McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Features

June 27, 2014

Lifetime of moments

STUART — Mattie Brooks, of Stuart, continues to amaze her family and friends with her energy and cheerful attitude at 102.

When recently asked about her longevity, Brooks gave credit to God.

“It is in the hands of the Lord,” she said.

She is a member of the Church of Christ at Stuart.

She has witnessed the explosion of modern inventions — air conditioned homes and vehicles, microwave ovens, automatic washers and dryers, computers and internet. Many of those items she embraced with open arms.

Hard work is something Brooks knows well. She recalls as a child helping her parents on the farm raising large gardens, milking cows and butchering hogs in the fall.

Later, she supported her husband in his occupation as a carpenter in addition to raising corn and maize crops and cattle. They also raised milk cows and sold cream. She also worked several years at Seampruf clothing manufacturing in McAlester and picked grapes in the vineyards of California.

Life was not all work.

Brooks loves quilting — an art that was both practical and beautiful. Each quilt block is hand-stitched and pieced together to form a quilt top. Each winter she would set up her old-fashion quilting frame in the living room. At night, she would quilt the layers of quilt top, cotton batting and cotton backing together.

In the beginning, Brooks’ quilts were made out of need to keep her family warm at night. Later she began sharing her quilts with family. As her grandchildren and great-grandchildren married, each was presented a quilt.

This past Christmas, she continued her tradition of making sugar cookies as gifts for her grandchildren. She also assists her niece, Dora Lee Kitchens, in making Christmas candy each year. Brooks’ yeast rolls, hot out of the oven, are snatched by more than one of her family members as they visit the kitchen before dinner. Church dinners are not complete without her oven-fried potatoes.

Just as cooking has always been one of Brooks’ many talents, she enjoys growing vegetables each summer.

“I always enjoyed planting a garden,” she recently told one of her grandchildren.

At 99, Brooks was still operating a garden tiller. Although she no longer plants a garden, she can’t resist taking an interest in gardens planted by her daughter-in-law, Wynema Brooks, and grandson, Delton Tollett.

The youngest of four children, Mattie Brooks was born Dec. 9, 1911, in Konawa to William Alto and Emma Lee West Watkins.

“Mama said it was extremely cold the night I was born,” said Brooks.

As an infant, Brooks and her family left Konawa. They loaded a wagon pulled by a team of horses, forded the Canadian River and headed for Pittsburg County.

A farmer by trade, her father William Watkins quickly settled his family in the Cabiness area.

Brooks attended school at Stuart and Haywood before finishing her formal education with the eighth grade at White Chimney.

Brooks was about 10 years old when her family moved to Stuart. Her father owned a Meat Market on the main street of Stuart. This was to become one of the worst times of Brooks’ young life.

“Papa made the store deposit at the bank at the end of the week,” she said. “The next morning the bank didn’t open.”

The bank went out of business, taking its depositors money with it.

“Papa couldn’t pay his bills for the store or order more supplies. He had to shut down the store.”

Her life, like many others her age, has been filled with joy and sadness.

Brooks was only 16 years old when she married Elihu Carl Brooks on Jan. 21, 1928, in Calvin.

Their daughter, Mildred Brooks DeWeese, died in 1983; and son, Leroy Carl Brooks, died in 1994. Elihu Carl Brooks died in 1973.

Brooks also lost a granddaughter, Wanda DeWeese Nealon, in 1989.

Helping keep Brooks stay young are her great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. She regularly attends grade school plays, softball games, watches cartoons with her 4-year-old great-great-grandsons. She also plays Little Tyke basketball with the boys.

Brooks’ daughter-in-law, Wynema Brooks, lives in Stuart; and son-in-law, Loyd DeWeese, lives in McAlester. Her grandchildren include Delton and Brenda Tollett, Les and Kareen Brooks, Malaya Brooks, all of Stuart, Wayne DeWeese, Crowder; Bruce and Karen Clemons, Florida, and Pat Nealon, of Texas. Great-grandchildren are Jarrod and Jennifer Tollett and Les Brooks, all of Ada; Janet and Bryan Hale, of Stuart; Bryan and Johanna Clemons, and Krista Clemons, all of Florida; and Heath and Rebecca Roberie, of Austin, Texas. Great-great-grandchildren are Baylee Hale, Breana Hale, Brooks Hale and Blayne Hale, all of Stuart; Evelyn Tollett, of Ada, and Alex Roberie, of Austin, Texas.

Brenda Tollet is the Lifestyles editor at The Ada News.

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