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William Brooks Sr., 81 of Grand Rapids, MI passed away on March 12th, 2023, after succumbing to long term health issues.
William, affectionately known to family as Willie or Bill, was the youngest child of Lydia and Rosa Lee Brooks, born on October 31st, 1941, in East Chicago, Indiana, to a family of 4 brothers and 5 sisters, whom he loved and spoke of fondly.
He attended Baldwin Public Schools, earning his high school diploma while serving in the Army in 1959 and later earned an Associate’s degree from Grand Rapids Junior College. William excelled as a student and was admired by his peers. William served on the student council and aspired to study to become a pilot.
After high school William enlisted into the United States Army as his brothers before him. He served as a 2nd class gunner and a sharp shooter until his honorable discharge in 1961.
He married his former spouse, Bettye-Jean Allen in 1961 and they had two beautiful daughters.
William married his childhood sweetheart, Rose Catherine Treece in 1963, whose family also migrated from the south in the early 40’s and moved to Baldwin MI from East Chicago, Indiana. They started a family there, later relocating to Grand Rapids, MI. They had five beautiful children; four boys and one girl.
William’s love for jazz led him to begin learning to play keyboards and later drums. Anyone who knew him, knew his great love for jazz. His older children can recall him listening to his favorite artists; John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Elvin Jones, and Bill Evans non-stop- practicing for gigs, packing his drums, and the calls from his fellow musicians, of which they were all trained to answer, “Hello, Brooks residence, may I ask whose calling?” This was for good reasons, because William wore many hats to provide for his family.
Professionally he worked in various capacities, but some of his more memorable experiences were from his years in real estate in the 70’s during the discriminatory redlining era, working with the 1st black real estate brokers in Grand Rapids, West Realty and Al Scott of Scott realty, helping black families purchase homes. He also worked for United Way in the 70’s as a campaign director and was proud of the opportunity to meet and host the Olympian, Jessie Owens.
But his greatest passions were pursuing his business interests and jazz music. He invented a bike pack in the 80’s, receiving a patent for the design. He once rode from GR to Martin, MI and to Baldwin MI, to test out the durability of his bike pack design.
Throughout William’s life, some of his hobbies and pastimes included, motorcycling on the Harley-Davidson XLCH Sportster he owned as a young man, roller skating, water sports, reading books about black history and culture, and studying his bible. He especially enjoyed spending time with his family during the holidays and on vacations.
During the early years of his retirement, William and Rose took a cruise and enjoyed traveling around the United States. He also taught himself how to play guitar and spent time encouraging his grandchildren to pursue their educational, musical and entrepreneurial interests.
William was predeceased by his parents; 3 brothers, Edward, Charles, and Joseph; 2 sisters, Rose and Lillian; and his nephews who were more like cousins to him, Clarence Jones, Donald Bess, and Jerry Jones.
William is survived by his wife, Rose and their 5 children, William (Tracey) Brooks Jr., Barbara (Skot) Welch, Bryan (Maida) Brooks, Bertrand Brooks, and Bayard Brooks; his first wife, Betty, and their 2 children, Carolyn Burnee and Bonnie Brooks; his sisters, Alma (Walter-deceased) Jones, Barbara Tolbert, and Ollie-Mae Baker; 18 grandchildren; 7 great grandchildren; and a host of loving nephews, nieces, and cousins.
William will be remembered for his quick wit, playfulness, and love of banter, which was mostly good natured.
Visitation will take place on Thursday, March 23, 2023, from 12:00 (Noon) until 12:45 p.m., at Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, 3627 Linden Avenue S.E. at 36th Street (one block west of Eastern Avenue), Grand Rapids, where funeral services will be held at 1:00 p.m., followed by military honors rendered by the United States Army and Kent County Veterans Honor Guard. Bill will be laid to rest at Kent Memorial Gardens in Byron Township, Michigan. At the request of the family, there will be no repast after the service. The family is also asking that you refrain from visits to the home after the service. Please know that your presence at the memorial, along with prayers, cards, calls and shared memories are warmly received and appreciated.
To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign Bill’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit: www.MichiganCremation.com
Funeral arrangements are entrusted to Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Grand Rapids, 616-452-3006, exclusive providers of Veterans Funeral Care.
Let the family know you care by sharing this tribute.
One of my fondess memories of Uncle Willie is when me, Benny and Floyd would walk past Aunt Pat’s and Uncle Willie house on Kalamazoo St. on the way to or from Franklin Park as we lived on Prince St. Sometimes Donnie would join us. We would crack silly jokes, laugh, eat Aunt Pat’s homemade goodies and sometimes go for a ride on his motorcycle.
My first motorcycle ride was with Uncle Willie. I was scared but I felt safe and secure holding on to him. He had a way of making me feel everything would be alright.
I also remember seeing him and Aunt Pat rolling down the street in a convertible.
Yeah, Uncle Willie was so cool, beautiful wife, sporty car and that cherry favored tobacco in his pipe. No wonder he had that infectious smile!
I am looking forward to seeing you again on the other side. Until then know that I will miss you.
Love you and I am thankful we are in the same tribe.
Continued prayers to the family. I love you all.
I called Uncle Willie My Dad’s
BUT God blessed Uncle Willie with that UNIQUE, UNFORGETTABLE Voice! I can still hear his Laugh; and his Smile was INFECTIOUS!!❤️
I can’t mention him with out Aunt Pat!
It was always Aunt Pat and Uncle Willie!🥰
I loved to enter 450 Adams Street, where you get the, “You’re the Special One Greeting”! That greeting included, Genuine smiles Ear to Ear, and my favorite growing up, a cookie from the cookie jar!😋
Thank you Dear Lord for blessing me with such a dynamic family! I love my Uncle Willie! He will be missed!
Aunt Pat I love you! ❤️
You and the family remain in my thoughts and prayers! 🙏🏾
May God bless you with the peace that passes all understanding!