Posted by Carrie Condran LaBriola on Apr 23, 2020
The Rotary Club of San Francisco lost one of its oldest members when Marie K. Brooks died April 4 at her home in San Francisco at the age of 94. She was one of the second group of four women to join the Club after membership was opened to women in 1987.

“She was an extraordinarily gracious and elegant person,” says Past President and Past District Governor Peter Lagarias, “just somebody who garnered complete respect.”
But Marie was also an adventurous person, taking risks and breaking new ground. Born Jewel Marie Kyles in Havana, AR, she moved to California with her mother in 1943 at the age of 17 to build Liberty Ships at the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond. After the war, she moved back to Arkansas, where she began working in the automobile industry, but she soon moved back to San Francisco, where she met her first husband, Ellis Brooks, then a Hudson dealer and later owner of Ellis Brooks Chevrolet. As her husband’s health deteriorated, Marie became more involved in the business and, after his death, took over the dealership. She was recognized by Chevrolet in 1968 as the company’s first woman dealer operator. 
“She was a definite heroine to many of the first women in Rotary,” says former Club member Leni Miller. “And, just as we women had been first into Rotary, she was the first woman we ever knew that had taken over a car dealership in San Francisco. Also, she was raising her grandson. A gracious and lovely human being.”
Past President Anita Stangl, also among the first women members of the Club, says, “Marie had a presence. In later years, she didn’t come often, but she still had an affinity for Rotary.”
“Marie would do anything for Rotary,” agreed Past President Harold Hoogasian, recalling that she once donated a car for a Club auction. According to Past President and Past District Governor Eric Schmautz, the Club’s 2001 gala fundraiser, Monte Carlo Madness, was held at the Ellis Brooks showroom.
Harold remembers Marie as a pie aficionado partial to the pecan pie at Memphis Minnie’s in the Lower Haight Ashbury District. And he is grateful that Marie helped him during his political campaigns, posting his signs on her fence that was visible from 19th Avenue, “a huge deal.”
Marie herself became involved in politics. Although she refused to fly, she accepted an appointment to the SF Airport Commission by then Mayor Dianne Feinstein and was appointed by former Governor Pete Wilson to the California Department of Motor Vehicles board.
According to Eric, Marie was “very proud” to be one of the first women members of the exclusive Pacific Union Club. Along with Past President Jim Patrick, Marie was also a member of the Olympic Club and the St. Francis Yacht Club, where she kept a yacht for many years. 
“She was a great lady,” Jim says. “It was a pleasure to be around her.” He and Marie served on a number of boards together. “She was a very capable leader,” he says. “She didn’t like to be the person in charge, but she had good insight into what was going on.”
“She was always very supportive of Rotary and the Club,” says Past President John Hoch, noting that Marie often donated auction items for the annual fundraiser. “She was sort of a behind-the-scenes supporter of various projects; she declined to serve on committees. She was just a down-to-earth person.”