Like A Rock: Retired minister shares wisdom for Father’s Day

Retired pastor Earnest Brooks, a Gilroy resident and the father of three daughters, works on one of the trees he creates from wire and coquina rocks.

When retired pastor Earnest Brooks receives a box of rocks for Father’s Day, he’s a happy man. As he puts it, “I’m probably the only man around who gets a box of rocks for Father’s Day and appreciates them!”That’s because they’re Coquina rocks, collected on a Florida beach by Earnest’s middle daughter, Carol, along with husband, Jeff, and their daughter, Hailey, a student at the University of Denver.
Coquina, a beautiful sedimentary rock composed mainly of shell fragments, serves as the foundation for many of the intricate wire trees that Earnest has crafted for the past 40-plus years. But Earnest’s trees are just one facet of a life characterized by a fullness of spirit.
Father, grandfather, husband, pastor, artist and gourmet cook all describe Earnest, but he believes the best work he and JoAnne, his wife of 55 years, have ever done is raised their children. For this reason, he celebrates his kids on Father’s Day just as they celebrate him.
“Father’s Day is not a time for me to celebrate being a father, but for me to celebrate my children,” said the 19-year Gilroy resident.
With three daughters and two granddaughters to their credit, the Brooks have much to celebrate. Besides daughter Carol who lives in Florida, their other children live closer to home. Oldest daughter Nina, a retired attorney, and her husband reside in San Carlos while youngest daughter Christine, a physician with her own consulting business, lives in Santa Cruz.
But granddaughter Katie, who will soon enter her senior year at George Washington University, is the reason Earnest and JoAnne finally moved west from South Carolina.  
“Nearly 3,000 miles was too far away if we wanted to be a part
of her life,” said Earnest, about the decision to relocate. He eventually settled into his role as head pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church of San Jose.
When the girls were growing up, the Brooks’ home was a gathering place for their daughters and friends. Sometimes their own children wouldn’t be home but their friends would still show up at the door on Friday nights, Earnest said. And over the years, the couple drew in others who became like their own children.
Dietmar, for example, a 19-year-old exchange student from Germany who stayed at the Brooks’ home for 18 months, still calls them Mom and Dad. That relationship has carried forward with annual visits from Dietmar, a physician in Germany who is now older than 50.
The youngest of five children, Earnest lost his own father when he was 10. To find work, the family migrated out of the mountains of North Carolina prior to the Depression. Describing his mother as “an amazing woman,” Earnest said she worked in a textile mill until after he graduated from college.
Earnest was the first of his family to graduate high school. Working from an early age, he was able to put himself through college, then seminary and graduate school.
Although he and JoAnne grew up only five miles apart, it wasn’t until college that they met and soon became inseparable. President of his sophomore class at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina, Earnest was responsible for freshman orientation and JoAnne, a freshman, wasn’t keen on wearing the required freshman beanies. So when Earnest came knocking on her door one Sunday evening and said, “Let’s take a walk,” JoAnne assumed he was there to admonish her for her rebellion against the beanie.
By the end of that walk, JoAnne knew she’d met her future husband. They married in 1960.
Now, 55 years and three daughters later, Earnest and JoAnne revealed the secret of their success in raising three daughters. They said every night the whole family sat down together for dinner, and each one listened, learned and shared every day during their lives together. Like the coquina rock, each of those precious moments helped lay the foundation for their happy family.
“We look at each other often and say, ‘Thank you, God,’” JoAnne said.
To purchase Earnest Brooks’ trees or for more information about his artwork, call him at (408) 242-1793.

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