Kingston, Jamaica — Leonard Brooks was the quintessential community man, the bastion of his rural district, and a consummate family man.
Such were the sentiments of people who turned out last Thursday to pay last respects to the man affectionately called Uncle Leonard.
Brooks died three days after his 90th birthday on July 25 — a milestone he vowed to reach a year ago at a birthday celebration at his hometown, Cornwall Mountain in Westmoreland.
At his Thanksgiving Service held at the Harbour View Moravian Church, mourners spoke of a man who lived a full and successful life, helping others without seeking reward.
Anyone who came in contact with Leonard Brooks left a different and better person was a constant comment from members of the congregation, as well as from the minister delivering the ceremony, Reverend Germaine Lovelace.
Rev Lovelace commented that he had to deliver Brooks' thanksgiving sermon as he was deeply impressed by his outlook on life. Brooks, who spent the latter part of his life in Harbour View, attended the Moravian Church there.
Residents of Cornwall Mountain and environs revered Brooks as someone who "contributed greatly to solving the island's housing crisis".
"In his time he built or assisted in building almost every house in Cornwall Mountain," declared one community member.
"A good craftsman and a carpenter by trade, he not only built houses, manufactured ironing-boards, veranda chairs, picture frames, coffins, tables, and chairs, but he taught many young men the trade, commented son Allan in delivering the remembrance.
Daughter, Lovelette, along with Allan, spoke of the man they grew up with and the strong family values he instilled in his nine children.
"There was a man by any measure," said Allan. "Big, tall and strong, more so a giant to he vertically challenged, a little boy".
Allen recalled that upon passing the Common Entrance Examination, one of many conversations with his father, including this question.
"What is it that you have and when you give it to others you must always keep it," his father asked.
"Disappointed that I couldn't give him the correct answer he said... your word boy, your word," recounted Allan.
"Still believing that he was searching for the answer, I surrendered, I don't know the word sir," Allan continued.
"He admonished, how come you pass scholarship and your head so thick? The answer is your word; whenever you give your word, you must always keep it".
Alan admitted that to this day, "I have had some success with that precept".
Daughter Lovelette spoke of her father as a great historian and teacher.
"We grew up knowing the largest country in Africa, the highest mountain in Jamaica and the world the longest river in the world," said Lovelette.
She added that her father was responsible for her early appreciation of geography which she went on to study at the master's level.
"He had a fair appreciation of world history and geography, but it was community history that he mastered," she said.
"He could trace the lineage of nearly every family in Cornwall Mountain and surrounding districts... he could tell an individual's family origin and the parish from which the family originated".
Leonard Brooks was interred at the Dovecot cemetery in St Catherine beside his wife Nellie, who predeceased him by some eight years.
He leaves behind children - Millie, Tillie, Joan, Allan Valrie, Ulette, Lovelette, Kareen, and Gessler — grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a host of telatives and friends.