At the prayer service on Thursday, February 4th, lifelong friend, Jerry Hope, reflected on what Jerry Brooks meant to him.
Jerry Brooks was born on May 19, 1947 and left us on February 2, 2016.
Husband, Father, Uncle, surrogate Grandfather, Best Friend; these are just a few titles that Jerry gathered throughout his life. These are the titles that meant the most to him. He was my Best Friend. But I didn’t have an exclusive right to that relationship. Jerry was the type of man that drew others to him. He was “Best Friend” of countless people. They say that engineers are characteristically driven by data only, and have a dry personality. Not so with Jerry! If I think of words that describe him, ones that come to mind include warm, engaging, authentic, caring, helpful, and funny. No one liked a joke more than Jerry; and they were all rated “G”. When he told a story everyone had a big smile. Jerry had the biggest! I think he enjoyed telling his stories so much; he was entertained as much or more than his audience.
Nobody left an encounter with Jerry not feeling better for it. He just had that knack. He was a problem solver with a warm delivery. He had an insatiable curiosity. If I ever asked Jerry a question, within minutes I would be overwhelmed with articles, web links and many other sources to reference.
Thanks be to God that he and Denise had an opportunity for “A once in a lifetime” European river cruise just this past August. Judy and I were fortunate enough to join them for that vacation. I had the chance to see how excited he was with every little part of that trip. In typical Jerry fashion, he had researched every village and city stop on our itinerary. He was absolutely overflowing with enthusiasm, and it was infectious. No matter how many Churches and Castles we saw, his excitement never waned. There never seemed to be a topic that Jerry couldn’t be enthused about. He was filled with energy and an inquisitive mind.
You know, he taught me a lot about life and what really mattered. Jerry was Vice President of Engineering for NSK when I first met him 20 years ago. During that time he was promoted to president of NSK’s Steering Systems, a $500 million dollar business. No doubt he was proud of those accomplishments. But when he talked about his family that was what mattered to him. Their annual trip to Torch Lake was a gathering of extended family that had gone on since his kids were small. I stopped at Torch Lake a couple of times and got to see firsthand what that meant to him; how much unbelievable love they had for each other. Not to mention how much fun they had. He was really proud of his lifetime friends from High School and those in his Card Club. Through his eyes I learned his values and they strengthened me. He taught me these things. If we talked politics, he never got into heated debates about who was good or bad, right or wrong. What he cared about was Social Justice and a deep sense of responsibility for our fellow man. He truly believed that we are our Brother’s keeper and we needed to find ways one man can make a difference. And he was successful doing that.
Jerry was a good man, a responsible man, a man of faith. That is why although he has left a terrible hole in my heart, I will fill that with the best memories along with the assurance that he has reached his eternal reward with the God he prayed to all the days of his earthly life. And you know what? I can’t but imagine how busy he is up there right now. I am sure he has formed a continuous improvement committee and has already made several recommendations to God for changes that would improve things. That’s just the way he was.
He got his private pilot’s license at a very early age and I believe I hear him saying “Come fly with me!” Jerry wouldn’t want us to grieve too long, but to be happy and encouraged that he is indeed right where he belongs. For that reason, Denise has asked that I read the following poem . . .
“He is Gone” by David Harkin.
He is Gone
He is Gone
You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him,
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone,
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what he would want; smile, open your eyes, love and go on.