Martha Ann Brooks

July 25, 1918March 8, 2020

Martha Ann Russell Cheney Brooks

Ann Brooks’ long, happy and productive life spanned more than a century in time, and much of the American continent, from humble beginnings on the family farm in southern Illinois’ rural Shawnee Hills, to becoming a nurse and pioneer airline stewardess, and eventually to her life in Orange County, California’s Floral Park as a homemaker, artist, veteran traveler, and patriotic citizen actively involved in local, state and national politics. First and foremost, though, Ann’s strong Christian faith was the guiding light and source of strength in her life, which she sought not only to support but to share with those she cared for. Born on July 25th, 1918 to farmer George Russell and his wife Norah, growing up Ann played with and did chores alongside her brothers and sisters; life was hard, but also filled with fond memories of running barefoot through the grass in the summertime and her mother’s favorite saying, “pretty is as pretty does.” All that changed, though, when her mother and little brother died, and her father remarried. At seventeen, with but twelve dollars in her pocket and a one-way train ticket north, Ann said goodbye forever to the family farm and headed to Chicago to pursue her dreams. There she continued attending classes to earn her high school diploma. One day Ann was walking past Columbus Hospital in Chicago. She’d always dreamed of being a doctor, but knew she couldn’t afford medical school. However, that day she wondered if perhaps her destiny might be in nursing. Entering the hospital and summoning all her courage despite innate shyness, Ann was introduced to the superintendent of nurses, a short nun with black eyes that looked right through her. Taking a deep breath, Ann asked the superintendent if there might be a way she could become a nurse despite having no money to pay for the training. Much to her astonishment, the woman told Ann that she could attend nursing school and repay the hospital after graduation. After several years of nursing, she became intrigued by a fascinating and prestigious career just then opening to attractive young women: airline stewardess. Ann graduated from stewardess school on February 10, 1941, and joined American Airlines. One day, while flying aboard one of AA’s magical 21-passenger DC-3s, she met Captain William Cheney, a pilot during World War II, and life took another surprising turn. Ann and Bill were married in March of 1942.

After the war, the couple returned to Bill’s hometown in southern California, and started life together anew. She began her creative career in oil painting, china painting, then moved to such diverse pursuits as dress design and making. Ann’s most cherished painting is a large mural-like reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” painted on imported Italian tile, which is headed to the Billy Graham Association in honor of Billy Graham. After her first marriage ended, at age fifty-one Ann met and fell in love with Walter Brooks, former Santa Ana councilman, and they married on September 27, 1969. Their mutual love of travel and beagles—and their strong faith in Christ—lasted until Walter’s death in May 1991. Ann always believed in giving back to the community in which she lived, and she supported, participated in and stayed informed on political issues. Ann believed in letting her voice be heard. She was honored to meet Presidents Nixon, Reagan, both George Bushes, First Lady Laura Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and many others. Ann’s love of faith, family, friends, community and country will be remembered and treasured in the hearts of all who knew and loved her. Vaya con Dios, Ann—Go with God.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Brooks family.


23 October

Memorial Service

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Fairhaven Memorial Park Mortuary

Waverly Chapel

1702 Fairhaven Avenue
Santa Ana, CA 92705


  • Reception following at the Waverley Gallery


Martha Ann Brooks

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