Vernon Albert Brooks
Published: Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
Vernon Albert Brooks, a member of the pioneering ranching family that homesteaded more than 200 acres northeast of Windsor in the 1850s, died Jan. 10 in Santa Rosa after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 74.
Born in Healdsburg to Alice and Albert Brooks on Jan. 26, 1938, Vernon was one of six siblings.
He graduated from Healdsburg High School in 1956 and immediately went to work on the family ranch, raising sheep and cattle and eventually growing wine grapes.
After graduation, Brooks was introduced to the former Frances Bertacco at a coffee shop in Santa Rosa. The pair were married and recently celebrated their 52nd anniversary.
In 1969, Brooks became a general contractor and established his own business, with Frances Brooks doing the books. He built custom homes, light commercial buildings and water storage tanks.
“He was a general contractor for 25 years,” she said.
Brooks built the family home, crafting floors from walnut, mahogany and manzanita.
“My hardwood floors in my house, he milled out of trees,” Frances Brooks said. “He was very handy.”
On weekends, nights, early mornings — whenever he could break free — Brooks spent time on his land.
“His great-grandfather came on the Oregon Trail and homesteaded here,” Frances Brooks said. “It’s been in the Brooks family ever since. My grandchildren live on the ranch, and they are the sixth generation to live here.
“His sisters, they all live on the ranch.”
Brooks Elementary School in Windsor and Brooks Road north of town are named for the pioneering family.
In the late 1980s, he planted 18 acres of cabernet and sangiovese grapes.
“That was his love,” Frances Brooks said.
When he wasn’t working time on the property, Brooks spent time with his family at regular outings on Lake Pillsbury, traveling in his RV or seeing far corners of the world, his wife said.
The pair visited Italy, Australia, England, Ireland, Mexico and much of the United States. New Zealand was a favorite, she said.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” she said. “I think there are more sheep than people there.”
Frances Brooks said her husband was generally a quiet man but “a hard worker, a good guy.”
In addition to his wife, Brooks is survived by his daughters, Lynette Vann of Windsor and Sherry Brooks of Santa Rosa; sisters Carole Rombeiro, Marilyn Bolman and Janet George, all of Windsor; brother Wesley Brooks of Windsor; and three grandchildren.
No services are planned. Donations in Brooks’ name can be made to Alzheimer’s Association by visiting alz.org.
— Kerry Benefield
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