OBITUARY

Phyllis Theodosia Brooks

December 21, 1926February 26, 2012

BROOKS, Phyllis T. (née Simmons) December 21, 1926 – February 26, 2012

Unexpectedly yet peacefully at home on Sunday, February 26, 2012. Beloved mother of Judy, Kim (Bob Bernhardt), Elaine and Paul (Dawn Freeman). Very sadly missed by her four grandchildren whom she cherished, and with whom she was a friend, Nicole, Kelsey (Matthew Small), Jordan and Carter. Loving sister to Albert Simmons (deceased), and Lillian Ridley (nee Simmons). Phyllis, a former Toronto Board of Education teacher-librarian, recently received the Harriet Tubman Award from the Ontario Black History Society in recognition of her many contributions to the lives of Black Torontonians through her years of volunteer contributions, including her early active involvement in the Canadian Negro Women’s Association. She will be missed for her ongoing work with her literacy class and as an active member of the Bermudian Canadian Relief Association. Always inquisitive, bright and beautiful Phyllis was renowned for appearing much younger than she was. From her arrival in Toronto at 19 on a scholarship to University of Toronto from Bermuda, Phyllis enriched the lives of many.

Family and friends may gather at the Giffen-Mack Scarborough Funeral Home and Cremation Centre, 4115 Lawrence Ave. E., West Hill (416) 281-6800 on Sunday March 4, 2012 from 2-4 & 6-8 pm. A funeral will be held at 11am, Monday March 5, 2012 at St. Margaret’s in the Pines Anglican Church 4130 Lawrence Avenue East, West Hill, Ontario M1E 2R8 (www.stmargaret-in-the-pines.ca) In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Bermudian Canadian Relief Association Inc. or Canadian Diabetes Association.

BIOGRAPHY OF PHYLLIS THEODOSIA BROOKS (NÉE SIMMONS)

Phyllis Brooks was born in Bermuda, December 21, 1926, to Albert and Louise Simmons. She was the middle child, with an older brother, Albert and younger sister Lillian.

She had a very successful academic experience at the Berkley Institute in Bermuda before receiving a scholarship, at age 19, to the University of Toronto where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts. During her studies in Toronto, Phyllis received her teaching qualifications, and met Wilson Brooks. They returned to Bermuda to be married, work and live for a couple of years. Shortly after their return to Canada, their first child of four Judy was born. Three more children Kim, Elaine and Paul were born later. Wilson and Phyllis were divorced in the early seventies.

During these family years, Phyllis volunteered with social justice organizations, such as the Canadian Negro Women’s Association (CANEWA), was a part of organizing community events advocating for social justice issues, fundraising and organized the first Calypso Carnival a precursor to Caribana, today’s Scotiabank, Caribbean Carnival Toronto. Mom, along with her fellow members joined and volunteered with the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) to make the OBHS what it is today. She also worked for the Children’s Aid Society as a social worker and as a nursery school teacher. Later, Phyllis continued her education garnering her Master’s in Education and Library Science qualifications.

Phyllis Brooks was an innovative public school teacher-librarian for over twenty years at the Toronto Public School Board (today’s Toronto District School Board). In a document recently found on her computer, we can experience, through her own words her love for teaching.

EIGHTEEN YEARS AS TEACHER-LIBRARIAN

“The most rewarding time of my teaching career was spent as teacher-librarian in Kensington Community School Library. The school was built in 1970, unique in its focus and design. Here, for eighteen years, I was in touch with all pupils from kindergarten to grade 8, including interaction with students from a classroom for alternative studies. At that time, the library at Kensington was simply beautiful! In this new school, the community (hence the school name) had had some input into some of the school's design. My library, as I thought of it rather possessively, had a log fireplace, air-conditioning, new carpeting, drapes, couches, television, new furniture etc. In addition it boasted a small office/kitchen with sink, counter space and a phone to the outside world independent of the general office phone. Believe me having a phone in the library of a Toronto public school was unheard of!

