James Raymond Brooks was a proud son of Hays who loved the city’s rich history. He was born to Raymond and Tina May Brooks on November 23, 1939. He died September 23, 2020 in Leavenworth, KS due to pneumonia brought on by COVID-19.
During the 1940s and early 50s Jim and his sister, Barbara, would often accompany their father and friends on fossil hunting trips in western Kansas. One of these was during the famous "fish within a fish" Sternberg expedition.
Jim was an old-school techie, a lifelong ham radio enthusiast and early adopter of personal computers, delighted in later years by his Fitbit and iPhone. He loved collecting and taking apart electronic devices just to see how they worked. He would build circuits and write machine code, assembly language, and Basic software programs just for fun. Much later he set up his own internet weather station, and his house was a Hays data point for Wunderground for many years.
Radio was his greatest passion, and under call sign K0JJV ("This is Kay-Zero-Johnny-Johnny-Victor") Jim tested the limits of ham radio. (While doing so, he sometimes caused lights to flicker throughout the neighborhood.) He twice earned Amateur Radio’s "county hunter" award, which required him to make radio contact with someone in every county of the United States. Jim made friends as far away as New Zealand and Hawaii over the airwaves. He listened in on space missions. He belonged to the American Radio Relay League, which meant that in the years prior to Doppler radar, Jim hopped into the car with his mobile radio and drove out into the worst Kansas storms looking for tornadoes so he could alert the town. In his later years he experimented with packet radio, seeking ways to create an over-the-air internet.
Career wise, Jim attended Kansas State University for a couple of years and finished his degree at Fort Hays with a bachelor’s in Communications. His deep, rich voice and interest in radio won him a DJ spot at KAYS in his late teens, and he continued a radio/TV/advertising career there after graduating from Fort Hays. He proved to be a "jack of all trades" with many career pivots. Jim wrote and recorded radio ads, he filled in as backup weatherman on the local TV news, he sold office equipment, he repaired televisions, he tested and monitored water levels at the Hays Municipal Water Plant. At Village Inn, he quickly worked his way up from dishwasher to store manager. While a lead technician at Sykes Enterprises, Jim used his resonant radio voice and his technical savvy to soothe the most difficult phone customers, receiving praise from coworkers. Then he retired to become a full-time caretaker for his wife, Cheryl.
Jim was a lifetime member of St. Michael’s Episcopal church in Hays. A member of the vestry for several years, he also served as a popular lay reader (thanks to his radio-ready voice and clear diction). His dearest wish was to ensure St. Michael’s carries on as a strong and vibrant parish for future generations in Hays.
Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Cheryl Brooks, and survived by Barbara DeBauge (sister), Amy (daughter), Brian (son), and granddaughters Olive and Lucy.
In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the James and Cheryl Brooks Legacy Fund of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Hays, Kansas: 2900 Canal Street, Hays, KS 67601. A memorial service will take place on the anniversary of his passing in September 2021 at St. Michael’s.
Online condolences at www.mcgilleyhoge.com.