Educator, public servant and activist Wadell Brooks Sr. of North Chicago dies; “His work has helped so many people” – Chicago Tribune

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Wadell Brooks Sr. of North Chicago gave his three children two “non-negotiable” rules when they were young – they would go to church every Sunday and they would go to college.

“No matter what else we were doing, we were making time for church,” Brooks’ daughter Cassandra said. “We had to go to university. There were no questions. No exceptions. It was all about education.

Brooks’ three children — Cassandra, Yolanda and Wadell Jr. — who are in their late 50s to early 60s, have seven degrees between them, successful careers and are all leaders in their respective churches.

“Life wouldn’t be worth much without one or the other,” said Cassandra Brooks. “He stressed that without God nothing would be possible. It is our faith in God that has kept our family together.

Brooks, who earned three degrees himself in a life dedicated to helping others as an educator, public servant and activist in numerous organizations including the NAACP and Urban League, died Monday of cancer. He was 89 years old.

Daisy, Brooks’ wife of 64 years, said faith and education were the foundation of the family. The professional success of his children and their continued involvement in their religion became the family legacy.

“It makes me feel like a very proud mom,” Daisy Brooks said.

Wadell Brooks Sr. was born January 20, 1933, in Lexington, Mississippi, and moved with his family at a young age to East St. Louis, where he was the first black graduate of East St. Louis High School.

Cassandra Brooks said schools in East St. Louis were desegregated just before the second semester of her father’s senior year. When he entered East St. Louis High, he was the only black student that semester.

After earning a business degree from what is now Illinois State University, Brooks joined the United States Army, where he served 16 months of his two years in Korea. In 1959 the Brooks family moved to North Chicago where he worked.

Initially working at the VA hospital at Naval Station Great Lakes as an educational therapist, Brooks held several positions with increasing responsibility at the hospital and then at the naval base.

Federal civil service jobs ranged from education specialist to director of housing, and eventually 11 years as deputy director of equal employment opportunities, retiring in 1990 after 35 years with the government , including his time in the military.

While working as a government employee, Brooks became involved with different organizations in the Waukegan and North Chicago area in the 1960s, including the NAACP, Urban League, Rotary International, and many others. .

Waukegan Township Administrator Percy Johnson said he met Brooks shortly after arriving in North Chicago. Johnson said Brooks’ mission is to improve people’s lives and engage them in their community.

“He was very compassionate and wanted everyone included,” Johnson said. “He was very dedicated. It was the way he lived his life. His work has helped so many people in the community. It thrived on involving people.

While still working for the government, Brooks and his wife opened Tots & Toddlers daycare for children ages 3 and up in North Chicago. Sensing a need for baby care in the area, Daisy Brooks said she sold Tots & Toddlers in 1979 and opened Daisy’s Baby Nursery the same year.

A few years after selling the nursery, Daisy Brooks said she and her husband opened the Daisy Resource and Development Center, also in north Chicago. It was a residential facility for girls ages 12 to 21 who were wards of the state. Vocational education and training was provided.

“The goal was to empower them,” said Daisy Brooks. “We had a school there. We taught cosmetology, computer science, childcare, so they could open their own center, English as a second language and nursing,” she added, referring to training programs. professional.

Daisy Brooks said the center was closed in 2016 when the state withdrew its funding.

While Brooks’ children were growing up, Cassandra said her father insisted that they learn to play the piano and later choose another instrument so that “we’re well-balanced.” There were many band concerts. Waddell Brooks, Jr., said their father never missed one.

“He was always in the audience,” the son said. “I was so proud he was there. He was cheering for us.

Among Brooks’ accomplishments, Cassandra said he had a weekly radio show on WKRS in Waukegan, which continued until he fell ill with cancer.

In addition to his wife and children, Brooks, who was an only child, is also survived by his stepdaughter, Pamela, and two grandchildren.

The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Shiloh Baptist Church of Waukegan, 800 South Genesee St. Visitation begins at 9 a.m. at the church, with interment after the service at Northshore Garden of Memories Cemetery in North Chicago.

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