LAURINBURG — Courageous. Uplifting. Kind. Strong.
Those words were echoed by those in attendance at Scotland High School’s auditorium on Wednesday as they remembered the life of Ricky Brooks.
After a 37-year career in secondary education, the majority of which was spent at Scotland, Brooks passed away on Aug. 10 at the age of 64.
Family members reminisced on the positivity Brooks displayed throughout his battle with Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s dementia, a fight that ultimately took his life. June Brooks, Ricky’s wife of more than 40 years, said that optimism was a trait he carried through good and bad times.
“He never walked away from you,” June said. “Even when he couldn’t speak, he’d say ‘I love you’.”
Ricky Brooks served as an educator, counselor, mentor, coach and driver’s education instructor throughout his career. He coached football, track, baseball and basketball at Scotland.
He graduated from Fairmont High School in 1972 before playing football at Chowan and Elon. Brooks graduated from Elon in 1976 with a degree in health and physical education. Eight years later, Elon recognized him with a Young Alumni Award after he helped establish the Children’s Transplant Association and advocated nationally for organ donation awareness.
He took on those initiatives after the death of his son, Joshua. Although that was a challenging time for the Brooks family, June said Ricky constantly turned to his faith as a way of alleviating their troubles.
“He armed himself with a kindness that is a higher kindness,” June said.
That kindness was evident throughout his career as well. Brooks was known for developing strong relationships with his players and students.
Norman Quick, who coached alongside Brooks for 30 years, said his colleague was one-of-a-kind.
“Ricky was always happy,” Quick said. “It was really easy to become friends because he was such a friendly person. We ended up being best friends for life.”
Quick, 56, now works at Carolina Forest High School in South Carolina.
“Everybody loved Ricky,” Quick said. “All the players, all the coaches. Anybody who he’s coached, he’s touched their lives. He’s that type of person.
“I’ve never heard anyone say a negative thing about him.”
Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin “Duke” Williams had Brooks as his positional coach from 1986 to 1987 when he was a defensive back for Scotland.
Williams said Brooks was a sincere and honest coach who expected his players to give him their best effort.
“He did not allow us to use our shortcomings as crutches,” Williams said.
There was one particular part of Brooks’ personality that stuck with Williams, even after Brooks retired from Scotland and finished his career at Marlboro High School in South Carolina.
“He had a smile that was infectious,” Williams said. “Nobody had a smile like Coach B.
“We’ll love this man forever.”
Even when Brooks was in hospice with months left to live, his cheeriness was still infectious. June said nurses often looked forward to spending time with him because they would walk out of Ricky’s room feeling “uplifted.”
The Rev. Laura Fine Ledford visited with Ricky and his family at his home near the end of his life. She said she was feeling discouraged at that time, but that changed after spending time with the Brooks family.
“In that moment by the bed, June and Ricky pastored me,” Ledford said.
Brandon Tester can be reached at [email protected] or 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.