John Jacob "Jack" Brooks, III
03/15/1935 - 10/14/2022
Sue Coleman Brooks
04/30/1936 - 10/20/2022
Jack Brooks and his beloved wife Sue Coleman Brooks entered the Kingdom of Heaven within days of one another in Baton Rouge, LA. Their shared life was a joyful example of devotion to their family, the community, and the Church. A much-beloved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend, Sue’s life is a chronicle of love, family, faith, loving-kindness, and friendship. Words hardly begin to describe it. The second daughter born to Kathryn (Graham) and Leo Michael Coleman on April 30, 1936, in Kansas City, Missouri, Sue Coleman soon moved with her family to Ponca City, Oklahoma and then to Houston, Texas, where she and her sister Kathy attended St. Anne’s Catholic School. It was, however, after the move to Maplewood, Louisiana that the Coleman family kicked into high gear. Sue was in her element in a town filled with little kids and teenagers, and she and her sister Kathy made the most of the opportunities available to them. They were enrolled at Saint Charles Academy in Lake Charles, but Sue’s heart was in Maplewood, and she did her best to keep her parents from moving from this Mayberry-like town to Lake Charles.
Yet this move brought new possibilities. Sue played trumpet in the school band at Saint Charles, and her circle of friends quickly expanded now that she was on their home turf. She sang in the school choir, competed in a trumpet trio at the McNeese Music Festival, and was a social butterfly, forming bonds of friendship that lasted her entire life.
Sue’s trumpet-playing experience landed her a place in the McNeese marching band, and it was there that she met Jack Brooks, a clarinetist, who became her husband of 62 years. Band trips to play for out-of-town football games and singing duets with Kathy for the school’s dance band were highlights of life at McNeese.
Sue regaled the family with stories of the day— filled with the witticisms of this new bunch of friends that gravitated toward that pretty, blue-eyed redhead. As one good friend of hers said: “She spread her net very wide,” and, in doing so, caught more friends than can be counted. This magnificent habit continued throughout her life.
Sue and Jack married in 1960, and in 1962 welcomed their first child, Susan. The other children, Marilyn, Alison, and John, followed in short order, offering abundant possibilities for Sue and Jack to act as coach, principal cheerleader, chauffeur, chaperone, homework drill sergeant, and all-around proud parents. They never missed a game, a play, or a recital. Love and laughter were the two main ingredients in the Brooks household.
Once the children were all in school, Sue ventured back into the working world, first as a buyer at St. Patrick Hospital and then as a purchasing agent/expediter at Olin. Her fame among the vendors she communicated with was testified to on the day that one of the 18-wheelers that she had guided from point A to point B at Olin drove into the plant parking lot with a big sign on its tail end: “Sue Brooks gets the job done!” That should have been her motto for life.
A “cradle Catholic,” Sue’s faith was unshakeable, but not blind. She knew and understood what she believed, and her good works were grounded in prayer. She was several people’s “guardian angel,” and continually found new ways to bring light to those most in need. Music again played a major role, as she was a cantor at St. Margaret of Scotland, and a member of the choir at Immaculate Conception Cathedral for almost sixty years. Her outreach included starting an annual Christmas Party at the St. Martin de Porres nursing home, singing with and then directing the Liberty Belles during their rounds to rest homes, bringing the Eucharist to shut-ins, baking for and often coordinating Altar Society fundraisers, caring for the church’s altar linens, serving on the local board of Habitat for Humanity and helping to build houses for that group. Sue was also a long-time and faithful member of the G.N.A.T.S. prayer and Scripture Study circle at the Cathedral.
Over the last thirty years, Sue and her younger sister Ann became a dynamic duo, easily recognizable wherever they went by their distinctive, frequent, and loud laughter. They were best friends as much as they were sisters, and when Sue and Jack moved two doors down from Ann and her husband John Romero, the bond only strengthened.
Sue and Jack handed their abundant faith down to their children and grandchildren, their greatest joy. In both mystical and human ways, their life together was surrounded by that “cloud of witnesses” embracing them with love and affection.
