Legendary Brooks BBQ founder Epsie Brooks crosses over at 94

| June 8, 2016
Epsie Dandridge Brooks

Epsie Dandridge Brooks

FORT WAYNE—The cofounder of one of the Summit City’s most venerable eateries, Epsie Dandridge Brooks, passed away May 17 at the age of 94. She and her husband Willie opened Brooks BBQ serving the community for many years.

Epsie Dandridge Brooks, was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi on Aug. 17, 1921 to the late George and Ethyl Dandridge.  Epsie accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior at a very young age at Oak Grove Methodist in Waterford, Mississippi.

In 1939, “Big Momma,” as she was affectionately called, met and fell in love with Willie Morris Brooks. They married on May 17, 1940 and raised four children: Guy, Howard, Helen and Verlene. Willie and Epsie had a lovely and sweet life together; they were married nearly 70 years and often counseled many couples and encouraged them to stay together. They were the epitome of how to have a successful marriage. Epsie always prided herself on being a shining example of a virtuous woman, a loyal wife and a devoted mother.

In 1950, the Brooks’ packed up their home and headed north to Fort Wayne, Indiana looking for a better life. Epsie, however, found something so much more valuable than a good career; she found Jesus. Soon after arriving in Fort Wayne, Epsie walked into Christ Temple Apostolic Church.  She heard the word spoken by the late District Elder Henry W. Jones and was pricked in her heart.  She was baptized in Jesus’ name and was filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues as the Spirit of God gave utterance; and she never looked back. She was a faithful member of the Missionary Ministry, the Adult choir, the Prayer Band, the kitchen ministry, and Sunday School.

Epsie had the heart of a true entrepreneur.  She was creative, unafraid, and believed the sky was the limit.  In 1955, Epsie started a food truck, a concept unheard of at that time, let alone for an African American woman.  She served sandwiches, lemonade, and other snacks to local businesses throughout the city.

In 1961, she retired the food truck andopened an ice cream shop.  However, Epsie would not stop there. In April of 1967, Epsie and Willie opened up the legendary Brooks BBQ.  It was one of the first black-owned restaurants in the city.  They were known throughout the community for their kindness.  They often took people in who had no place to live, and gave food to anyone who could not afford to pay. She loved her family dearly, and opened her door to grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, siblings, friends, and even those who were disabled.

She also loved reading the Bible, singing, cooking and spending time with her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Epsie leaves to cherish her memory, her beloved son, W. Howard (Helen Frances) Brooks of Fort Wayne; two daughters, Helen Durham of Fort Wayne, and Verlene Brown of Clinton, Maryland; a god-daughter, Patricia Woods-Causey of Fort Wayne; and a sister-in-law, Lynn Powell of Memphis, Tennessee; 16 grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren, 17 great-great grandchildren, and a host of nieces, nephews, and other relatives and friends.

Epsie was preceded in death by her husband, Willie M. Brooks; a son, Guy Falkner Sr., sisters, Ecclesiastes Turnage, Mandy Brooks, Willie B. Malone, and Hattie Wimbley. She was also preceded in death by a very special sister, Audrey Woods.

Truly, she will be missed and was loved by many relatives, church members, neighbors, and friends for years to come. Precious memories, how they linger…till we meet again.

Service was Saturday, May 28, 2016, at Greater Christ Temple with burial in Highland Park Cemetery. Arrangements were by Ellis Funeral Home.

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Category: Business, Community, Local, Obituaries, Spiritual Matters

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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