My program included working with all grades. Time tabling was a real challenge! Apart from reading and dramatizing stories to the children, the teachers and I, worked out definite projects with students. One year of library school and follow-up courses for teacher-librarians encouraged me to try innovative ideas outside the scope of most traditional library practice. My favourite project was a program called ''Friday Afternoon in the Library''. Each Friday, teachers signed up their classes for one of three sessions. The programs at various times included artists from the jazz community, eg. Pat Riccio and his jazz quintet to the music pupils from St. Christopher House, choirs from neighbouring school’s singers etc. Most of these guest artists performed gratis. The jazz group was funded through a special grant. Behind all this I had the support of a most co-operative and enthusiastic principal. He often did concerts himself with the help of his banjo as well as story-telling. At that time, Dan Hill was just beginning his career and through a family connection he was persuaded to perform in my library. I set up a guest book in which all of these artists signed their names. This guest book with all its wonderful signatures have been kept as a memento and record of visitors to the library.

I felt happy and fulfilled in this job. Everything from dramatizing “Three Billy Goats Gruff” to playing a card catalogue game with senior grades rounded out my week. After eighteen years I transferred to Park School where I staged school plays. These productions were videotaped, to mark another special time in my career. Maybe my grandchildren will tolerate seeing the taped shows whenever they ask what Gran did in her teaching career.” – Phyllis Brooks

In retirement, she found new pleasure in teaching, reading, and bowling. After retiring from teaching, Phyllis became involved in Adult Basic Literacy program as a volunteer. She was appreciated in this role and garnered a Literacy Volunteer award. Phyllis was an active member of the Bermuda Canadian Relief Association Inc. Being a grandmother was her most loved role. She found deep satisfaction taking care of her grandchildren and developing supportive and lasting relationships with Nicole, Kelsey, Jordan and Carter. Within these relationships she was energized by their activities and successes.

Her own successes continued throughout her years. At the 25th Annual Kick-Off Brunch of the Ontario Black History Society, Sunday, January 29, 2012, Phyllis received the Harriet Tubman Award for her life-long community service.

PRECIOUS MEMORIES OF MY/OUR MOTHER - PHYLLIS T. BROOKS (NÉE SIMMONS)

“As a child I thought living a good life meant having food, laughter, and my mother’s quiet strength to lean against” Maya Angelou

Mom was born in Bermuda on December 21, 1926 to Albert Simmons and Louise Williams Simmons. She was raised in a tight-knit community with her older brother Albert and her younger sister, Lillian.

My siblings and I were raised by a mother who valued family, contribution to community, the spiritual side of life and education; at the same time, ensuring that we were gracious, polite and kind. We were assured and knew that whatever happened, we would be loved and supported throughout our lives. I tested that support and patience with my mother many times, she could get irritated, we would argue, I could get irritated with her; yet, I always knew she would be there for me.

The other side of my mother was her wicked sense of humour, her amazing smile and her laughter; she could deal with a good joke any time of day, she had a voracious appetite for reading books, especially good literature and mysteries, she shared her love of music, jazz, classical and a little Rhythm and Blues – my mother, when moved, could ‘get down” with all of us.

My mother was my first political activist, she taught me by example, about social justice issues through her actions, her sense of community and what she felt was important and should be valued. I recall holding her hand, as a very young girl, walking around Maple Leaf Gardens as she and members of the Black and Jewish communities, marched and protested against Governor George Wallace speaking in Maple Leaf Gardens, he had been sponsored by a Toronto service club. What a woman!

She was also my first example of a woman who was determined to be strong and independent, and was a committed, supportive and loving individual of family, friends and her community. She was an elegant woman who made sure she was dressed properly at all times, wanted to make sure her hair and makeup were in order and loved seeing her children and grandchildren ‘dressed up’.

She was a very bright and inquisitive person who wanted to explore thoughts, ideas and politics – She was very aware and interested in the current political climate, globally and locally and the associated discussion and debates. The night before she died, we sat in her living room and discussed the current Mayor and the firing of the TTC general manager – Mom was not impressed.

She loved her family and thoroughly enjoyed her monthly excursions with her granddaughters, seeing her grandson play hockey and always asked them about their grades. It was a ritual to call ‘Gran’ and let her know what the most recent marks were. She encouraged, she supported and she loved. She was proud of her sister, her children, her son-in-law and daughter-in-law, her grandchildren, her grandson-in-law, her nieces, their children and the many members of her extended family in Toronto and Bermuda.