Jack Brooks was born and grew up in Oakdale, the son of John and Ruth Brooks, with his brothers, John David and Robert, and his lifelong friends including Cornie Moon. They played in the back alleys, walking the sidewalks and knowing all the neighbors. If that sounds idyllic, it’s because it was. They attended Oakdale High School which meant that the teachers and parents knew each other. They were friends and kept an eye on everybody. Jack loved to reminisce about his teachers, the parades and half-time shows he marched in as a member of the marching band, and the community. There was a wealth of fond memories.
Jack was a natural leader who was loved and respected by all who knew him. He was an accomplished musician. He was the student director of the High School band, played saxophone and clarinet, and sang in the school choir. He later used his musical ability to play in the marching and dance bands at McNeese, where he first met Sue Coleman, who was to become his wife.
One of Jack’s favorite stories was “The Great Deer Hunt.” Arriving in Oakdale, hours before daylight, drinking coffee until daylight with the guides, picking up the deerhounds, shown to their “stand” which was standing next to a tree and waiting for the deer to run by…never seeing a live deer. They then returned home.
Not having learned his lesson, Jack then attempted “The Great Dove Hunt” which consisted of walking through a rice field, bagging one bird and then returning to town, sitting in an air-conditioned restaurant and telling stories and laughing the rest of the day. Sue later recalled Jack returned with his one feathered bird wrapped in foil and pitched it into the freezer.
Jack loved WWII history. This probably is because he grew up during the war years and talked to many soldiers, saw their weapons, equipment, vehicles, and aircraft. This left an indelible impression on second, third and fourth graders. They were his heroes.
Jack and Sue were friends long before they began dating, and this friendship sustained them throughout their 62 years of marriage. When Jack graduated from McNeese he went to work for Conoco and persevered through its many iterations, retiring from Vista Chemical after 40 years of service.
But Jack was not motivated by work. The center of his universe was his family. The proud father of four children, Susan, Marilyn, Alison and John, Jack was a constant presence in their lives, coaching teams, chaperoning dances, attending plays and recitals, and being the “soft touch” parent in the household. He was the one the children asked for when they had to deliver unwelcome news, usually that they had dropped a class at LSU. He’d say, “Honey, I’m sure you know what’s best” and then say, “Here’s your mother.”
Jack’s devotion to his family was equaled by his devotion to the Church. A Catholic convert, he dove into it with the zeal of a convert, serving in many different capacities. Jack was a member of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church, where he served as a lector, Eucharistic minister to shut-ins, trustee, parish council president and member, finance council chairman and member, and was the delegate from Lake Charles to the Diocese of Lafayette prior to the formation of the Diocese of Lake Charles. He also serviced on the Diocesan school board, the St. Louis Catholic High School board, and he was instrumental in the creation of the Saint Charles Retreat Center, and in retirement went daily to act as the receptionist.
Sue and Jack are survived by their four children, Susan Brooks, Marilyn (Karl) Watlington, Alison (Matthew) Nodier, and John (Claudia) Brooks, Sue’s sister, Ann Coleman (John) Romero, and six grandchildren.
With Sue’s parents and sister and Jack’s parents and brothers awaiting them with open arms, they are sure to be greeted by Our Heavenly Father with those welcoming words: “Well done, good and faithful servants; come and share your Master’s happiness.
The family wishes to thank the many friends and loved ones who have supported them in countless ways throughout their lives, but especially during the past few weeks, including wonderful Gail Spencer, who provided such loving care to Sue, Jack, and the family this year. They also are grateful to the staff of the Lafayette General Medical Center ICU and St. Joseph’s Hospice in Baton Rouge for their attentive and sensitive care. The family is forever in their debt.
A Funeral Mass will be celebrated for Jack and Sue at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception on Saturday, October 29, 2022 at 11:00 am. Monsignor Harry Greig will officiate. The visitation and prayer service will be at Johnson Funeral Home on Friday, October 28, 2022 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. Interment services will be at Consolata Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the St. Charles Retreat Center or Catholic Charities .