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Ford Retiree, Greenfield Village Interpreter Frederick Brooks Dies at 89

Fred Brooks loved people, automobiles and history–and driving his Model T around Greenfield Village.

Longtime Dearborn resident Frederick “Fred” Brooks Sr. died Thursday, July 14, at the age of 89. 

Born Oct. 9, 1921 in Detroit, in recent years Brooks was best known around town as one of the Model T drivers at , where he worked for nearly 29 years. 

Brooks grew up in Detroit and graduated from Cass Tech High School. In 1939, at age 18, he was hired as an inspector at Ford Motor Company’s Rouge complex and then worked at Ford’s Willow Run Plant in Ypsilanti inspecting engines for the B-24 Liberator military aircraft.

In 1942 he married Betty, his wife of 65 years. 

Brooks was drafted into the U.S. Army in April 1944, leaving his young family at home. He served in the 88th Infantry in Italy during World War II until November 1945. 

After the war, Brooks returned to Ford. During his time with Ford he also worked at the company’s Sandusky, OH, plant, and then as a steel buyer at Ford’s Woodhaven Stamping Plant. Later in his career, he completed his bachelor's degree in business at the University of Detroit. He retired from Ford in 1981 after 41 years of service.

Following his retirement from Ford, Brooks went on to a second career after answering a newspaper ad for Model T drivers at Greenfield Village. There, he worked as an interpreter, piloting the old Suwanee steamboat, calling “All aboard,” as a conductor on the Village railroad and taking guests on a motor tour of the village as a Model T driver. He retired from Greenfield Village in 2010. 

“Dad was a history buff–he liked people and he liked automobiles, so it was a good fit,” said his daughter, Nancy Besch, of his time at The Henry Ford. “Everyone loved him over at the village. I’ve heard over and over how he was so kind and courteous to the visitors.” 

Brooks and his wife Betty were doting grandparents who always made time to attend birthday parties, performances, graduations and eventually, weddings. 

"My grandfather also played chess with his grandchildren," said granddaughter Christa Robinson. "One of them became part of a champion chess team in elementary school," she added. 

Brooks is survived by his six children, Patricia (John) Robinson, Carol Brooks, Thomas Brooks, Frederick Brooks Jr., Richard (Linda) Brooks and Nancy (Robert) Besch. He is also survived by 10 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and many friends. He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty; and two brothers, Robert and Williams Brooks.  

Visitation at the Dearborn Chapel of the is scheduled for today, Sunday, July 17, from 2-9 p.m., with a 7 p.m. rosary. The funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Monday, July 18 (instate at 9:30 a.m.) at St. Anselm Catholic Church, 17650 W. Outer Drive, in Dearborn Heights, followed by interment St. Hedwig Cemetery.

P. Talbot July 22, 2011 at 12:43 PM
Good Morning, Although I don't know your family, I have heard many heart warming family stories from my good friend Anne Brooks. Bless you all as you grieve the end of an era and celebration his life. Fondly--Pat Talbot
Pat Robinson July 11, 2012 at 06:22 AM
Thank you, P. Talbot. I'm not sure if I had seen this article prior to today. Anyway, it is true that my dad and his brother, Bob, (Anne's father) were very close. They both had a great sense of humor, loved baseball, and gave much of themselves to their families. Of course, Dad loved history too, as you can tell from his involvement with Greenfield Village.

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