Remembering Gordon Brooks

By Ian Cox

 

Gordon Brooks, who passed away in December 2021 aged 95, made an outstanding contribution to the Australian Plants Society over many years.

Gordon’s background

Gordon and Gloria Brooks

Gordon spent his formative years in Jamestown, South Australia. One of his first positions was Technical Officer at the Weapons Research Laboratory, Salisbury, SA, where part of his job was to track rockets at the Woomera Rocket Range. He became qualified as an electronics engineer.

Gordon’s son Christopher described his dad as “a serial committee man”. He was on committees at the primary school, school fund-raising, tennis club, netball club, basketball club, often as President or Secretary, as well as being a Church Steward, and Superintendent of the Sunday School.

In 1968 Gordon and his wife Gloria moved to New Jersey, USA, for two years, where he worked on a project to standardise military equipment for the USA, Canada, the UK, France and Australia.

Gordon’s grandfather, Sir Frederick Holder, was Premier of South Australia. He gave up state politics to become the first Speaker in the Australian House of Representatives. He was Speaker from 1901 until he died in 1909. The Canberra suburb of Holder was named after him.

Moving to The Hills

Gordon and Gloria moved to Baulkham Hills in 1972. They became interested in Australia’s flora after walking in bushland at Galston and beyond. They just loved the bush, and bought Alec Blombery’s book, What Wildflower is That? They visited the SGAP annual spring shows at The King’s School Parramatta in 1973 and 1974, and were amazed at the lovely displays. They joined the Society in 1975.

Parramatta and Hills Group

Gordon became an expert propagator and grower of native plants. He didn’t waste much time either in becoming involved in the Parramatta and Hills Group’s activities. In 1977 he was elected Vice President, and also Delegate to the State Council. He held many positions on the Group’s committee over about 40 years, including President (two terms: 1981-82 and 1988-90), Publicity Officer, Program Officer, Editor, and Leader of the Rutaceae Interest Group.

Gordon retired from the Commonwealth Public Service in 1986, and he and Gloria moved into their new home at Ridgecrop Drive, Castle Hill. Their garden, perched on the side of a hill, was a challenge. Gloria helped with the physical work, moving rocks, making pathways, planting and watering. It always looked immaculate.

Gordon and Gloria never hesitated to offer their home as a meeting venue, or their attractive garden as the subject of a visit. They always made you feel welcome. An enduring memory is the delicious food they served – whether for morning/afternoon tea or supper, always accompanied by lovely coffee, specially brewed by Gordon.

The Society NSW

Gordon was the Society’s NSW President for three years from 1991, and a Vice President for two terms. He was chair of the Publishing Committee, and chair of the organizing committee for the Society’s immensely successful Wildflower Spectaculars held at Rouse Hill in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997. He represented NSW at national conferences in Perth, Sydney and Ballarat.

Probably his most important innovation, when he was state President, was obtaining the board’s agreement to form a Committee of Review, to investigate and report on the Society’s entire operations. This culminated in the Report on Operational Procedures, which was accepted by the board in 1993. Some of the benefits were increased membership, an enhanced public profile, valuable links with other organisations, and improved systems and communications.

Life Membership

Gordon was elected a Life Member of the Society in 1996. Here are extracts from the citation by the Parramatta and Hills Group:

“Gordon is a tireless and unselfish worker for the Society. If there is a job to be done, a meeting to organize, a letter to write or a question to answer, Gordon is usually there to do it.”

“Gordon is one of the Society’s visionaries, always looking at the big picture, but with one eye on the practical detail, unafraid of the hard work required to make vision a reality”.

“Gordon has been an inspiration to our Group with his knowledge of Australia’s flora and his expertise as a propagator. He is generous with giving his propagation successes to new members, as he is with advice for their gardens.”

Eremophila Study Group

Gordon (top left) chairing an Eremophila Study Group meeting in 2006. Special presenters were Russell Wait and Ken Warnes.

Gordon was one of the pioneers of growing Eremophilas in Sydney, and was skilled in propagating and growing them. He was actively involved in establishing the Sydney branch of the Eremophila Study Group, and chaired their meetings from 2003.

When Bob Chinnock’s standard reference book “Eremophila and Allied Genera” was published in 2007, the publisher, Rosenberg, asked for bunches of Eremophila flowers to decorate the room of the press conference to announce and promote the book. Many of these came from Gordon’s garden.

Gordon (top left) chairing an Eremophila Study Group meeting in 2006.

Special presenters were Russell Wait and Ken Warnes.

*****

In his later years, Gordon was a strong advocate for action on climate change. This was reflected in his conversations and writings.

The last Calgaroo Gordon edited was February 2018, about the time he lost Gloria.

Gordon will be fondly remembered for his exceptional organizing skills, and his ability to get things done.