If living a full life is measured by love and laughter, then Kenneth “Ken” Brooker, Jr., of Norwich and New Paltz, NY, lived the best one anyone could have. He passed away peacefully on Thursday, March 17, 2022, at Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital while surrounded by his loving family. During his 86 years, Ken built an immeasurable legacy through the countless lives he touched as a family man, educator, coach, and mentor.
He is survived by Gladys, his devoted wife of 63 years. Together they shared their love with 9 children, 13 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren.
Ken was born August 2, 1935. He graduated Norwich High School in 1953 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. When he returned from serving his country, he met and soon married his sweetheart, Gladys Whaley, and immediately started raising their family. He later graduated from the State University of NY at Cortland (class of ‘62) and began teaching physical education at the Wallkill Central School District, a position he held for 34 years. During his tenure, he taught in every building in the district and coached nearly every sport in the athletic program. He started both the wrestling and gymnastic programs and nurtured the District’s fledgling indoor track & field program and middle school track & field program, which continue today. He administered the Town of Shawangunk Recreation Summer program, co-founded the Panther Relays Invitational, and led countless other physical fitness events. He served as Athletic Director for over a decade.
After retiring from teaching and coaching, Ken served as a track & field official, where he was well known for exemplifying the highest professional standards. His personal mastery of officiating track & field resulted in his assignment to high profile competitions such as NYSPHSAA, Empire State Games, NYS Senior Games, National Junior Olympics Qualifiers, league & sectional championships and state qualifiers, Army West Point track meets, and the Warrior Games for disabled veterans held at West Point. Throughout his years as an educator and into retirement, Ken mentored other coaches, officials, and teacher candidates from the educational program at Cortland. He served as president of Section IX Athletics, and held numerous other leadership positions. In 2020 he was inducted into the Section IX Hall of Fame. Previously he was honored by Chapter IX of the NYS Athletic Administrator Assoc. and the Catskill Zone of the NYS Assoc. of Health, Phys. Ed, Recreation & Dance. He was an avid bowler, and traveled the country with the Marine Corps bowling team. He bowled in various Ulster & Orange County leagues through 2019. When Ken was not teaching, coaching, or officiating, he could be found on the sidelines of athletic competitions throughout the county supporting his own children and later grandchildren in their own athletic pursuits.
Ken joins his son Michael, and daughters Catherine and Julie in the everlasting kingdom. He is survived by Brenda Roach (Brian Roach) of Rosendale, NY; Michele Halstead (Dr. Michael Halstead) of Stone Ridge, NY; Scott Brooker (Holly Mitchell) of Highland, NY; Kenneth Brooker III (Sarah Duff) of Highland, NY; Jeanne Scott of New Paltz, NY; and Christopher Brooker (Kelly Zdroski) of New Paltz, NY. Among his beloved grandchildren are Michael, Adam (Lauren), Raldon II, Jessica, Martiana (Jonathan), David, Halia, Drew, Tyrese, Rebecca, Julia, Mckenzie, and Christopher. He was also blessed with great-grandchildren Dominic, Avri, Gianna, Catherine, Kali, and Aryn. Ken is predeceased by his parents Kenneth, Sr. and Ava Brooker, of Norwich, NY, and siblings Jay Brooker and Judy Brooker. He is survived by siblings Ronald Brooker (Emily), Shirley Whaley (Gay), Shelvy Schraft (Ernie), and a number of nieces and nephews. Visitation will be held from 4-7 PM on Tues., March 22 at Copeland-Hammerl Funeral Home, New Paltz, with cremation to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to the Special Olympics New York at 94 New Karner Road, Suite 208, Albany, NY 12203.