February 27, 2014 | Volume 44, Number 8

Brooks waitressed at Space Needle

Friends and family celebrated the life of Catherine E. "Kitty" Brooks Friday at the Haines ANB Hall. Brooks, 73, died at her home in Haines on Feb. 16 after a long illness, daughter Sherry Hannon said.

Kitty Brooks

Janice Albecker and Brooks were best friends for years. Albecker said Brooks was generous and caring. "If you needed something, she did it for you, and if she couldn't, she'd find someone who could." Brooks bartended at all the downtown bars except the Harbor, Albecker said. "She was excellent in her day," thanks to her extroverted personality.

When Duck Hess owned the former Rip Tide Bar on Main Street, Brooks was one of his favorite bartenders. "She was a kind of fun employee. She always had a really good following crowd for us."

"She was a social butterfly," Hannon said. "You could always ask her what was going on and she knew it," both in town and in her large extended family.

"As the family historian, she kept track of everybody, had all the pictures, and knew where everybody was," Hannon said.

Brooks was born in Juneau on July 25, 1940 to Haines residents John "Bull" Thompson and Edith James. Her grandmother was master Chilkat weaver Jennie Thlunaut.

Brooks grew up in the former Native neighborhood on Front Street, where she was an active child known as "the tomboy," family members said. She graduated from Haines High School and attended Sheldon Jackson College. She met Robert Gillespie Sr. while he was in Alaska with the military, and they married and settled in his home state of Washington. "Her first job was waitressing at the Space Needle at the 1964 World's Fair in Seattle," Hannon said. She raised four children there before returning home to Alaska. She met and married fisherman Keith Foster in Haines and they had another son. Her third marriage was to Steve Brooks, also of Haines.

She was a member of the Emblem Club, the American Legion Auxiliary, the Haines ANS and a Kaagwaantaan of the Xoots Hit.

Aside from daily visits with friends and family, Brooks enjoyed cooking and baking. "You could always call Kitty for a recipe of any sort," Hannon said. She also knitted sweaters, gardened, read and played cards.

Her parents, sister Joanne Van Ausdel, brother John "Stubby Thompson, and nephew James E. Thompson preceded Brooks in death.

Brooks leaves her children Donald Gillespie of Milton Wash., Robert Gillespie of Valdez, Sheila Reizwig of Valdez, Sherry Hannon of Willow, Shawn Foster of Montana and Shannon Thompson of Haines, as well as stepsons Christopher Brooks of Haines and Andrew Brooks of Wasilla.

Cards may be sent to the family at P.O. Box 83, Haines, 99827.