Robert H. Brooks Jr., 27, electrician, Howard Co. auxiliary police officer

August 18, 2002|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Robert Henry Brooks Jr. of Pikesville, a master electrician in a family business who spent many happy Saturday nights patrolling Howard County as an auxiliary police officer, was electrocuted Wednesday in Stanley, Va. He was 27.

Mr. Brooks had gone to the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains to work on outdoor signs at several businesses owned by his grandfather, Emmett Brooks.

When the younger Mr. Brooks reached into one sign to change a light bulb, his hand apparently grazed a live wire, said his mother, Susan Brooks.

That he was in Virginia that day revealed much about him, said his mother. He had no jobs lined up at the family's Pikesville firm, Alger Electric Co. And he knew his grandfather's signs needed work.

"Come on, Granddad," he had said, practically begging to make the three-hour drive.

Born at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Mr. Brooks grew up in Pikesville in a close-knit family.

In 1993, he graduated from Pikesville High School and Western School of Technology, a vocational school in Catonsville.

"That boy was just plain noble," said Judy Koontz, who taught him ninth-grade English at Pikesville and grew close to him and his family. "He had a dignity that far exceeded his years; he had a goodness of spirit, and yet he was one of the guys."

He and his father, Robert H. Brooks Sr., were hot-rod enthusiasts who enjoyed working on a muscle car, Mrs. Brooks said. He cherished his bright-yellow 1923 Ford Bucket T, winning trophies at numerous hot-rod competitions.

Early on, it was apparent Mr. Brooks would become the fourth generation to work at Alger Electric. He began helping his father at age 12.

Yet "deep in his heart" he wanted to be a policeman, his mother said. But she did not want him to become a sworn officer, fearing for his safety, and he respected her wishes.

"I said, `Bob, I don't want you getting shot,'" Mrs. Brooks recalled. "Now a light bulb has killed him."

Instead, Mr. Brooks trained to become an auxiliary officer in Howard County. Twice a week, he donned a uniform and assisted police. He did not carry a gun or have arrest powers but he could aid stranded motorists and patrol the streets.

Two years ago, he followed a drunken driver from Howard County into Anne Arundel County, tracking him until a state trooper could arrest the man, his mother said.

Nothing kept him from his volunteer duty, not even his grandmother's annual Christmas supper. In 2000, he was named Howard Auxiliary Officer of the Year by the Police Department and the county Chamber of Commerce. He volunteered more than 2,000 hours after joining the program in 1996, the department said.

Police Chief Wayne Livesay called Mr. Brooks' death "a tragic loss" for the department and the people who benefited from his "professionalism, dedication and selflessness." The chief said, "Bob's commitment to volunteerism serves as an excellent example for all of us."

Mr. Brooks, who was single, became a master electrician last year, after graduating from a program run by the Associated Builders and Contractors.

"He's done a lot in his young age," Mrs. Brooks said.

Sometimes he went beyond electrical work. One of his customers was Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc. funeral home in Pikesville. After Sept. 11, it was Mr. Brooks who climbed into a crane to drape an American flag from the building's facade.

"He was a real nice young man," said owner Ira Levinson. "It's just really, really a shame."

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Levinson's, 8900 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to his parents and paternal grandfather, all of Pikesville, he is survived by a brother, Brandon Brooks of Pikesville; two sisters, Kristen Cassaday of Pikesville and Suzanne Robertson of Jessup; his maternal grandfather, Vernon Leaf of Pikesville; a grandmother, Phyllis Gallion of Pikesville; a step-grandmother, Leola Brooks; and two great-grandmothers, Virginia Brooks of Stanley, Va., and Minnie McFadden of Parkton.

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