A Tribute to Peter Brooks Macky
Thank you all, so much, for being here today to celebrate Pete’s extraordinary life.
I’d like to share some memories and reflections about my uncle in the context of our family history, because, well, this is Pete we’re talking about.
I’ll confess right up front that my grasp of these details is a bit shaky. I didn’t always listen as well as I should have, and, frankly, I could always ask Pete.
The Macky family descended from the ancient Mackay clan, who lived for centuries among the wild moors and streams of the Scottish Highlands. They were fiercely passionate about their roots and their heritage, and fiercely loyal to their clan members—fighting, if necessary, to defend their territory and their traditions. (Fiercely passionate, and fiercely loyal—does this sound like anyone we know, perhaps on Phillies game day?) The Mackays had an official crest, a handsome tartan, which I’m holding right here in this necktie sewn by my mom, and a motto: Manu Forti, or “with a strong hand.”
They were fiercely passionate about their roots and their heritage, and fiercely loyal to their clan members—fighting, if necessary, to defend their territory and their traditions.
Now if Pete were here to tell you about the political turmoil that resulted in the Highland Clearances, we’d probably be sitting here for quite a bit longer—but suffice it to say that bagpipes and tartans were banned, if you can imagine that, and the clan was forced to resettle. The Mackys lived in and around Ulster, at the northern tip of Ireland. And in the mid 1800s, the Irish Potato Famine sent John Macky, Pete’s great-great-grandfather, across the Atlantic Ocean.
John established new roots in Media, and the Macky name was extended to Samuel Macky and then to Henry Ewing Macky, who married Mildred Brooks, affectionately known as Honey. The Brooks name (along with Honey’s sharp mind and resilience) was passed down to their son, Walter Brooks (known to most of us as Bud), and eventually to his son, Peter Brooks, and his son, Allen Brooks.
Bud and his sister Betty grew up in a modest house on Jefferson Street. Their backyard was the site of rowdy football, baseball, and basketball games and even boxing matches. Across town, on 4th Street, lived the Allen family, who had originally emigrated from England in 1793. (As a side note, 200 years later, when Pete gave the eulogy for his Aunt Ethel Allen, he described the theme of the Allen family as “love and devotion to family; hard work and diligence; service to church and community; and a zest for life.” I think we would all agree that every one of these qualities burned brightly in Pete.)
In any case, Bud became smitten with Sally, the youngest of the six Allen daughters. It took a bit of persistence on Bud’s part, but they were married on August 19, 1939.
They were blessed with a baby girl, Patricia Allen, and a fine son, Peter Brooks, born April 14th, 1948. Pete would no doubt be able to tell you that a number of significant events took place on April 14th, including the surrender of Fort Sumter during the Civil War, the fateful collision between Titanic and iceberg, and the first performance of Mahler’s Incomplete 2nd Symphony. I truly hope none of you ever had to face him in Trivial Pursuit.
I truly hope none of you ever had to face him in Trivial Pursuit.
Pat and Pete grew up in the little white house Bud and Sally had built up on the hill at 441 Kirk Lane, which to this day I believe contained more magic per square inch than any other place on earth. This is the house where Pete, on his 4th birthday, fell out of his 2nd-story bedroom window. As I’ve heard it told, Sally was doing dishes while Pete and his friends were playing upstairs, when she looked up to see him, inexplicably, trotting around from the back of the house with barely a scratch. I believe this incident planted the belief in all of our minds that Pete was indestructible (Manu forti!)
I believe this incident planted the belief in all of our minds that Pete was indestructible (Manu forti!)
Like the house on Jefferson Street, the backyard of 441 Kirk Lane was the site of colorful boyhood adventures, from cowboys and Indians with George, Bobby, Steve, and Ned to all-out basketball and badminton showdowns.
In 1966 Pete graduated from Penncrest High School, whose football team—as Pete and only Pete could tell you—finished the year with only the second winning record in the school’s history, after defeating Sun Valley 34-0 on Thanksgiving Day.
Over the next few years, Pete acquired degrees, career milestones, and nieces. I’ll try to capture the tremendous impact he had on all of our childhoods, because we had the great fortune of spending so much wonderful, as Pete would say it, time with him—in Milford, in Rehoboth, at Whitney Lake, in Media, even at Disney World, where he enjoyed Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at least as much as my sister Cara did.
If something super-random was on a birthday wish list, Pete would drive all over the tri-state area to track it down. (This is what we did before the days of Amazon Prime.) If we had our hearts set on a particular boardwalk prize, Pete would play however many games of Whac-a-Mole it took to secure it (Manu forti!) This kind of sounds like spoiling, but more than anything, Pete indulged us with his time, his imagination, and his boundless capacity for fun.
More than anything, Pete indulged us with his time, his imagination, and his boundless capacity for fun.
Pete was the one who would get down on the floor with us and play every single board game—as my sister Julie put it, fully engaged (as long as we didn’t try to claim the green mover, which was always his.). He was up for any and every ride at Funland, and let’s just say he never held back on the mini golf course.
At the famous Christmas parties at Kirk Lane, Pete was the one who got all of us—and I mean all of us, even Aunt Ethel in her 80s—hunting around for hidden pennies and paper clips and special buttons, and shrieking with laughter during the Artist’s Game, which at times approached the intensity of a clan skirmish on the Scottish moors. Pete didn’t just show up to these events, he made them into occasions—ones that would be remembered and talked about for generations.
