Eva P. Brooks, a retired Baltimore County public schools educator who with other family members successfully traced their ancestry to Colonial Virginia, died June 21 of heart failure at St. Agnes Hospital.
The longtime Catonsville resident was 101.
"You couldn't find a better person. I'm 90 years old, and I've never met anyone like her," said Precious Walton, a longtime friend who lives in Woodlawn.
"Only God is perfect, but she was pretty close. I never saw her get angry, and if you said or did something wrong, she'd say in a kind way, 'Now Precious, you know that's not right.' And if you did something right, she'd smile and praise you," said Ms. Walton.
"She loved everyone and she was a great woman. She never changed. She was the same all the time. You couldn't find a better person," she said.
"She was a kind-hearted lady who loved everybody and you could see that glimmer in her eyes," said Shirley Darden, a care provider. "She loved the color pink, and every day she wore something pink."
Eva Adelle Page was born in Halethorpe and moved with her parents, Harvey and Susie Brooks, to a home on Winters Lane in Catonsville, where they owned and operated a neighborhood grocery store in the front room of their home.
After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in 1930, she earned a teaching certificate in early childhood education from what was then Coppin Normal School. She later earned a bachelor's degree in 1952 from what is now Morgan State University.
Mrs. Brooks' career teaching first-graders in Baltimore County public schools spanned 30 years. She taught at the old Banneker Elementary School in Catonsville and at Westchester Elementary School, also in Catonsville, where she retired in 1974.
After retiring, Mrs. Brooks turned her attention to voluntarism, and for many years volunteered at the Catonsville Library and the Spring Grove State Hospital Center. She also was a member of the Eastern Star and the American Legion Women's Auxiliary.
"She gave a lot of money to charities and kept records of whom she had given donations," said a daughter, Linda B. Johnson of Columbia. "She gave a lot to her church, Morning Star Baptist, and would gladly tell people of the importance of tithing and taught them how to tithe."
Mrs. Brooks was a member of Morning Star Baptist Church for 88 years, where she taught Sunday school and had been a trustee, senior choir member and president of the Flower Circle. She also had participated in the Great Commission and Pearls of Wisdom ministries.
She regularly attended the Friday Night Prayer Circle, Monday Night Bible Study and the adult church school class. She also was a graduate of the Discipleship Ministry and the Advanced Discipleship class.
"She was a gift to us from the body of Christ, and at 101, was one of our most dedicated members," said the Rev. Dwayne Debnam, pastor of Morning Star Baptist.
"She was a special lady, and when I say that, it is not a cliché," he said. "She was still attending church, and the last time she was there was about six weeks ago. It was simply amazing that a person who was 101 was that active."
"She was a person who always wanted to help everybody," said a son, William C. Brooks of Owings Mills. "She was faithful in going to church and never, ever saw bad in anybody."
For her 100th birthday, Mrs. Brooks' family gave her lifetime membership in the Page-Nelson Society of Virginia.
Through the efforts of relatives, the Brooks family was able to trace its ancestry to Col. John Page, who settled in Virginia around 1650, and Thomas "Scotch Tom" Nelson, who landed at Yorktown in 1703.
The Brooks family learned that they were related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as heroes who fought in the Revolutionary and Civil wars, abolitionists and landowners who gave land for the building of Williamsburg, Va.
The Brooks family long acknowledged that their ancestry included interracial relationships, The Baltimore Sun reported two years ago.
"But thanks to the Internet and a DNA sample, the Catonsville clan has become the first black family — and the first Baltimoreans — to verify their descent from two 17th- and 18th-century settlers of Virginia and become members of a group dedicated to their legacy, the Page-Nelson Society," reported the newspaper.
"She gratefully contributed her DNA and was very surprised at the results," said Ms. Johnson. "It really was very, very exciting for her."
Mrs. Brooks enjoyed playing board games, especially Scrabble, and Bible trivia, family members said. She also liked to travel and had visited Europe and Bermuda.
Ms. Johnson attributed her mother's longevity to "not smoking or drinking."
"She ate lots of fruits and vegetables and drank plenty of water," she said. "But she lived a long life because she loved the Lord and was a great witness."
Her husband of 41 years, William Carl Brooks, a laborer, died in 1977.
Services for Mrs. Brooks will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at her church, 154 Winters Lane, Catonsville.
In addition to her son and daughter, Mrs. Brooks is survived by another son, Melvin Patterson Brooks of Oakland, Calif.; another daughter, Page Smith of Willingboro, N.J.; a sister, Mary J. Manokey of Catonsville; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.