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William R. "Bill"'s Story

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William R.“Bill” Brooks, Jr., 81, longtime Amesbury resident, died peacefully at Portsmouth Regional Hospital Friday afternoon, July 21, 2017, after a period of declining health. He was the husband of the late Peggy Sue (Landers) Brooks.
Born in Holyoke, on June 17, 1936, he was the only child of the late William R. and Grace (Bower) Brooks and was a 1961 graduate of Holyoke High School, during which years he was Director of the Second Congregational Church Youth Program.
Mr. Brooks joined the United States Air Force after high school and served an overseas tour of duty as a member of the Chaplain Corps, stationed at Weisbaden, Germany.
After returning from his military service, he attended Holyoke Community College where he was one of the founding members and president of the HCC Drama Club. He was later elected as Holyoke’s Alderman-at-large which launched his lifetime interest in the political arena. He was a member of VFW and Freemasons.
Bill moved to Amesbury in 1967 where he purchased and operated the popular Alex’s Soda Shop. He also started Amesbury’s first music supply store.
He continued his youth program efforts and served as the Youth Director at the Main Street Congregational Church in Amesbury. Under his leadership, the youth program created The Steppe Up Inn in a renovated garage on church property. It was a social club for local youth and performance venue for folksingers of the era. The coffeehouse was successfully operated from 1968 to 1970.
Bill began serving as a theatre director to the Southampton PTA in 1971 for their stage productions. This troupe later evolved into the very popular Southampton Players, a summer theatre program which ran from 1974 to 1976 in the Southampton Town Hall. He also served as director of the Amesbury Lion’s Club stage productions for their charity during this time. “Damn Yankees” and “Two By Two” were his favorite shows.
In 1974, he leased the vacant Amesbury Masonic Hall at 109 Main St. and started The Valley Players, incorporated as The Amesbury Playhouse Dinner Theatre and opened the doors in May, 1975. It was a simple operation in the beginning, then grew in popularity and expanded to a full restaurant/bar capabilities, originally at 109 Main Street, to the larger facility at 190 Main Street, Amesbury in 1988. He liked to call it “the biggest little dinner theatre” in the Northeast, and it did achieve the status of the oldest dinner theatre in the Northeast. The theatre remained in operation until July, 2011 when, sadly, the facility was sold to make way for the Easter Seals corporation.
Mr. Brooks served the City of Amesbury as Councilor at Large as well as President of the Council, and later ran for the Office of Mayor. He believed in safeguarding fiscal common sense in town management and giving back to the community which supported the theatre. His program of offering free senior theatre tickets was one of his favorite efforts, along with his annual celebration of Bobby Burns Night.
The Playhouse Valley Players, along with The Southampton Players, averaged 10 to 15 shows per year along with summer stock tours, road shows, summer camp, theatre classes and charity performances. Over 7,000 performances were presented over the 37 years of its remarkable history.
Bill served as Executive Artistic Director and Executive Producer, but first and foremost, he was an entertainer. His true love was the stage. Hitting the boards was his destiny, his purpose in life. He loved the audiences and they loved him. His proudest accomplishment and legacy was listening to his instincts to take that risk to open his theatre and to provide opportunities to countless talented individuals who have gone on to successful careers in film and theatre.
His legacy will be kept alive for years to come by his Playhouse family, including Jacqueline Foss, John Maynard, and Denice McGee, his many friends and his countless Playhouse supporters.
Memorial services will be held at Main Street Congregational Church, 145 Main St., Amesbury, next Thursday, August 3, 2017, at 11 a.m. followed by burial in the Veterans Section at Union Cemetery, Amesbury, with Military Honors.
Arrangements are by the Paul C. Rogers Family Funeral Home, 2 Hillside Ave., Amesbury.
Published on  July 26, 2017
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