August 01, 2013
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
LAWT Religion Editor
Leader, visionary and humanitarian aptly describe the ministry of service rendered by Helene Winona Brookins throughout her earthly existence. Her assistance to others came to a close on July 16 when she passed away in Las Vegas, NV.
A retired Episcopal Supervisor in the A.M.E. Church and former wife of Bishop H. Hartford Brookins, Helene’s life was distinctly marked by dedicated spirituality and ongoing charitable work.
“Helene was passionate about helping people. That was her major thing. She often put her own welfare aside in consideration for others,” said retired Supervisor Ernestine Henning, a long-time friend.
Retired Supervisor Vivienne Anderson noted, “Helene deserves her crown in glory.”
A celebration of life will be held at First A.M.E. Church on Saturday, August 3, at 11 a.m., 2270 South Harvard Boulevard in Los Angeles. Bishop T. Larry Kirkland will preside and the Rev. J. Edgar Boyd is the host pastor.
Helene’s long life began on April 27, 1927 in Sterling, KS, where she was born to Charles and Juanita Bland Howard. Accepting Christ at an early age, she moved with her family to Pasadena in 1940. After high school, Helene attended Pasadena College and soon developed a love for art, fashion, and interior design.
“She could often be heard saying, ‘Now, that’s sharp!’ when something caught her eye,” recalled her granddaughter, Marina Brookins.
While visiting a church in Topeka, KS, Helene met her future husband, H.H Brookins. They soon married and became the parents of Steven Hartford Brookins in 1956.
Helene smoothly balanced motherhood with her duties as first lady at Brown Chapel A.M.E. in Topeka, KS; St. Luke A.M.E. in Lawrence, KS; and St. Paul A.M.E. in Wichita, KS, where she worked hard with her husband to erect a new edifice that still stands today.
A new phase of life began for Helene when the family moved to Los Angeles, said her son, Steven. “During her time, from 1959 to 1973, the membership of First A.M.E. grew and reached achievements that have enriched lives and souls across the city and nation.
“Again, she was by my father’s side when the congregation moved from the historic location at 8th and Towne to the present-day edifice in the West Adams District.”
God’s next assignment for Helene was as Episcopal Supervisor in the 17th Episcopal District in Southern Africa where she joined human rights and humanitarian efforts during Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence.
“Her time spent living in Southern Africa was the highlight of her life. She was dedicated to the people and they absolutely loved her. They continue to ask about her to this day even though she served there from 1976 to 1980,” shared Supervisor Henning.
During her tenure, Helene could be seen farming and collecting food, clothing and medical supplies to support the local churches and freedom fighters.
“Africa, she said, brought her personal and spiritual happiness and was forever the motivation behind her life’s work with children and the socially disadvantaged,” remembered Steven.
Returning to Los Angeles in 1980, Helene served as Episcopal Supervisor of the Fifth Episcopal District and led the efforts of the Women’s Missionary Society. In addition, she was active in the Lullaby Guild, joining in 1964 and serving as president from 1983 to 1985.
“She believed in the Lullaby Guild’s mission of supporting the Children’s Home Society of California. She enjoyed supporting affairs like the Ebony Fashion Fair that was sponsored in Los Angeles by the Lullaby Guild,” said Steven, who added that Helene was featured in Jet magazine presenting a check from the fundraiser to the Children’s Home Society of California.
Her other affiliations included the Top Ladies of Distinction, Los Angeles Community Service and the Youth Intervention Program where she served 10 years as a social worker.
Helene’s philanthropy led to honors by the National Council of Negro Women, Richard Allen Foundation and Lorre Entertainment Incorporated. On July 12, 2003, Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and the City Council proclaimed ‘Helene Brookins Day’ in recognition of her life of community service.
She was preceded in death by her father, Charles Howard; mother, Juanita Bland Howard; dear sister; Billie Howard; and former husband, Bishop H. Hartford Brookins.
Rejoicing in her wonderful life and legacy are son, Steven H. Brookins; granddaughter, Marina Brookins; sisters, Pollyanna Moore and Charlotte Smith; brother, Jim Howard; nephews, Kevin Brookins, Jeffrey Brookins, Kenneth Dunbar and Christopher Dunbar; along with a host of additional nieces, nephews, cousins and many beloved friends.