Wilfred Lee Brooke Jr., 86, a longtime resident of Oak Park, died on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016 at West Suburban Hospital. Born in Rochester, New York on July 5, 1930 to Virginia (Whipple) and Wilfred Lee Brooke Sr., he married the late Mary Francis (Domermuth) Brooke on Aug. 11, 1951 in Washington D.C.
He graduated from Beye Elementary School, Oak Park and River Forest High School, Elmhurst College and completed his Masters of Library Science degree at Rosary College (now Dominican University). A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Musician 3rd Class, he began his adult career in Oak Park as a salesman for the Fred L. Brooke Company, then pursued his passions for English and literature as an English instructor, a medical librarian, a library consultant, a sales rep for Wednesday Journal, and a writer, editor and publisher of numerous manuscripts, newsletters, magazines and books. Lee and his companion Marcy were prolific writers and publishers who were passionate about history and stories featuring residents of the Oak Park and River Forest area.
Lee was an active volunteer in the community with The Saints, The Rotary Club, Phi Sigma, and the 19th Century Charitable Association.
Lee’s great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and family worshipped at the First Presbyterian Church of Oak Park, which became the First United Church of Oak Park.
He traveled with a tape recorder, camera, pens and paper to collect and share memories of his life, his family’s life and the lives of so many others. As a father he taught us to be kind, compassionate, and well-mannered, to be active in causes of social justice, and to love music and literature.
Lee and his companion, Marcy, enjoyed many years of writing, editing and publishing manuscripts, newsletters and books for family, friends and the community. They enjoyed attending concerts and the theater, visiting Chicago area conservatories, public speaking and traveling throughout the world.
Beginning in 1984, Lee began writing books about local history, ranging from Yesterday When I Was Younger, An Oral History of the Early Days and Families of Oak Park and River Forest to The Kettlestrings of Oak Park (the village’s first European American settlers) and A Celebration of the Splendid Life of Elsie Lunde Jacobsen. He also wrote The Oak Park-River Forest Citizens Committee for Human Rights: A Chronology about the campaign for fair housing and integration in the 1960s, in which Brooke played a significant role. And he wrote Zig-Zagging Through Life – Light-hearted Recollections, a personal memoir of sorts, in which he wrote,
“My brother Dave Brooke once asked, ‘Who will read your remembrances, your recollections?’ My answer: ‘If I’m lucky, maybe one of our great-grandchildren will read and enjoy this book.’ I myself still enjoy reading the work of my grandfather, Merritt P. Whipple. Every year I read bits and pieces of his writings, and what saddens me is that almost none of our predecessors left any tangible works for us to read. … Yes it’s a lot of work, conjoined with headaches and disappointments along the way, but what a joy it is to sit at a table in a bookstore, autographing one’s own books!”
Lee Brooke is survived by his children, Virginia Lucretia, Wilfred Lee III, Arthur Lee, Mina May (Brooke) Bernhardt, and Charles Lee (Denise); his grandchildren, Rachel Angela (Bernhardt) Phillips (Michael), Benjamin Michael Zibton Brooke, Zoe Ariel Brooke Zibton, and Austin Lee Brooke; his siblings, David Lee Brooke, the late John Almonte Brooke (the late Gigi Eiserman); his cousin and many nieces and nephews; and his beloved companion, Marcy Kubat.
Visitation will be held on Thursday, Dec. 1, from 3 to 7 p.m. at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St., Oak Park. Services will be held there on Friday, Dec. 2 at 10 a.m., followed by interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Oak Park and River Forest High School Music Department.