Family members stepped up to the plate to ensure Mr. Baseball, Gerry Brooks, will always have a lasting legacy with the game he loved.
Brooks died Jan. 15, with his daughters April Shay and June Johnston by his side at the Chemainus Health Care Centre, after a battle with cancer only 2 1/2 months short of his 83rd birthday. Brooks, the second youngest of eight children, was born in Rock Glen, Saskatchewan and raised in Chemainus.
He was an exceptional baseball player, winning the first-ever Chemainus Junior Athlete of the Year award at age 18 after three years of senior-amateur baseball already under his belt at that time, and a lifelong fan of the sport.
In honour of that, the Cuban/Vancouver Island Baseball Journey Society has started the Gerry Brooks Benevolent Fund. He was aware of the fund being started before his death to help kids in the Cowichan Valley to play baseball who might not otherwise be able to purchase equipment because of financial obstacles.
Brooks was proud to make the first donation himself. Donations can be made to the fund at Coast Capital Savings in Duncan, through the society directing the funds to the Gerry Brooks Benevolent Fund account.
The fund will be available to players throughout the Cowichan Valley, including Lake Cowichan, Ladysmith, Duncan and Chemainus.
“We’ll supply the associations with a form to fill out,” explained son-in-law Rick Shay. “The parents will fill it out, send it to us and we’ll look it over.”
“When we talked to him about the Benevolent Fund, he got really teary,” noted April Shay. “We wanted his blessing.”
“Not for his recognition, but to help the kids play ball,” added Johnston.
“He was very modest. He didn’t look for recognition for anything.”
“He was always an encouraging person,” offered Rick Shay. “No matter what you did or how big or small it was, it was like you just slayed the dragon single-handedly.”
Brooks’ daughters said he always had a special greeting for them and other family members when he saw them, something along the lines of “ahh, there he (she) is.”
“Look who’s here, you’re special,” said Johnston was the rationale of his response.
“That’s something he always did with the kids,” added April Shay.
Brooks is also survived by granddaughter Jennifer and grandson Jesse Shay, son-in-law Kennely Johnston, granddaughters Tammy (Travis), Treena and great grandson Devan, children Diane Davidson, George (Rosemary) Bowater, their children and families plus sisters Vera May and Ruth Atkinson and many nieces and nephews.
His celebration of life takes place at 1 p.m. at the Chemainus Legion Hall on Saturday, Feb. 2.
For some reason, the Cleveland Indians were Brooks’ team of choice since they won the World Series in 1948. There’s been a few lean years since for him and other diehard Indians’ fans.
Three days before he died, Brooks was still rattling off the player names and their positions during that World Series year.
Brooks’ first job was with MacMillan Bloedel, Chemainus, at the age of 18 on the booms. He later became a shortage clerk and industrial first aid attendant at the mill, and was also a partner and operated Wee Tree Lumber in Ladysmith.
Brooks returned to the Chemainus sawmill as a boom boat operator and retired in 2000.
He’ll be sorely missed by all who knew him for his contagious sense of humor and spirit.
“He did touch a lot of peoples’ lives, I didn’t realize how much, really,” said April Shay.
A special sip of Fireball will be offered at the service in his honour.
Brooks always loved a sip for “medicinal purposes.”