Tuesday night, Feb. 7, I received the word that my good friend and longtime colleague Geof Brooks had died suddenly of a heart attack.
Geof was the cartoonist for The Rhinoceros Times and the Rhino Times for over 25 years.
I remember the first time I ever talked to him about cartoons, which was in 1992 shortly after The Rhinoceros Times started publication.
His brother Greg Brooks had told me Geof was a cartoonist and we met up at the old Rhino Club for him to show me some cartoons.
I was prepared to be unimpressed. Lots of folks think they are cartoonists; Geof was one. After he showed me some of his cartoons, I can’t remember an issue where we didn’t have a Geof Brooks cartoon.
Geof got married, had two sons, moved to Michigan, had any number of different jobs, but each week we received a cartoon – usually corresponding to an article in that week’s paper.
But to me he was far more than just a cartoonist, he was a good friend, and over the many years we knew each other, the kind of friend that you could always depend on.
Proving his versatility, Geof was also our circulation manager for many years. Being circulation manager is a thankless job. All a circulation manager ever hears are complaints, but Geof took it all in stride.
Geof in his cartoons often told a story better in one panel than I told in 1,500 words. I can’t count the times that on receiving his cartoon I laughed out loud and thought – that couldn’t be better.
But Geof was also a great storyteller with words. Geof loved NASCAR, not a sport I had ever followed much. But because I so enjoyed hearing Geof’s stories, I started reading about NASCAR just so I could get him to talk about NASCAR. His stories about the races were always much better and more insightful and much funnier than anything I’d read.
I think he was always a little surprised when I knew enough to ask a few questions to get him started, but once he got started it was never disappointing. Fortunately for me it didn’t take too many questions to get him going.
Although known in Greensboro for his cartoons in the Rhino Times, Geof was known in Randleman for his own publication, the Randleman Lake Free Bee.
When he told me he planned to launch his own weekly publication, I told him that anyone who started their own weekly publication was nuts. Fortunately, he paid no attention to me and forged on with his idea, which has become a part of the community.
A lot of men end up coaching a sports team because their children are involved. Geof, in true Geof Brooks fashion, took that a few steps further, and when his boys were old enough to play organized baseball, he started running the league, which included maintaining the fields and running weekend tournaments.
Not many people realize it, but over the years Geof worked at just about every job at the Rhino. He tried covering the schools for a while and really struggled until he told me he couldn’t do it anymore. Once he decided he was going to quit and was more relaxed, he did a great job and I tried to convince him to stay. But he said the only reason he was doing so well was because he could see the finish line.
He also tried sales, but did much better at sales when he was selling ads in his own publication, where he did everything – wrote the stories, sold the ads and delivered the finished product.
So it was after trying everything else that Geof settled in as the Rhino Times circulation manager and cartoonist, an odd sounding combination but it worked for Geof.
Geof had recently become an independent contractor, so he worked mainly out of his home and wasn’t in the office as much as he had been in years past. But Tuesday afternoon, Geof stopped by. He was downtown getting some legal work done on a new comic strip he was planning to launch and just came in to say hello. We talked for a few minutes and then, a little while later, I heard Geof leaving and thought, “I wish he had stayed longer,” which is what I always thought when Geof left. And it’s what I think even more strongly now.
Geof Brooks’ funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11 at George Brothers Funeral Service, 803 Greenhaven Dr. in Greensboro. A visitation will be held prior to the funeral beginning at 9 a.m.