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Obituary: Battling addiction gave Infinite Leota Brooks a career

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE
  • Star Tribune
  • May 16, 2012 - 9:00 PM

After falling to the low point in her life, Infinite Leota Brooks made it her life's work to quietly lift other people up with her.

Brooks, a nurse who overcame alcoholism, spent most of the rest of her life counseling people with chemical dependency in the Twin Cities.

"She brought a quiet dignity and elegance to her work," said Peter Bell, who worked with her when she was a counselor at what is now African American Family Services. Brooks was "one of the pioneers in recovery" focusing on African-American women and the gay and lesbian community, Bell said. "She touched a lot of lives."

Brooks died May 10 after years of living with Alzheimer's disease.

Born in Missouri, Brooks joined the military after high school, where she worked as an X-ray technician, according to her longtime partner, Pat Nevins. She moved to Minneapolis and went to Abbott Hospital School of Nursing, graduating in 1966. But early in her career, she developed an addiction to alcohol, family members said. She overcame it, and made it her life's mission to help others do the same.

She started a chemical dependency group specifically for nurses, then went on to get a master's degree in counseling, Nevins said. Through the years, she also worked at Abbott and Hennepin County's medical center, Nevins said. She also did hospice work in her later years.

"She just had a very gentle spirit but a very forceful spirit," said Sharon Chapman, a cousin who moved to the Twin Cities to live with Brooks in the early 1970s and who stayed nearby for years. "She didn't sugarcoat things ... but she did it in a way that made it easy to take."

After going on a spiritual retreat, Brooks decided to change her first name to Infinite, friends said.

Friend Nancy Lee said she met Brooks through Unity South Church in Bloomington and visited her while she battled Alzheimer's. Brooks was open about her illness and remained kind to everyone, Lee said, showing concern for visitors and staff members.

"Anywhere we were, she was always saying 'hello, hello, hello' and doing her best to have other people feel comfortable," Lee said.

Friends and family said Brooks was non-judgmental and careful not to get rattled over small things.

"She picked and chose her stresses," Chapman said. "She learned how to do that. She modeled that to people."

Bell, former Metropolitan Council Chairman, said that after Brooks' recovery, she had a strong commitment to give back to the community. "The Twin Cities -- the recovering community specifically -- was a better place because she was here," he said.

Brooks is survived by Nevins, a sister, Chapman, and other cousins, nieces and nephews. Services have been held.

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102

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