NEW GLOUCESTER – Barbara Isabel Merriman Brookings, 97, died on Feb. 21, 2016, with her children at her side at her New Gloucester farm. She was born prematurely in Portland on Dec. 10, 1918, during the 1918 flu epidemic, the second of 14 children to Wylie and Cora Mealey Merriman.
As the oldest daughter, Barbara became a second mother to many of her siblings at a young age, making clothing for them and later becoming an accomplished seamstress. For short periods, many of her siblings lived on the farm in New Gloucester. As a wife, mother, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and teacher, she gave of herself her whole life. Her husband, children and grandchildren were her life. Her family will miss her smile, wisdom, sense of humor, hugs, kisses, unending love, and passion for life.
In her early childhood the family moved to South Portland. She graduated from South Portland High School in 1936 at age 17, Gorham Normal School with a teaching certificate in 1941, and Gorham State Teacher’s College with a BA in education in 1965. She was the first female college graduate in her family and paid for her education by working at Carolyn’s soda fountain and the Columbia Market in Portland. Her first teaching job was in a one-room schoolhouse in Etna, where she not only taught, but was responsible for lighting the stove to heat the room, making lunch for the students, and cleaning the outhouse. In 1957 she returned to the classroom at the Charles P. Wight School in Auburn, retiring in 1980 from the Mabel I. Wilson School in Cumberland. Barbara strongly encouraged her children to pursue education and life-long careers.
Barbara married ‘Brookie’ (Lowell) Brookings, the love of her life, on Feb. 16, 1942, at Holy Cross Church in South Portland. They loved and admired each other tremendously; theirs was a true love story. They lived in East Newport and Turner in the early years of their marriage, and had a dream of owning a dairy farm, which became a reality when they moved to New Gloucester in 1944. Together they built a prize herd and sold vegetables from their garden at the Portland Public market to help support the farm. Into her nineties Barbara continued to garden; she planted, tended, harvested, and then canned her bounty.
Barbara was civic-minded and took her children to town meetings at very young ages. She was a member of the recycling committee and worked as a ballot clerk at the election polls. In 2014 she received the Boston Post Cane for being the oldest New Gloucester resident.
Barbara was adventurous and conquered her fears by “just doing it.” She was a self-taught tap dancer and danced in community and school shows; was quite a prankster with her girlfriends as accomplices; visited 48 of the 50 states with her husband; took some of her children camping in the Canadian Maritimes on her own; and embarked on an Alaskan cruise, train, and river rafting trip at age 86 with a neighbor friend.
Barbara is survived by her six children, Lancey Taylor of Westbrook, Barbara Seaver (Scott) of New Gloucester, Lennie Eichman (Henry) of Hartford, Gayle Hays (Jim) of Bailey Island, Marcia Davison (Paul) of New Gloucester, and Gary Brookings (Debbie) of South Portland; 15 grandchildren (Tim, Todd, Garrett, Marnie, Jason, Lindsay, Christina, Rachel, Hamish, Angela, Christopher, Benjamin, Nicole, Breanna and Victoria), 24 great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren; brothers Gerald, John, Richard, Ronald, and David; and sister Glennis; and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was predeceased by her husband of 67 years, a granddaughter (Shannon Davison), a grandson (Matthew Bragdon), two great-grandsons (Parker Morneault and William Crocker), brothers Wylie and Tom, sons-in-law Albert Taylor and Donald Bragdon, and sisters Phyllis, Lucille, Janet, June, and Karen.
We would also like to thank Androscoggin Home Health and Hospice for their support.
Friends and family are invited to a gathering from 1-4 p.m. with a celebration of Barbara’s life at 2 p.m. at the Congregational Church Vestry in New Gloucester on Sunday, Feb. 28.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Shannon Davison
may be sent to Maine Make a Wish; 477 Congress Street, Suite M1; Portland, ME 04101.