Ana M. Brooks passed away at the Chadron Community Hospital Oct. 24, 2017, at age 84.
She lived a storied and eventful life.
Ana Mae Mitchell was born Feb. 25, 1933, in Hurley, Missouri. As a child, her family relocated from Missouri to central California during the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression, then on to Oregon, by the late-1940s. Ana attended middle school and high school in Modesto, California, and graduated from Stayton Union High School, in Stayton, Oregon, in 1950.
In 1953, she met and married Graydon Gimpel, a depot agent on the Southern Pacific Railroad in Los Banos, California. They moved back to his home state of South Dakota in 1955, where he found employment on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, working frequently between Wall and Pierre, South Dakota. By the early-1960s, they were looking to settle down permanently, and decided on Chadron as a central location and suitably sized town for their family of four children: Pamela, Marcia, Douglas and James.
In 1967, once her youngest had started school, and at a time when women rarely started their own businesses, she opened a business repairing shoes, leather products, canvas and other heavy fabric goods. Initially located in a garage at Fourth and Maple Streets, where they resided at the time, the business expanded at a location on West Second Street, to include retail western wear. About 1970, the business moved to the 200 block of Main Street. Graydon left the employment of the C&NW Railroad at that time, and joined Ana in the business where they worked side-by-side for 20 years until his death in 1990. She remained the public face of the business from the beginning.
In 1991, she was remarried to Francis Brooks, a long time Chadron resident. Mr. Brooks died in 2007.
In 1992, she sold the business to an outside interest and retired from full-time employment, though she earned a modest income quilting and sewing, and was actively involved in raising her grandchildren.
During these later years, operating from home, she repaired and replaced literally hundreds of zippers, hemmed and altered thousands of garments and continued serving many of the same customers she had met in the store. She could operate industrial grade sewing machines with skill and finesse, and could sew complicated quilts and other projects without a pattern. An elaborate network of loyal customers was built entirely through word-of-mouth.
During her years in business and as a spouse and mother, she taught her children and grandchildren many great virtues. Chiefly among them was perseverance, or what she liked to call ‘stick-to-it-iveness’. Just by watching her you learned the value of hard work; self-discipline; how to finish what you started; how to live down your mistakes and keep trying; the virtue of generosity; how to serve others cheerfully; not to overcharge for your services; how to repay justly incurred debts promptly; how to put aside considerations of pride and status; how to treat everyone fairly and equally; and how to give people a break and a hand-up when they needed it. These lessons are a priceless inheritance she left for her children and grandchildren.
She loved her customers and the townspeople of Chadron. She was always enthusiastic about getting to work in the morning, and was remarkably upbeat even when the cash register went quiet in the slow winter months. She was not inclined to take slights personally, forgave readily, and offered prayers and encouragement always.
She was active as a congregant in several church congregations throughout her life. She enjoyed visits from Pastor Mark of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Chadron and thought a great deal of him. She occasionally attended Mass with her late husband, Francis, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. She was a confessing Christian, but did not identify with any particular denomination.
She is survived by her daughter Marcia Scherbarth (Wayne) of Hay Springs; sons Douglas Gimpel (Tina) of Rapid City, South Dakota; and James Gimpel (Veronica) of Columbia, Maryland; 16 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren; sisters Mary of Loveland, Colorado; Shirley Dodson of DeKalb, Texas; and Darlene Buell of Hephizabah, Georgia; brothers George Mitchell of Los Banos, California; and David Mitchell of Stayton, Oregon.
She is predeceased by her husband, Graydon Gimpel; her second husband, Francis Brooks, daughter, Pamela Hubbard and great-grandson Erik Fisher.
Memorial services will be Thursday, Nov. 2 at 10 a.m. at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church with Ana’s grandson, Rev. Chet Scherbarth, a Lutheran minister in San Diego, California, officiating. Inurnment will be in the Greenwood Cemetery.
Memorials may be given to the Chadron Senior Center.