Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Robert H. Brooks, 1926-2012: Insurance agent also took helm of steamboat

Robert H. Brooks, an insurance agent whose interest in transport and history inspired him to helm Maumee River cruises and an excursion railroad, died Tuesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. He was 86.

Mr. Brooks, who lived in the Old Orchard neighborhood of West Toledo and later Sylvania Township, had congestive heart failure and pneumonia, his wife, Katie, said.

He'd been a leader of the nonprofit group that ran the steamboat Shawnee Princess, which offered rides on the Maumee River near Grand Rapids. He and John D. Biggers, president of the Libbey-Owens-Ford Co., founded the Toledo, Lake Erie & Western excursion railroad, best-known for the steam-powered Bluebird Special.

He was most proud, though, of the Sandpiper, which was, he told The Blade in 1990, "a living history." He modeled the 65-foot vessel after a 1845 canal boat and had it built at The Andersons' fabrication shop. It first plied the Maumee from downtown Toledo in 1984. He was the captain -- and he maintained the craft and its engines.

"He really loved the Sandpiper," his wife said. "He liked the others, but this was pretty much his idea."

He often graced passengers with history-based narrations. "He was very outgoing," his son David said.

He sold the boat in 1992.

As an insurance agent, he represented several companies. Early in his career, he worked for Brooks Insurance Agency. His father founded the firm in 1922, and brother Paul "Bill" Brooks later was president.

Mr. Brooks was a 1944 graduate of Ottawa Hills High School. He attended the University of Toledo and was a graduate of the Insurance Institute of New York.

Surviving are his wife, Kathleen, whom he married Sept. 28, 1957; sons, Robert, Jr., David, and Stephen; daughter, Paula Walker; brother, Paul "Bill" Brooks, and six grandchildren. His twin brother, James, died in 2009.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Little Flower Church, where he was a member, with visitation to start at 10 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Heartbeat of Toledo, or a charity of the donor's choice.

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