Ethel Brooks, a family matriarch with a total of 93 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, and a devoted churchwoman with a special fondness for gospel music, died July 26 of renal failure. She was 87 and lived in West Oak Lane.
Ethel may have been in her 80s, but she was still a "Georgia peach," her family said, always fashionably turned out and full of zip. She was gentle and kind, but you knew with that flaming-red hair, she could "turn up the heat," as her family put it, when called for.
There was still much in her personality of the beauty queen and athlete she once was.
She was born in Macon, Ga., to Ida and Walter Thompson. At Ballard Hudson High School, she was voted a beauty queen not only for her beauty, but because of her popularity. She was also a standout point guard on the basketball team.
As a teenager, she served as a hostess at a USO center. There she met a tall, dark, handsome Army man named John H. Brooks. They married in 1943, and eventually made their home in Philadelphia, where John became a Philly cop.
Ethel worked for a time for Philco Textiles, but her abiding passion was her family, which began with seven children, and expanded from there.
She joined Firm Hope Baptist Church, and became active in various ministries, including pulpit aide. Her greatest pleasure was seeing her children baptized and singing on the choir. She was a big fan of gospel music, and her radio was often tuned to Mary Mason, on WWDB, or the Rev. Louise Williams, on WURD. Her favorite hymn was "Take My Hand Precious Lord:"
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night
lead me on to the light.
"Ethel was a gentle and loving person," her family said. "She was admired and loved by many."
But once in a while, she wouldn't hesitate to tell an errant offspring, "A hard head makes a soft behind!"
Despite having a huge family of her own, Ethel was also a surrogate mom to nephews and nieces, and even neighbors' children and the friends of her children and grandchildren.
"They all claimed ‘Mother' and ‘Gan-Gan' as their own," her family said.
Her husband died in 2001. She is survived by four daughters, Jacqueline Jones, Ida McKinnon, Cheryl Clements and Joyce Brooks; three sons, James Brooks, Howard Brooks and Gregory Thompson; 26 grandchildren; 56 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.
Services: Were Aug. 3. Burial was in Ivy Hill Cemetery. 3 n
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