OBITUARY

Lawrence W. Brooks

June 13, 1923April 30, 2011

Lawrence Westley Brooks was born June 13, 1923, in Minneapolis, Minn., the oldest of two to Leon Wesley and Jean Balfour Geddes Brooks.

Mr. Brooks dropped out of his Minneapolis high school in 1941 to enlist in the Navy as an aviation machinist mate, first serving in the Battle of the Atlantic. A year later, he underwent flight training, and in 1944 became a test pilot for the Grumman F6F Hellcat. Among the many aircraft he flew during World War II, his favorite was the F4U Corsair, a fighter he logged more than 3,000 hours in. By war’s end, he was piloting the government’s first nonstop service from California to Washington, D.C.

On December 10, 1949 Mr. Brooks exchanged wedding vows with his sweetheart, Frances “Pam” Oliveri in Philadelphia, PA. The two met and fell in love while she worked in the control tower of the military air field. They were later blessed with three children, Steven Lawrence, Thomas Westley and Suzanne Marie.

In 1951, Mr. Brooks joined one of the Navy’s first helicopter squadrons and in 1955 was the test pilot for a project to replace the aircraft’s laminated wood rotor blades with metal ones. His service also included search and rescue patrols, flight testing on the Hazelwood that led to helicopters operating on destroyers for anti-submarine warfare, and serving as one of President Eisenhower’s pilots.

“It did not turn out to be as glamorous as he thought,” said son Steven Brooks. “He made trips between the farm in Pennsylvania and the Summer White House in Newport, Rhode Island, for Mamie. He carried such important items as hair dryers, cosmetics and dog food.”

In 1961, Mr. Brooks retired from the Navy as a chief aviation pilot.

In 1962, he moved with his family to Chula Vista, and in the mid-1960s, began his second career on North Island as a civilian helicopter airframe specialist. Before retiring in 1979, he was responsible for helping keep in good order the nearly 350 helicopters in the Pacific Fleet.

“Larry knew everything there was about a Bell helicopter,” said Ed Birzer, a friend and North Island co-worker. “He could open those manuals and figure out the schematics. He used his experience as a naval aviator to good effect.”

In San Diego, he resumed his studies, graduating from Chula Vista High School in 1965 and attending Southwestern Community College.

After leaving North Island, he embarked on his third career at Glen Abbey Memorial Park & Mortuary. Among his roles was transporting the unclaimed bodies of homeless vets to the Riverside National Cemetery and ensuring their dignified burial. He made these trips into his 80s until ill health forced him to retire for the last time.

Mr. Brooks was a member of the Lions Club, the Italian Catholic Federation, and the Knights of Columbus. He also was active in his church, St. Rose of Lima, and sang in the choir.

During times of leisure, Mr. Brooks enjoyed playing golf, racing stock cars, building golf clubs, and working at home in his garage.

Mr. Brooks passed away of renal failure and an infection April 30 at the San Diego Naval Medical Center. He was 87. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Frances “Pam” Brooks of Chula Vista; sons Steven and wife Lynda of Fallbrook, Thomas and wife Pamela Jo of Tujunga; daughter Suzanne Brooks-Bertram and husband Ernest of Chula Vista; and grandchildren Joseph and Diana Brooks, Bryan and Jennifer Brooks, Alannah Brennan, Kyle Brennan, Vanessa Brooks, Westley Brooks and Amanda Brooks.

A visitation will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, May 9, 2011 at Glen Abbey Memorial Park & Mortuary in Bonita. A Funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Chula Vista.

Lawrence Westley Brooks will be laid to rest at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.

Services

  • Visitation

    Monday, May 9, 2011

  • Funeral Mass

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Memories

Lawrence W. Brooks

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Connie & Tud Chenoweth

May 16, 2011

Dear Mr. Brooks,
I wish so much my husband and I had been fortunate enough to have met you. From your obituary and my dear cousin, Lynda, I feel we missed meeting one terrific man, husband, father and father-in-law.
May God bless you always.
Sending love to you and your family.

Lynda Brooks

May 11, 2011

Pop... I miss you so much!!! I loved the eulogy Steven gave. You would be proud. From my point of view (and every other woman who ever met you) you were a "charmer" ... I miss your hugs and your kisses .. your smile .. your laugh .. your sense of humor!! I can't believe you aren't sitting in your chair watching TV and entering contests! I can't believe you are gone and I miss you! I love you, Lynda

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