Coping with Grief
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When a great tree falls, it leaves a gaping hole in the forest canopy. And though its loss can befelt, light will pour into the space it’s left to warm the soil, nurture what is next, and guide our way forward.
Dorothy Mae Brooks Ferrette was a mighty force, like such a tree. She passed into eternity in the early morning hours of October 16, 2023 after a prolonged illness and dynamic life. Though small-statured, Mrs. Ferrette’s booming voice, quick wit, relentless tenacity, and striking beauty made her a larger-than-life figure in the Lowcountry landscape and beyond. Her life and work centered around her love of family, faith, community, and legacy. Mrs. Ferrette was born in Wiggins, SC in 1929 to Benjamin [Glover] Brooks Sr. and Effie Lou T. Brooks. She had six siblings whom she adored throughout her life. She studied Business Accounting, Office Methods and shorthand at Mather School in Beaufort, SC. She received an A.A. Degree in Business Administration from Voorhees College and a B.S. Degree in Education from Savannah State. Mrs. Ferrette served as a teacher in Colleton and Charleston County public schools and later completed graduate work at the College of New Rochelle, NY. She then trained as a Special Investigator and Supervisory Investigator at the Police Academy in New York City, and spent over fourteen years of employment serving in different roles, including as a Counselor, Social Worker, Medical Investigator, and Supervisor. When she returned to the Lowcountry in the 1970s to help care for her aging family, Mrs. Ferrette became the first full time woman police officer with the Estill Police Department. She later managed a floral business with her late sister, Ruthie Mae Rearden. After decades of service, Mrs. Ferrette retired to continue serving her family and community full-time.
She was united in Holy Matrimony to Robert Gundelyn Ferrette of Charleston, SC on January 17, 1960. Of this union, two daughters were born: Patricia Margaret (1960) and Priscilla Virginia (1965). The family shared a love of Faith; the couple raised their young daughters in the church where Mrs. Ferrette acted as Secretary, sang on the choir, presided as President of the Social Concerns, and was a Trustees Board and Laymen’s Council person over her decades-long membership.
A long-time civil and voting rights activist, Mrs. Ferrette maintained an active role in local and national political organizing. Her business intelligence, political savvy, and gregarious persona made her a sought-after thought leader on several political campaigns (including the local Obama-Biden campaign office during the 2008 election season) and community organizations such as the NAACP. In the 1980s, she ran for city council to address the needs of her neighbors and was so popular that she nearly won the election with little advertisement. Dorothy’s social and political prowess was notable, and she made vast contributions to the well-being of others throughout her life.
Mrs. Ferrette remained deeply devoted to her family throughout her later years. She was a co-founder of the Brooks-Wineglass Family Reunion, a fierce advocate for the preservation of her family’s ancestral land in Wiggins, SC, and an eloquent elocutionist and historian of their legacy.
Mrs. Ferrette’s gifts were many, and she poured all that she had into her family. She was the oldest remaining Brooks family matriarch, and leaves to mourn her devoted husband of 63 years, Robert G. Ferrette; two daughters, Patricia Sherrill and Priscilla Ferrette; six grandchildren, Ashley (Courtney) Finklin, Brittney (Richard) Ferrette Washington, April (Shelley) Stephens, Drayton (Ebony) Ferrette Washington, Anthony (Mercedes) Sherrill, and Amber Nova Griffin; eleven great-grandchildren; one brother, Willie Brooks and a host of nieces, nephews,cousins, and community members’ whose lives she touched.
The Ferrette House—a cultural arts residency and museum—was established in Walterboro, SC by her daughter, Priscilla, and granddaughter, Brittney to honor her legacy. Like a great tree whose roots and seeds have helped to grow an entire forest, Dorothy Mae Brooks Ferrette lives on within us.