Mom was very accomplished, played piano, sang in choirs and finished her Masters degree in Education and qualifications in Library Science. She had a wonderful career at the Toronto District School Board as a Teacher-Librarian, at Kensington Community School Library and Park Public School, now known as Nelson Mandela Park Public School.

This year she was quite proud that she passed her driver’s license, although very concerned that she might not. She called all of us and said ‘I did it.” We were equally proud of her; she was deeply loved and will be deeply missed.

Rest in Peace, my beautiful mother. Love, Judy Bx

Services

  • Visitation Sunday, March 4, 2012
  • Visitation Sunday, March 4, 2012
  • Funeral Service Monday, March 5, 2012
REMEMBERING

Phyllis Theodosia Brooks

have a memory or condolence to add?

ADD A MEMORY
Marilyn Brewer

March 22, 2012

Dear Lillian,
I have lovely memories of the day I met Phyllis when she was visiting you in Pennsylvania. What a truly lovely lady, and very dear sister and friend she was to you and Albert.

christine kelly

March 22, 2012

my dad and wilson brooks were friends. whether they grew up together in windsor or met during the war, I don't recall. when i came to toronto to attend school at the ripe old age of eighteen,you know-that time of life when we know everything,wilson and phyllis, invited me for supper. They lived in an upstairs flat near the corner of spadina and college. although it was close to the university, it was across the street from the old scott tavern-which is possibly still there. old drinking places never die! and I felt
nervous. I needn't have. They immediately made me feel at home.
I will always remember their hospitality especially Phyllis'. She was a great cook.
Christine Kelly, toronto

March 14, 2012

Judy, Elaine and family. Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of your lovely mother. I will always remember her vigour, boundless energy and her smile. My thoughts are with you.
Sincerely,
Glace Lawrence (Vancouver, BC)

Annette Noronha

March 12, 2012

Dear Judy and family, Sharon told me about your mothers' passing, I'm so sorry to hear about yours and your family's loss. I only met your mother once and she was completely delightful - very sweet with a great sense of humour; I will remember her fondly.

Love and hugs

Yola Grant

March 9, 2012

To the Brooks family,

Your loss is profound and we share in your time of grief.
-Ena & Lionel Grant, Ruth & Phillip Knox

March 8, 2012

Dear Judy, and the whole Brooks family,
My deepest sympathy for your loss, you are in my thoughts and prayers.
- Margaret Cappa

Adrienne Tyson

March 8, 2012

Dear Mrs. Brooks,
I was a student at Kensington Community School in the mid 70's. Thank-you for "Friday Afternoons in the Library", thank-you for playing the piano for the choir, thank-you for introducing me to Ezra Jack-Keats, Strega Nona, and Tikki Tikki Tambo. I have fond memories of you sitting in your rocking chair reading your favourite books which I now read to my own children. Kensington really was a magical place. As Mr. Brown, our Principal used to sing...."if we could consider each other, a neighbour, a friend, or a brother. It could be a wonderful wonderful world. It could be a wonderful world." And it really was. Thanks to you.
Adrienne Tyson (former Kensington student-Toronto)

Charis Newton-Thompson

March 7, 2012

To Judy, your siblings and other family members please accept my deepest sympathies in the death of your mother. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time.

March 6, 2012

To the relatives and friends of Phyllis Brooks,
We share your shock and sadness at the sudden death of Phyllis. I met her first as a Music Consultant visiting elementary schools and was greatly impressed with her work at Kensington P.S., particularly the weekly special programmes she organized with celebrity guests. I had known Wilson well as my Vice-principal at Queen Alexandra P. S. and some 40 years later when he became the co-founder of the Toronto Choristers and asked me to conduct those wonderful singers -- including himself -- which i did for 15 years.

My wife, Ruth, and I were pleased to see and speak with Phyllis again after the recent concert by the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, featuring our mutual friend, Larry Hill. To have seen her so close to the end makes her death even more poignant and difficult to bear. Our condolences to all members of her family and her many friends. We will all miss her presence in the future.

Pearl Eliadis

March 6, 2012

Dear Kim and family,

I never met your mom but I know from knowing you how important she was in your life and what it very difficult time this must be for you. I hope that the many expressions of love and kindness that I have seen here are a comfort to you and yours. Please accept my sincere sympathies.