Celebrating a Century

Celebrating a Century

Lois Brooks turns 100.

Lois Brooks, with granddaughter Kira Russell, celebrates her 100th birthday June 13, 2024.

Lois Brooks, with granddaughter Kira Russell, celebrates her 100th birthday June 13, 2024.

Lois Brooks was born in the midst of the Roaring ‘20s and the height of Prohibition. She was barely a year old when her family moved from Durham, N.C. to Alexandria, where she has lived ever since and where she celebrated her 100th birthday June 13 with family and friends.

“The first house I remember living in was at 1321 Wythe Street,” recalled Brooks. “It was an all Negro area and we called it Colored Rosemont since the other side of the railroad tracks was where the white people lived. Our houses were built specifically for Black people.”

Brooks attended Parker-Gray and Lyles-Crouch, graduating from Parker-Gray before going to business school to get clerical training.

“I worked for the government at the Navy building on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Brooks said. “I didn’t really take to typing or stenography so I was a messenger. For two years I carried around a lot of top secret documents.”

It was during this time that Brooks, then known as Lois Cross, met her future husband, Courtney Brooks.

“I ride around Alexandria like a tourist. I don’t recognize anything anymore.”

— Lois Brooks, celebrating her 100th birthday

“We were in the same social circle and went to the same parties,” said Brooks. “I was only 20 when we married and he went off to serve in the war.”

Courtney Brooks served in World War II and returned to Alexandria in 1946. Together the couple had one son, Ronald.

“I was so used to living at home with a house full of people,” said Brooks. “Growing up with my mother and father, by the time my mother finished having babies there were 11 of us living in that house.”

Brooks moved into her husband’s home when he left the service.

“I never did get used to living in houses by myself, even though I have been on my own now for years,” said Brooks, who has been living in her current home in Seminary since 1963. “I have so many happy memories of just being with my family.”

Brooks has outlived her siblings and husband and lost her son Ronald in 2015.

“Of course it was hard when my sisters and brothers died on me,” Brooks said. “Then my son died on me and then Courtney died on me. But still I try not to let anything worry me. If I can’t solve it – if it is something I just can’t do anything about I leave it alone.”

Brooks attributes her longevity to good genes.

“My daddy and momma both had good genes,” Brooks said. “People died very young back then. My father worked at a place called the brickyard. They did the hardest work but my mother and father were in their 70s when they died and that was a miracle given how hard they worked.”

While she no longer drives on her own, Brooks has family and friends that she is able to spend time with.

“I have a granddaughter and grandson and lots of nieces and nephews,” Brooks said. “They are very much in my life – all of them. I don’t have anything to complain about.”

Kira Russell helped celebrate her grandmother’s milestone birthday.

“I have learned so much about life from her,” Russell said. “She teaches me about how things were when she was growing up and how we have moved forward from then to now. She really is wonderful to talk to and I love her very much.”

Brooks still enjoys getting out and seeing the changes in the city.

“I don’t recognize Alexandria,” Brooks said. “I ride around Alexandria like a tourist. It’s so pretty but I don’t recognize anything anymore. But I enjoy going to Old Town just to watch the people.”

When asked if she had any advice for young people today, she recalled a message she recently heard from a special guest at a church service.

“There was a woman there who got the biggest applause when she repeatedly said ‘don’t get married,’” Brooks said with a laugh. “She told those young girls to go live your life and wait to get married. It was crazy that we got married so young back then. I’m not going to give advice to anyone but looking back I do wish I had choices that people have today.”