He recalls seeing the opening of the Fort Hamilton Hospital with his mother. On occasion, he would work as a caddie at the Potter Park golf course, where he would earn 15 cents for carrying a golf bag for nine holes and 20 cents for 18 holes. He also worked as a paper carrier for the Hamilton Journal-News.
The Great Depression hit Hamilton hard, when Lyman Brooks was still in his teens, but still they persevered. He graduated near the end of the depression in 1938 from Taft High School, Hamilton’s high school at the time.
Brooks began work at Champion Papers in 1940, when he was paid 48 cents per hour. Soon after, he and his brother, Cameron, were drafted into World War II.
After training, Lyman Brooks was deployed to countries throughout Europe as a truck driver for the Fourth Engineer Special Brigade. Cameron Brooks would move up in military rankings to captain and fought on Omaha Beach as part of the 29th division of the 116th regiment on D-Day.
It was hard for Brooks to commit to his service because he didn’t believe in killing people as he was and is a devout Christian. Yet, he and his brother decided to go because they felt they needed to protect the country and loved ones.
The war proved to be a challenge for the brothers. Lyman Brooks did not fight on the front lines, but the sight of destruction and hungry people stick with him to the day. Cameron, to whom Lyman was very close, was wounded twice during the war. He was believed to be dead after being found lying near a pile of bodies.
Following the war, Brooks returned to Champion Paper, which he calls his “blessing of life.” Over his 43-year tenure at the company, which operated for 168 years, he served four years as the head supervisor of the production of drum products.
Having a good and honest family life has been a hugely important part of Brooks’ life, he said. He was married to his wife, Jean, for 68 years prior to her death in 2016. The two starting dating once Brooks returned from the war in 1946. They had four children together, and he has seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
He volunteered as a Sunday School teacher for many years and would often read the Bible to his children and grandchildren.
Granddaughter Sarah Halter remembers the time that Brooks sat down and told her daughter about his World War II memories, prior to a band trip to Hawaii for the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
“I was never one who spent much time on history, but hearing these things first hand from someone who I love and who lived through it was so special and fascinating,” Halter said.
Robyn Brooks describes her grandfather as a man of few words and an avid reader, but also with a surprising sense of humor.
“He randomly will write notes filled with humor or will deliver one-liners that can keep you laughing,” Robyn Brooks said. “Recently he asked what time I leave for work so he can pray for me during my drive.”
Brooks remains optimistic for the future of Hamilton and is especially impressed with the development of the coming Spooky Nook sports complex.
“I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been in my life, simply because of what is going down on Main Street,” Brooks said. “It’s just like a magnet that’s pulling in other businesses …. and people are bringing in their products into this town and hiring our people.”
The Woodlands of Hamilton, located at 896 Northwest Washington Boulevard, hosted a celebration of Lyman Brooks’ life on Friday afternoon.