Palm Beach, FL
January 16, 2010
William Joseph Brooks, 76, died suddenly on January 16, 2010 on the island of Curacao, while vacationing with his family. Born in Boston, MA in 1933, he was the son of a fireman and graduated from Cathedral High School. He entered the priesthood and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oblate College in Washington, D.C., he later achieved a Master's Degree in Psychology from his beloved Boston College. He was also the recipient of a fellowship to Harvard University by the National Foundation for the Humanities in 1977. He came to Florida as an Oblate priest, at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach. Bill was a teacher and counselor at Cardinal Newman and served as a mentor for many young men and women who work and live in the West Palm Beach community to this day. After leaving the priesthood, Bill married Martha Finnigan in 1972 and began working for Crisis Line, a non-profit organization that provides counseling and suicide prevention.
Through his work at Crisis Line, Bill was asked to participate and eventually host an on-going public service talk show on the local NBC affiliate WPTV. In 1975, Bill was hired as the Public Service Director and thus began, Bill's 23 year career as a broadcaster in South Florida. He was appointed Assistant General Manager in 1979 and subsequently General Manager in 1981 and a Vice President of Scripps Howard Broadcasting in 1986. For an unprecedented 17 years, Bill distinguished himself as a broadcaster and community leader in his stewardship of the station. In 1984 he established the station's Food for Families campaign, a six-week food drive to help the homeless and hungry in the community. Twenty five years later the drive continues to help more than 200 agencies in a five county area, feeding thousands in need.
In 1993, Bill spearheaded WPTV's sponsorship of the Susan G. Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure, which continues to raise funds to fight breast cancer in our community. As General Manager, Bill had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors of many non-profit organizations including the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the City of West Palm Beach Centennial Committee and the Alzheimer's Association. He was a former chairman of the Urban League of Palm Beach County and the United Way of Palm Beach County. Bill chaired the Florida Association of Broadcasters in 1987-1988. In 1988 the FAB created the William J. Brooks Award, an annual award recognizing an outstanding broadcaster. In 1998, Bill became the Chairman Emeritus of FAB and served in that role until his death. Bill's tenure as General Manager was distinguished by a period of incredible growth, both in the broadcast industry, and in Palm Beach County.
Bill's philosophy of a strong commitment to public service underscored the success of WPTV, in the West Palm Beach- Ft. Pierce television market. Bill believed the station saw its finest hours when it used the power of the airwaves to help those in need. After retiring from broadcasting in 1998, Bill began a third career in politics. He ran for and was elected to the Town Council of Palm Beach. He served three successive terms on the council, eventually becoming the Council President. All three careers; priesthood, broadcasting and local politics, punctuate a remarkable life dedicated to the service of others. No one brought more kindness and humanity to difficult decisions than Bill Brooks. He will be remembered in South Florida and throughout the state, as a man of great intelligence, great humor, great spirit, great faith and a limitless capacity to care for his fellow human beings. Bill is survived by his wife of 37 years, Martha Finnigan; his brother, Robert D. Brooks of Haverhill, MA; sister-in-law, Frances Brooks. Bill's other sisters-in-law, Sheila Finnigan, S.N.D. of Clinton, MA, Margaret Ellen Finnigan of Nashua, NH, brothers-in-law, Fr. John Finnigan, of Suncook, NH Patrick J. Finnigan and wife, Dorothy of Salem, NH and Brian E. Finnigan of Nashua, NH; several nieces and nephews,19 grandnieces and nephews and one great-grandniece. And his beloved lab, Maggie and Mario, the cat.