LORAIN — Jeffrey David Brooks’ longtime love of fixing cars was in many ways emblematic of his relationship with his friends and family before he died.
“He fixed everything in the family. You could rely on him,” Brooks’ mother, Christen Gunder, said at a memorial service held for the late 25-year-old Saturday.
Brooks died at MetroHealth Medical Center on Dec. 14 after he was allegedly repeatedly punched in the head by his fiancee’s cousin, Nick Masley, two days earlier. Masley, 22, is being held at Lorain County Jail for felonious assault following the incident.
However, the focus wasn’t on Brooks’ violent death at the Saturday service but rather, the highlights of his life. Many of Brooks’ closest friends and family members including his mother, and stepfather, Gaylord Gunder, gathered at Lakeview Park in Lorain to remember Brooks’ life. Together, they honored the 25-year-old by releasing blue balloons into the sky and talking about the man, they called silly, giving and above all, caring.
“He was our Santa Claus,” his mother said, describing one of her favorite memories of her son. “He gave everyone gifts for the holidays. This year, there was a void.”
Brooks’s fiancee, Kayla Ellis, recalled his childlike spirit.
“I remember him being happy and goofy. He said ‘I might be 25, but I’m not ready to grow up,’” Ellis said.
Despite it being almost a month since Brooks’ death, his family and friends said they feel that a part of him is still with them.
“I lay my head down at night and I swear I hear him saying something crazy,” Brooks’ sister, Lauren Gunder, said with a laugh. Shortly after her brother’s death, she got a tattoo of a wrench on her left arm to commemorate her brother and his passion for working on cars. “Not one part (of the tattoo) was painful. I just felt my brother watching over me,” she added.
Christen Gunder knows the family can’t continue the tradition of releasing balloons every year, but she said they will find other ways to honor and remember her son. Above all else, she said, she hopes Brooks is never forgotten.
“He was my baby.”