My Aunt, Jean Amerson Brookins, A Life Force

It’s hard to accept that this happened so quickly and in this time of strange isolation.

My cousin Jon

My Aunt Jeanie died on January 17, slipping away quietly in her sleep just days before the inauguration she didn’t want to miss when Vice-President Kamala Harris crashed through glass ceilings. It would have been the perfect culmination of a fully-experienced life.

Jeanie was a child of the South Dakota prairie, born at the family farm on a snowy day in early spring. The youngest of my father’s sisters, she was small, slender, blonde and cute, my Aunt Snook wrote, and a positive force during “hard times.” She was also smart, absorbing everything from farming information to the lessons of the one-room schoolhouse, where she got straight As. She went on to become valedictorian of her high school class.

She was a beautiful life force who will be sorely missed.

My cousin Bob

Jeanie followed my father’s lead by attending Macalester College, paying for her year there by selling some sheep. She completed her studies in journalism and English at the University of Minnesota, where she met her husband Carl Brookins and became engaged in protests against the blacklisting of Pete Seeger. Her prairie liberalism led her through the Sixties counter culture movement.

I have a thousand Jeanie stories. I’m just so grateful to have experienced her wit, joy, love and pain. Everything was truth. She taught me about raw, full, truthful love. 

My cousin Laina

Jeanie had a 32-year career at the Minnesota Historical Society and rose to become Director of the MHS Press, which she she drove to heights of academic excellence with her research, writing, and editing. Among the publications Jeanie oversaw was my father’s memoir of growing up in South Dakota, From the Hidewood.

She was a life force, a sister who could harmonize, a friend, an intellectual wonder, a gifted individual.

My Aunt Mavis Snooky

She and Carl discovered the pleasures of sailing in Lake Superior, Puget Sound, the Caribbean, and the Adriatic, and they traveled extensively after retirement. She became a devoted gardener, and her backyard was a favorite gathering spot for friends and family.

Jeanie and Carl flew in from the Twin Cities to my wedding in NYC and pulled my new husband into the family with one huge embrace. She waited for our visits to the Midwest with a warm welcome, a spare bedroom, and all the time in the world to listen to what we had to say. A year ago, she carefully reviewed an early copy of my childhood memoir, giving me copious edits. She (and Aunt Snooky, who did the same) helped it become a better book.

July, 2012

Jean was a boon companion to her husband, a great mom, provider, and role model for her daughters, a home maker, a constant friend, a supporter of family and friends.

My Uncle Carl

This family is our strength.

Jeanie’s daughters, my cousins Shannon and Lissa

3 thoughts on “My Aunt, Jean Amerson Brookins, A Life Force

  1. So sorry for your loss. She sounds like a great person to have for an aunt. Savor your memories.
    Love Faith

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