B.V. Brooks dies; Westport News co-founder, publisher and real estate developer
Updated 12:28 pm, Tuesday, September 6, 2011
B.V. (Dexter) Brooks of Westport, a co-founder with his family of the Westport News, which became the keystone for a chain of weekly newspapers he later published in southwestern Connecticut, died Aug. 31, two days before his 85th birthday.
Brooks, who also owned several major commercial properties in Westport, died at the AmeriMed Hospital in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, of a heart attack, according to his family. Three days earlier, he had suffered a first heart attack while on a cruise ship out of San Francisco bound for New York City. Although he rallied after treatment at Ameri Med, the second attack was fatal.
Born Sept. 2, 1926, in New York City, Brooks was the only child of Babert Vincent Brooks Sr. and Florence Goodwin Brooks. He grew up in Coral Gables, Fla., and lived in Beverly Hills, Calif., for a short time before the family settled in Westport in 1941. Graduating from Staples High School in 1942 at the age of 15, he went to Deerfield Academy for a post-grad year before entering Dartmouth College in 1943. During World War II he spent three years at Kings Point Maritime Academy and saw sea duty as a junior officer on merchant marine ships in the North Atlantic and South Pacific. Returning to Dartmouth he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1947. He then obtained an M.B.A with distinction at Tuck School in 1949.
Starting his business career as an investment banker in Boston, he moved to New York City as a security analyst with Value Line Investment Advisors for five years before joining Booz, Allen & Hamilton management consultants. Following that, he was chief financial officer of two diversified national corporations.
When his father became ill in the early 1960s, Brooks returned to Westport to join his father in the family real estate firm, Brooks, Inc. The company had developed Westfair Shopping Center, Westfair Village and Compo Shopping Center in Westport. Their last project together was Brooks Corner on Main Street in 1963. Following the death of his father in 1967 Brooks changed the name of the company to Brooks, Torrey and Scott, Inc., and went on to purchase and develop commercial real estate in New York state, other locations in Connecticut and St. Croix, V.I.
In 1964, Brooks and his parents launched the Westport News. Following its success, Dexter Brooks served for 35 years as chairman and publisher of Brooks Community Newspapers, which published eight award-winning newspapers in Fairfield County, including the Fairfield Citizen-News. His family said he was particularly proud when the Westport News won a national press award as the best community newspaper in America in the early 1990s. He sold the newspaper group in 1999 to Thomson Newspaper Group of Canada, and the papers are now part of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.
Woody Klein, a former editor of the Westport News, remembers Brooks as an executive who kept an open mind.
"I had the pleasure of knowing Dexter Brooks for more than 40 years and working for him as a columnist most of that time," Klein said. "He offered me the editor's job in 1992 when I retired from IBM, and I stayed until 1997."
"He was a gentleman to deal with, always willing to listen and open to new ideas," Klein said. "During my years with him, the paper was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles on domestic abuse in Westport and Weston. I shall miss his friendly manner and participation in our community. My sympathies go out to Kay and his family."
The Brooks family also owned Westport Travel Service, Inc., from 1963 until 1992. He also was a trustee of Norwalk Hospital and the University of Bridgeport for many years. He was a former chairman of the American Institute for Economic Research and a trustee of the Media Research Center in Washington, D.C., among other interests.
Locally, he and his wife were "first family" supporters of Near and Far Aid and benefactors of Westport Library's "Booked for the Evening" event each year.
He was also an enthusiastic and life-long tennis player, sailor and skier until his early 80s. In recent years he took up the hobby of creating crossword puzzles and self-published two books of puzzles that he gave to friends. He was working on the third book at the time of his death.
Although he never officially retired, he and his wife traveled worldwide leaving the real estate business under management of his two sons.
His wife, Kay, said of Brooks: "He loved life and exuded a joie de vivre, which is the way I would like people to remember him."
In addition to his wife of 25 years, the former Kathryn Frazer, he is survived by two sons, Torrey Brooks (wife Marcia) of Weston; Scott Brooks (wife Anastasia) of Westport; a daughter, Wendy Harris (husband Dak) of Weston; a stepdaughter, Lori Frazer (husband Christopher Lyman) of Searsmont, Maine; and a stepson, Marc Frazer (wife Megan) of Seattle, Wash. He is also survived by three grandsons, Brody, Brandon and Julian Brooks, and three granddaughters, Madeleine Harris and Kaila and Kathryn Frazer.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Heart Association or a charity of your choice.
A celebration of his life will be held Sunday, Sept. 18, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Westport Woman's Club on Imperial Avenue. All are welcome.