By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Genette Brocken didn’t use the Everett Public Library, but her friends did. And she liked what she saw on its sign.
“She liked driving by the library and seeing what was on the readerboard,” said Eileen Simmons, the library’s director. “It made her happy that there were good things going on.”
A retired teacher, musician and school counselor, Brocken died April 7 at 83. She spent her last years at Everett’s Garden Court Retirement Community. Her roots weren’t here, and she is survived only by a nephew in the Midwest.
“She must have felt some real connection to the Everett community,” said N. Gerrie Brocken, the woman’s 70-year-old nephew, from his home in Muncie, Ind.
Simmons was astonished to learn recently that through Brocken’s generosity, library users will benefit for generations to come.
The Everett library was notified in June that it is one of the beneficiaries of Brocken’s estate. Simmons said last week that although the final sum of the gift isn’t yet known, “it looks as if the entire bequest will be somewhere between $350,000 and $400,000.”
“I’m just in awe,” Simmons said. “It’s such a wonderful kind of legacy to leave, a wonderful way to perpetuate what was important in your life.”
The endowment will be held by the Greater Everett Community Foundation as one of 14 library Collections of Excellence. It will be called the Genette Brocken Endowment for Literature and Music, and will fund contemporary literature and music programs and materials, Simmons said. The foundation also oversees several endowments for Sno-Isle Libraries.
Mark Nesse, retired as director of the Everett library, first heard about Brocken several years before leaving the job in 2007. He learned from Gary Meisner, an accountant and fellow member of the Rotary Club of Everett, that Brocken wanted to talk about a potential gift.
Meisner said Friday that Brocken had asked about estate issues after her close friend, another retired teacher, died unexpectedly.
Nesse met several times with Brocken. “She thought it was so important for people to have access to books when they were being discussed,” Nesse said. Apparently her friends had talked about long waits to check out best-selling books. “She also said she loved to drive by and look at the readerboard. She loved to see all the good things being offered,” Nesse added.
Simmons met with Nesse and Brocken before taking over as library director. She sent holiday cards to Brocken, as she did for endowment donors. “One year, the card came back and she wasn’t at her address anymore. We never heard anything,” Simmons said.
Then in June, the library received an envelope from Edward Jones, an investment company. Simmons said she was “stunned and grateful” that the letter was news of Brocken’s gift. “It said we were to inherit 40 percent of this trust,” Simmons said. That amount is $120,000, but the library will also get part of a larger trust. The total may not be known for six months, Simmons said.
He said his aunt lost her parents as a child and was raised by an aunt and uncle in Grove City, Pa. With degrees in music and education from Grove City College, she taught at armed forces schools in Germany. She later earned a master’s degree in counseling and became a high school counselor in Detroit. She never married and had no children.
After suffering health problems, she was encouraged by a friend to move to Everett about 30 years ago, he said.
According to Brocken’s obituary, she had studied classical accordion and was an avid golfer. The Rev. Robert Higgins said in an online comment with the obituary that Brocken was a faithful worshipper at Everett’s Cascade View Presbyterian Church.
“She was a lovely, very pleasant lady,” Meisner said. He described Brocken as “very frugal,” and said she once co-owned an Everett apartment building.
“She believed in education and music,” said Kennan Nunez, a longtime friend of Brocken’s. Nunez said Brocken still had pictures and notes from former students. “They loved and appreciated her,” she said. Nunez has sent those items to Brocken’s nephew.
Karri Matau, the Greater Everett Community Foundation’s vice president of grant making and partnerships, is pleased the gift is broadly defined. It can be used for materials and programs related to literature or music. “She didn’t restrict the materials to books. That’s really critical to libraries today,” Matau said.
Simmons sees the donation as an act of faith in a library’s role in the community. “It’s incredibly gratifying,” she said. “It reinforces the feeling that you’re doing something people value.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.