An active member of the now defunct Canadian Negro Women’s Association (CANEWA) and the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) has passed away.
Phyllis Brooks, who sat on the CANEWA scholarship committee and served as a hostess in a ceremony welcoming newcomers to Canada, died suddenly at home last Sunday. She was 85.
Brooks was one of several community stalwarts that the OBHS honoured five weeks ago at its annual Black History Month kick-off celebration.
“Phyllis was one of those quiet and hard-working individuals who was a lover of books and very dedicated to the promotion of education,” said OBHS president Rosemary Sadlier. “She was held in high esteem here and back in Bermuda where she and fellow Bermudan, Millicent Burgess, made the front page of the local Royal Gazette daily paper after they received their OBHS awards last January.”
Brooks came to Toronto in 1945 on a Bermuda government two-year scholarship to pursue studies at Toronto Teachers College and the University of Toronto. While studying here, she met and became engaged to Windsor-born Wilson Brooks who had returned from the Second World War as one of Canada’s first Black flying officers.
The scholarship terms required Brooks to return to Bermuda to teach for three years. Wilson joined her and they got married in the Caribbean before coming back to Toronto in 1950 to settle and raise their four children. The couple later divorced and Wilson, who went on to become the city’s first Black school principal, died in April 1994.
Phyllis Brooks was employed as a nursery school worker at the Home Service Association and the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, and as a Children’s Aid Society social worker before returning to U of T to obtain an English degree in 1970.
She served as teacher-librarian with the then Toronto Board of Education for two decades before retiring.
In addition to CANEWA and the OBHS, she was also a member of the U of T Women’s Club, the Toronto Teachers Librarians’ Association and the Bermuda Canadian Association.
By RON FANFAIR