We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Driskill Memorial Chapel
Mary Ellen Brooks 84, of Mt. Vernon, Oregon, passed away May 20, 2022, at her residence. A graveside ceremony, with vault interment, was held on Friday, June 3rd at the Canyon City Cemetery, followed by a Memorial Service at the Grant County Fairgrounds Pavilion with Mitch Mund officiating.
Mary Ellen was born May 18, 1938, in Portland, Oregon to Harold and Wanda (Matthews) Clark. At that time the family lived in Canyon City. Mary Ellen was later joined by sister Wilda (Clark) Pierce and brother George “Rusty” Clark.
Mary Ellen lived in Grant County for most of her life. During the school year, she would stay in Canyon City with Grandma Clark or Aunt Mary to make getting to school easier. During her school days, she enjoyed learning to roller skate, playing volleyball, attending 4-H summer school, and attending American Legion Girls State. From the time she was old enough, Mary Ellen started working. She worked in the school cafeteria and office during the academic year. She babysat kids for several different families, stocked shelves and packed groceries at the Canyon City grocery store, then went on to a job at Morgan Truck Line. In the fall of 1955 after graduation, she began work at the Grant Co. Bank running a bookkeeping machine. At the age of 16, Mary Ellen graduated from Mt. Vernon High School as Valedictorian with a 3.98 gpa. She was the recipient of a four-year scholarship to Eastern Oregon College that she turned down.
On October 4, 1956, she was married to Robert “Bob” Brooks in Winnemucca Nevada. They had three children; Kenneth (Cecelia) Brooks, Rebecca (Alan) Nelson, and Mary Elizabeth Brooks; eight grandchildren, Robin Brooks, Melissa (Sam) Helmick, Orrin (Kati) Ledgerwood, Robert “Bob” Ledgerwood, Travis Nelson, Ryan Nelson, Brandy (Jason) Carruth and Levi (Vinni) Sloan-Serafini; and ten great-grandchildren, Reagan and Rianne Pickard, Emma and Elexus Helmick, Kaylee and Taryn Ledgerwood, Zaiden and Zuriah Nelson, and Clayton and Logan Yoder.
After marrying Bob, Mary Ellen became a stay-at-home mom, which meant she held a wide variety of jobs over the course of her life. When she could and was needed, she was a ranch hand; feeding cows, loading hay, riding horses, night herder, branding dinner cook, cattle drive flagger, and trailer mover. They also owned John Day Valley Packing, where she worked alongside the employees in all aspects and became one of the best meat wrappers around. Most people in the county will remember her job as a swather driver for their custom haying business. Her and that big yellow swather covered a lot of miles every summer. She was very proud of the fact that she had run her swather cutting hay for 41 years and had aspirations of cutting her 14 acres this year for year 42. She also worked as an executive assistant for Senator Ted Ferrioli for about 14 years. All of these outside jobs were done along with the daily wife/mom tasks of cooking, cleaning, laundry, mending, baking, ironing, etc.
Even with all of the work to be done Bob and Mary Ellen found time to travel. Most of the time it was to visit out-of-state family in Texas, Arkansas, Nebraska, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Alaska. They also went on a few trips with local friends that including Nashville, Tennessee to see the Grand Ole Opry and the next year to Branson, Missouri. After those trips, they started a yearly tradition with their good friends the Turners, of attending the National Finals Rodeo. One of their final trips was when just the two of them attended the Calgary Stampede.
Mary Ellen was very active in the community serving organizations such as Friends of the Fair, the Mt. Vernon Grange, and Timber Truckers Light Parade, she served on the county budget committee for three years, and 14 years on the Blue Mtn. Hospital Board, helped with the local 4-H program, was the 2012 Grant County Fair & Rodeo Grand Marshall, the 2015 ’62 Days Grand Marshall helped get the old City Hall for the Mt. Vernon High School Museum up and running, organized people to assist with the Blue Mtn. Nursing Home residents attending the fair, volunteered at the John Day Chamber of Commerce office, served hamburgers at the American Legion booth during the fair, distributed dictionaries to grade schools in the county, and collaborated on a History of Mt. Vernon book with the proceeds going toward the Mt. Vernon Alumni Scholarship fund, put together a book about the history of the Grant County Fair, and most recently received recognition from the Oregon Fairs Association as Fair Supporter of the year 2021.
As most of you have seen either by gifts, donations to auctions and fundraisers, or on display at the fair, Mary Ellen had an artistic ability most dream of. She painted numerous pictures and saws using everything from oils, pastels, and watercolor to pencil sketches. She enjoyed her time with her paint group on Tuesdays. She was an excellent seamstress which is evident in the beautiful quilts she has sewn, along with clothing that was made for the family. Her knitting, crocheting, and embroidery work will be treasured by all who have a piece. She was always making something for a wedding, birthday, or just because it kept her busy, as she was not someone who liked idle time.
She was also very musically inclined, while she took piano lessons for several years, she also learned to play songs by ear. She contributed to several of her grandkids, great-grandkids, and other community children’s lessons and love of music. While the piano was her favorite instrument to play, she could also play the banjo.
Mary Ellen was an avid reader and lover of history, as it seemed family history was her favorite and not just her own family. She was also a lady of strong convictions, who wasn’t afraid to voice her opinions on matters. She was one of the first to jump in and provide a helping hand to someone or an organization in need. She disliked public recognition of her acts of generosity and selflessness but made sure words of praise were expressed to others when deserved. Regardless of the sometimes-gruff exterior, she presented she had the biggest most giving heart of gold which is evident by all the lives she touched. This county, friends, and family will greatly miss the lady that kept us on our toes.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Harold and Wanda Clark, husband Robert “Bob” Brooks, and sister Wilda Clark Pierce.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Keerins Hall Renovation Fund through Driskill Memorial Chapel, 241 S. Canyon Blvd., John Day, Oregon 97845.