Betty Lou Brooking, of Golden Valley, died on June 8, at age 95, after a pioneering career in food-science and a life of humbly influencing those around her.

After growing up in north Minneapolis and graduating from North High, Brooking, known all her life as "Toots," attended the University of Minnesota.

She then applied her study of physical education and chemistry to a brief teaching stint before taking a job as a lab technician at Pillsbury. Before long, Brooking became a research scientist developing new products.

After the Bundt pan was invented by Minnesota-based Nordic Ware, she worked on developing Pillsbury's Bundt cake mixes. Cakes were among Brookings' specialties, and she received a patent for a microwavable mix. She also worked on creating military K-rations and Pillsbury's Space Food Sticks, a precursor to energy bars that were eaten by NASA astronauts. She earned the respect of her mostly male colleagues with her acumen and hard work, said her sister Peggy Neibling. "She ended up with a career that was just perfect for her," Neibling noted.

At home, Brooking was an excellent cook who loved planning and shopping for meals. She and Neibling made more than 20 trips to Hawaii and Brooking even packed frozen steaks in her suitcase so she could prepare meals with ingredients that would be difficult to source on the islands. "I can't tell you how much fun she had planning the meals she would take with us," Neibling said.

Near the end of her life, when Brooking was at a care facility, she would insist on taking desserts back to her room — she never ate them, but liked to have the option. "Her attachment to food was lifelong," Neibling said.

Brooking doted on animals and supported Helping Paws, a nonprofit that trains service dogs. She doted on children, too. She made monthly visits to St. Joseph's Home for Children in Minneapolis, where she helped serve cake and ice cream to celebrate kids' birthdays. She taught kids in her extended family to fish and water ski and hosted them for swimming or ice-skating sessions.

She and Niebling were beloved by younger relatives for taking a special interest in their lives. "When we saw their car coming to our house, it was always exciting, because we knew they were going to pay attention to us," said niece Becky Brooking, of Crystal.

Brooking was known for her kind, accepting, nonjudgmental nature. She wouldn't dwell on hardship, could shrug off others' boorish behavior, and never held a grudge. Becky Brooking was inspired by her aunt's ability to let negative things go and to support others in need. After Becky Brooking's parents passed away, her aunt's regular presence buffeted the loss and kept their memory alive. "She taught me how to be a much better person," she said. "She helped me to look at life a little bit differently than I had been, not by preaching, but by example."

Niece Sue Neibling, of Gray Eagle, Minn., was struck by Brooking's ability to stay positive and never complain. "She was probably the most gracious person I will ever meet," she said.

In addition to Peggy Neibling, Brooking is survived by nieces and nephews Barbara and Jerry Pedlar, Scott and Kelly Brooking, Tim and Sue Neibling, Linda Borowiec, Becky Brooking and Rick Wyttenbach, Tami Brooking, Cindy and Jerry Luedke. Services have been held.