Mabel Elizabeth Brooks Walker, 93, of Watertown, NY, died at her home on December 6, 2020 in the loving care of her family and with the support of hospice and caregivers with whom she developed a friendship. She is well regarded throughout the region as the inspiration, co-founder, and a past president of the Hospice of Northern New York and the establishment, with her family, of the Walker Center for Cancer Care at the Samaritan Medical Center. Both initiatives were prompted in part by the untimely deaths of two daughters, Winifred (“Wendy”) Grace Walker (age 17) and Constance (“Connie”) Louise Walker Monroe (age 37), both from cancer. Mabel persisted for many years after her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer and died of metastatic cancer.
She was born on November 26, 1927 to Harry F. Brooks and Mabel Tice Brooks in Clarion, PA., the 3rd of six children. She often recalled fond memories of her childhood in Clarion, growing up during the Depression in a family that prided itself on thrift, sharing, and homespun entertainment. From her mother she learned how to sew and cook, to can fruits and vegetables, and to share these among other gifts with neighbors and her church community. Throughout her life, she loved to garden and provide her family and friends with home-cooked meals throughout the year from her vegetable garden. Along with gardening, canning, and cooking, came baking. One of the traditions in her family was an all-day production to bake bread at Christmastime and deliver it warm from the oven to friends all across the city. She and her husband, T. Urling Walker, were also fond of entertaining and hosting various civic events at their home.
Mabel graduated from Clarion High School and attended nursing school at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, graduating in 1948 with a degree in nursing. In the 1970s, after raising her family, she returned to school to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Empire State College (class of 1979). Shortly before her death she received a Distinguished Leader Award from Empire State College for her philanthropy and leadership throughout New York’s north country.
While she was a student at Allegheny General, she met Tom who was a student at Washington and Jefferson College. They were married on September 25, 1948 and lived in Cleveland, OH while Tom completed an engineering degree at Case Institute of Technology before moving to Watertown in 1951. In Ohio, Mabel began her career as a registered nurse working at the Cleveland Clinic and at Fisher Body (a division of General Motors) as an Industrial nurse.
Moving to Watertown with Tom, Mabel continued her work in nursing and volunteered for several nursing and health-related causes in Watertown and Northern New York, including serving as board member and past president of the Visiting Nurses Association (Watertown chapter), board member of North Jefferson Health Systems, and organizing blood collection drives for the Red Cross Blood Bank as a local disaster nurse. Her various leadership roles in the community, ranging from nursing and health advocacy positions to board member of the Watertown Credit Union, Black River Valley Club, and Canton College Foundation, earned her the Israel Shapiro Outstanding Citizenship Award in 1989. All along she maintained membership in charitable, church, and women’s organizations, including P.E.O, the Red Hat Ladies, AAUW, Eastern Star, and as an Elder and Trustee in the First Presbyterian Church in which she baptized her four children.
Until the pandemic, she was an avid bridge and duplicate bridge player and regularly met with friends to socialize. Earlier in her adult life she excelled at and loved china and tin painting and participated in numerous conventions around New York state. At home, in addition to cooking, she was a skilled and prolific seamstress, making many of her own ball gowns for her attendance as first lady at Watertown’s annual Mayor’s Ball and elsewhere.
Mabel was a devoted wife and supporter of her husband’s political career. Away from politics, they enjoyed traveling and visited destinations all over the world, including Alaska, China, and a tour of the Holy Land in the early 1960s. Along with her husband, Mabel has regarded education as a priority in people’s lives, and both, in their dedication to “giving back,” have created scholarships in institutions all across northern New York to support students to realize their goals.
Mabel was a loyal and adoring mother, grandmother, and great grandmother who loved spending time with her family. She reveled in retelling stories about her childhood and about her own children and grandchildren as her way to instruct and reaffirm family values and traditions. She recalled many stories of family activities as a child, such as country outings to pick cherries and going to the beaches on Presque Isle in Erie, PA, that fostered strong bonds among her siblings and parents.
Mabel is lovingly remembered and survived by many family members, including her husband of over 70 years (they celebrated their 72nd anniversary with family in late September), sisters Evelyn Hoak and Helen Slagle; her son Tom Jr. (Yanna), and daughter Laurel Walker Pike (Peter); her daughter Connie’s widower, Wilbur Monroe, and their children Hillary Mamis (Don) and Perrin Monroe (Ali). In addition to Hillary and Perrin, other grandchildren surviving “Granny” are Anthea Walker, Ashley Pike Rohrbach (Caldwell), and Peter Pike Jr (Alicia). Great grandchildren are Connie, Brody, and Barrett Mamis; Wheeler and Reagan Monroe; Percy, John, and William Pike; Walker Rohrbach; and not be left out, a beloved chocolate lab named Scarlet Brown. In addition to her two daughters Constance and Winifred, she was predeceased by an infant great grandson. She was an emotional and moral pillar to all her family. Special thanks and gratitude to her Hospice team and daily caregivers Bobby Jo, Megan, Mona, and Lou Anne.
A private memorial service with Reverend Gail Parsons officiating will be held at the First Presbyterian Church. Donations in Mabel’s memory may be made to the Hospice of Jefferson County, 1398 Gotham St, Watertown, NY 13601, or to the Walker Family Community Fund at the Northern New York Community Foundation, 131 Washington St., Watertown, NY 13601.
Arrangements are with D.L. Calarco Funeral Home, Inc. Condolences may be made to www.dlcalarco.com
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