Beloved mother
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Dedicated to the Memory of Hortense Brooks, Beloved Mother

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By Shoshana Harris

I invite you to picture this: you lived through the great depression. You were an excellent student, graduating as salutatorian from high school. But hopes of going on to medical school were not to be realized, so instead you settled on becoming a secretary.

You married at the age of 19 and had your first child at 20. Your husband was away for the first five years of your marriage, serving in the army during World War II.

You raised your first-born child with the fear of not knowing if your husband would ever return home safely from the war.

Thankfully, the family was reunited at the end of the war, and you subsequently had two more children, a son and a daughter. When your sister became a single mother, you took in her son and daughter during the day so she could return to work. You now fed and nurtured five children.

In 1959, your husband was given a wonderful job opportunity, so you and the family moved from New York City to Baltimore. A whole new world opened up for the family and yourself. Once the two younger children were in middle school, you went to work as a legal secretary to help ensure that the children had enhanced educational opportunities.

For fun, you acted in “Hello Dolly” through the local PTA, and discovered your new voice, a time in your life that coincided with the woman’s lib movement. You wore your first mini skirt.

You also became politically active by joining a group called BARC, The Baltimore Association for Responsible Citizenship.

At the young age of 40, you became a first-time grandmother. A second one was born four years later. In due time, as your younger two children married and had children of their own, the family increased by four more grandchildren. Sunday dinners at Grammy’s became the highlight of the family week.

The years moved on and you felt it was time to downsize. Rather than stay in Baltimore, you decided to be adventuresome and relocate to the mid-West. A new job opportunity in the field of hospital administration presented itself to your son-in law and younger daughter. You covered a lot of ground and followed the family as they moved from Indiana and then to Ohio.

In your later years, you made the move from condo to an independent living/continuing care facility. Sadly, in 2009, your husband, Norman, passed away at the age of 90.

Soon after, you relocated to another retirement community called “Seasons” and experienced a second chance at love when you caught the eye of a recent widower. Enter “Marvelous Marv” Wick as he was known by our family. He was several years younger, but that did not stop both of you from not only falling in love, but also moving in together, and sharing a “commitment” ceremony. You were the darlings of Seasons.

Even though by now, you were legally blind from macular degeneration, required round-the-clock oxygen and could not hear very well, for the most part you maintained you core essence. You were resilient, with a feisty nature, a love of telling a salty joke and enjoyment of all things family related. Until the end, you enjoyed listening to a good book-on-tape, especially if it had a juicy plot. And your vocabulary continued to amaze your family, even one week before your passing.

As your children were all gathered around while you lay in your hospital bed, you suddenly had a beautiful look on your face. When we asked what you were thinking, you said, “I feel like a Dauphine.” Family members looked at each other and thought that surely they had misheard what you said. On a whim, we googled the word “Dauphine.” Sure enough, it meant a French royal princess. You were apparently feeling quite the family matriarch, like a queen surrounded by her loving and loyal family.

This is the way we will remember Hortense Brooks, born February 6, 1923, who passed away on New Year’s Eve, 2022: A long life well-lived.

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