Esther P. Brooks, a longtime office manager and secretary at Sharon Baptist Church, where she had been a member for 70 years, died June 27 of throat cancer at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. She was 83.
Esther Ann Patterson, the daughter of a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. laborer and homemaker mother, was born in Baltimore and raised in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood.
Mrs. Brooks, who was a 1944 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and the Cortez Peters Business School, also took courses at what is now Morgan State University and the Community College of Baltimore.
She worked as a secretary for an insurance company and later joined the staff of the Afro American newspaper during the 1950s.
"They even taught her how to operate a Linotype machine," said her sister, Lillian P. Taylor, who lives in Ednor Gardens.
It was while working as a secretary at Fleming Elementary School in Dundalk that she met and married Howard Lee Brooks, a teacher.
The couple, who were married for nearly 30 years, lived on Calloway Avenue until Mr. Brooks died in 1979.
For the past 20 years, Mrs. Brooks had lived at Winthrop House condominiums in Guilford.
Mrs. Brooks, a member of Sharon Baptist Church since 1939, was elected assistant church clerk in 1944 and became clerk in the early 1950s.
In 1955, she became the church's office manager and a full-time secretary, and held those positions for the next three decades, when she stepped down and returned to being church clerk.
Very little transpired at Sharon Baptist in the intervening decades that didn't reflect Mrs. Brooks' organizational skills, interest, or touch, from serving on committees or helping to arrange weddings, funerals, baptisms, church suppers and making sure the church was decorated for holidays.
"She did a little of everything here except preach," said Virginia Hunt, the current secretary and longtime friend, who worked for years alongside Mrs. Brooks.
In the 1950s, Mrs. Brooks was the founder and editor of the church bulletin. She was a charter member of the Ethel S. Quarles Church Life Circle and the Ronald Franklin Inspirational Choir.
She was a member of the Council of Music and the girls chorus and served as secretary and treasurer of the Constance H. Moore Memorial Scholarship Fund Inc. She also was a member of the Youth Adult Advisory Council, the Sharon Baptist Church board of trustees and the finance committee.
She was the first female church member selected to serve at the communion table and, since 1996, had been a member of the board of deacons.
"She was a beautiful person, and the key to her administrative abilities was her loyalty. Without a shadow of a doubt, she rendered a most valuable service to the church," said the Rev. Alfred C.D. Vaughn, pastor of Sharon Baptist.
"She was devoted to me and the work I was trying to do. In our nearly 125-year history, we have had four pastors, and Esther has served three of them," Mr. Vaughn said.
"She was always the key person and available at all times to the whole congregation. She was the kind of person that you wished you had 100 more of," he said.
He explained that Mrs. Brooks belonged to nearly every committee and auxiliary in the church, and "gave equally of her time and energy and shared her wisdom."
After Mrs. Brooks officially retired, she resumed her old job as church clerk.
"Esther still came to work and was always there. I knew I was still able to call upon her," Mr. Vaughn said. "She also visited the sick in hospitals and the shut-ins in their homes."
Mrs. Brooks' work earned her many awards and recognition, including a doctor of humane letters that was conferred upon her by Eastern Theological Seminary.
She enjoyed shopping and traveling.
Mr. Vaughn said that all of his church members have been "touched by her life and mourn her going."
Services for Mrs. Brooks will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at her church, 1373 N. Stricker St.
Also surviving are a brother, Howard E. Patterson of Baltimore; and many nieces and nephews.