101 and Counting

Still feisty, still quilting

By Tasion Kwamilele

Standing, daughter, Lily Brooks-Toney, son, Frank Knight, and mother Helen Brooks.

Nowadays, just living to the age of 30 is like living a dream for some of today’s beleaguered generation. And when Helen Brooks celebrated 101 years, she realized that she had outlived her own dreams.
“I never thought about living this old. It just happened. I have enjoyed watching my children grow up,” said Mrs. Brooks
Mrs. Brooks was born on June 12, 1909 in Ennis Texas to the late Frank and Lilli Wiley Hendrix, the 7th born of ten girls. Only two of her siblings are still alive. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Home Economics from Prairie View A&M University in 1930.
“Growing up I did attend segregated schools but I never lived in a place where we couldn’t do anything because of the color of our skin. My father was just over protective,” said Mrs.  Brooks
She moved to Oakland from Fort Worth Texas in 1936 and married the late Clifford Brooks in 1939. In 1956, they moved to Hayward and converted a barn into a two story home which also served as the home for many antiques collected during their travel excursions to Italy, China, France, and Switzerland, Mexico and Alaska as well as various cruises around the world.
Helen’s ultimate fulfillment has come from quilting. When she was a little girl she witnessed her mother and grandmother piecing together quilts and years later she took up the craft.  Mrs. Brooks enjoyed the planning process which included selecting the right combination of patterns and hues.
“A quilt is only as pretty as its color,” says Mrs. Brooks. “It’s knowing that you can do something meaningful with your hands. Your hands can help make quilting meaningful”.
Mrs. Brooks is the mother of three children Frank Knight, Lily Brooks Toney, and Carl Brooks who died in 1980. Mrs. Brooks also has four grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.
“It is hard to believe she is 101 because she is till so feisty. I am just grateful that she is still with us and still active,” said Lily Brooks-Toney, daughter of Mrs. Brooks
“I have accomplished everything I wanted and more,” added Mrs. Brooks