Sept. 23, 1930 to Byrl and Margaret Brooks in Lawton, Oklahoma, he was the eldest of five children.
In 1947 James enlisted in the U.S. Army. He attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and served in Korea in the 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, one of only 10 remaining occupying divisions in the region prior to the official outbreak of war in June 1950. He was trained as a gunner for the 105-mm recoilless rifle and 81-mm mortars. He was honorably discharged from service at Fort Lewis, Washington on Dec. 13, 1950.
Jim met his future wife, Bernadine Carol (Townsend) Brooks, by chance through mutual acquaintances when Bernie was attending Shelton High School. Bernie was visiting her girlfriend near the school when the two girls decided to sneak away to try smoking a cigarette. As they rounded the corner to their secret spot, they bumped right into the girl’s brother and his friend, Jim Brooks. The two hit it off immediately, and while the cigarette smoking didn’t stick, this chance encounter eventually resulted in a marriage of 68 years.
Jim and Bernie were married on Sept. 5, 1952 in Tumwater, Washington. Their first home was in Olympia, where Jim worked in road construction. Eventually, they moved to Port Townsend where Jim worked in the logging industry. They purchased their family home in 1962 where they raised four children.
Jim suffered a career-ending injury while logging, but that couldn’t keep him down. Active and restless by nature, Jim found distraction and creative outlets in his many hobbies, which included jewelry making, fur trapping, long rifle craft work, brewing homemade root beer, and dabbling in wine making, with one hilarious, cork-popping incident of accidental champagne making.
Jim was involved in a number of local organizations such as the Port Townsend Rock Club, the Peninsula Long Rifle Club, and both the Port Townsend and Quilcene Masonic Lodge. The stainless-steel compass and square placed high over the entry door of the lodge in Port Townsend was made by his hands.
Jim and Bernie shared a passion for rock hounding which they passed along to their children. The family spent many summers traveling the western and southwestern states with their children in pursuit of this passion and Jim encouraged his children to really observe and “take in” the countryside wherever they went. They made many lifelong friendships through this hobby and their involvement in the Port Townsend Rock Club, where he spent many years in service and was the club president during the 1969-1970 term.
The time they spent with their Peninsula Long Rifle Club family was some of their happiest. Jim was a charter member of the club and took great satisfaction in watching it grow. They both enjoyed the experience of the “Rendezvous,” when you could drive into the woods and roll back the clock to a simpler time, sleep in canvas tee-pee type tents, cook on an open fire, dress in period clothing and immerse yourself in the culture of the time.
Jim is survived by his wife, Bernadine Carol (Townsend) Brooks; his four children, Gregory Byrl Brooks (Mary), Vivian Lee Brooks (Paul), Colleen Ann (Brooks) McEvers (John), and Garnett Edwin Brooks; brother Eugene Brooks; sister Corine (Brooks) Marcum; beloved sister-in-law Louise Brooks; and five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his father, Byrl Brooks, his mother, Margaret Brooks, and brothers Henry Brooks and Tommy Brooks.
Jim will be remembered for many things, but what his family remembers is his sassy sense of humor, hearty laugh, and endless supply of down-home sayings (“Mad as a wet hen!”) spoken with just a leftover hint of his native Oklahoma twang. God bless and keep him.
At this time, the family does not have plans for a memorial, though the Quilcene Masonic Lodge would like to host an event in honor of Jim at a time when such events can be more widely attended.