Pete didn’t just show up to these events, he made them into occasions—ones that would be remembered and talked about for generations.
Pete was a constant and celebratory presence in our lives—birthdays, Easters, Thanksgivings, Christmases, graduations. His enthusiasm for these life milestones, of course, extended far beyond our immediate family to neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews, cousins, second cousins, and first cousins once and twice removed—which, you better believe, he would be able to explain without Googling.
He carried on the family tradition of the Uncle Peck awards, handing out silver dollars to celebrate new degrees, new spouses, and new babies. Who here has an Uncle Peck award in their collection? We’ve been talking a lot this week at what a gift Pete had for making so many people feel so special—not just to remember their names, but to remember their backgrounds, their histories, and what mattered to them—in his own way, to welcome them into his clan.
Pete taught us the state capitals, backwards and forwards, as well as obscure facts like the date of the Battle of Hastings—which he once noted when the total of our order at Hardee’s rang up on the register as $10.66. He taught me how to play hearts, on the back porch at the Lake Whitney cabin—and he was exasperated (rightfully so) when everybody else let me win.
Pete taught us the state capitals, backwards and forwards, as well as obscure facts like the date of the Battle of Hastings—which he once noted when the total of our order at Hardee’s rang up on the register as $10.66.
Pete taught me how to drive—lurchingly, on the lemon-shaped, stick-shift Datsun B210—does anybody remember that car, the one with the John Anderson for President sticker on it?—in the parking lot behind Avenue Methodist Church in Milford.
And, in time, he taught us what it looks like to find your perfect match. It’s true, he had brought girlfriends down a couple of times—whom my sisters and I greeted with a certain skepticism. But when we first met Nancy, and we observed the way they held hands, and played guitar together, and how intensely she could compete with him at tabletop hockey, we had absolutely no doubt that she was the one.
We will never forget Pete’s beaming smile—on August 3, 1985, his wedding day, and of course on July 14, 1989, when Allen was born. This auspicious date also gave Pete the opportunity to say quintessentially Pete things like this: “Happy Birthday to Allen, 24 years old on the 224th anniversary of Bastille Day,” a Facebook post from a couple years ago.
We will never forget Pete’s beaming smile—on August 3, 1985, his wedding day, and of course on July 14, 1989, when Allen was born.
On October 7, 1991, the family became the family, with the arrival of Anne Elizabeth Macky. To say that Pete took pride in Allen and Annie’s every accomplishment, in their pure existence, is an understatement. I would bet a Buffalo nickel that he could quote the score of every pivotal game in Allen’s senior soccer season (Allen, he always said you were a real Keeper), and recite the details of each one of Annie’s beautiful recital pieces. I am sure that the yard surrounding their white house, at 1126 Adams Avenue, was the setting for countless epic Easter egg hunts, soccer shoot-outs, and memorable adventures.
Pete, of course, was almost unimaginably knowledgeable, with a humbling ability to not just recall the facts but to transform and enliven them with his creative mind and masterly word play. I mean, really….who else but Pete could come up with something like “The Spaghettisburg Address?” He was also incredibly thoughtful, a wonderful giver of gifts and writer of letters (handwritten, on ruled yellow legal pads, and often slipped into inscribed books or, when Annie recently moved west, tucked into the trunk of her car).
Who else but Pete could come up with something like “The Spaghettisburg Address?”
And he was adventurous! Pete adored the rivers and fields and hills just as his ancestors did, and he biked and hiked and trekked all over the world—China, where of course he met Nancy, the Alps, the Pyrenees, Morocco, Ireland, Iceland.
The little book I have about the history of the Mackays contains this line: “Even when the days of the clan ended and the Mackays were scattered to different parts of Scotland and abroad, they still kept the spirit of the clan alive.” I think one reason we all feel this loss so acutely is because Pete was the one who played this role, even as our modern-day clan is scattered across states and time zones. He was our memory bank, our archives, our catalyst, our glue.
He was our memory bank, our archives, our catalyst, our glue.
OK, so, manu forti. We need strong hands right now—to lift up Nancy and Allen and Annie and Pat, and all of us who cherished Pete. We need strong minds, to remember the things that need to be remembered. I’m thinking that if we all work together, we might be able to collectively approach Pete’s personal brain power.
And we need strong hearts, to keep these treasured stories and memories—the spirit of the clan—alive. So, keep a Sierra Club calendar on your wall, and visit those beautiful places if you can. Check your pennies to see which mint they were made in. Jump in the ocean, any month of the year. Enjoy a side of applesauce with your lasagna, and maybe even try a green vegetable or two. Remember that the best games don’t need screens, or apps, and try to be fully present for the fun stuff, just as Pete always was.
Remember that the best games don’t need screens, or apps, and try to be fully present for the fun stuff, just as Pete always was.
Thinking back to my childhood, whenever Uncle Pete visited, I would rush to greet him and ask, “When are you leaving?” which he thought was funny. What I wanted to know, really, was how long he was staying – how much time we would have for games, and stories, and jokes—the fun stuff. However long he stayed, it wasn’t enough time—and I am sure we all feel the same way today. It wasn’t enough time, but we had a wonderful time while it lasted. Thank you, Pete, for the precious memories. We will always remember you.