Lillian Ashton Brooks, well-regarded artist, dies at 89

DOWNEY - Lillian Ashton Brooks, former Downey Museum of Art president whose incalculable artistic legacy extends beyond the confines of Downey, passed away at her home July 2 at the age of 89.She had spent a lifetime of studying, creating and teaching art. Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., on May 27, 1921, Lillian began to work in art at age 11, taught an art class in high school at age 16, and continued to study the subject extensively while creating it at the University of Michigan, UCLA, Loyola Marymount, Cranbrook, the Getty, Cal State Long Beach and abroad. She was a graduate of Detroit's Wayne State University, majoring in English and art. In 1970 she painted for a month in Greece on Aegina, where she also studied yoga, Greek literature (under George Seferis), drama and dance. She also studied with Beat Generation (and Jack Kerouac friend) poet Gregory Corso, as well as writer Irving Stone ("Portrait in Stone," etc). In the mid-70s she studied with the famed Hans Burkhardt. In 1991 she traveled to Bedhidai, China, where she created a series of sumei ink paintings (Japanese brush painting) with a Chinese master. Her broad range of interests and pursuits took her to other parts of the world as well. Before she formally retired in 2002, a retrospective of her work spanning more than 50 years and which celebrated her passion for art and her life's work was held in 1999 at the Downey Museum of Art. Even then, she continued subbing at the Downey Adult School, and kept herself occupied as one of the area's leading artists, eagerly sought after as a speaker, demonstrator and judge. She drew sustenance from her other interests-music, poetry, and drama-and from a well-stocked home library. Up until two years ago, Lillian could be seen moving about the city and attending one or two community functions, if only to receive an encomium from some association, albeit with the use of a walker. Then her health began to deteriorate. First she lost the use of her esophagus, and both of her legs became arthritic. She was unable to walk in her last year, while she suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. She was on morphine and in a coma for a month before she died. She was married three times. Her survivors by her first husband include three sons, Fred, Steven and Larry Drilling, as well as a daughter, Lynn Drilling. There was no offspring from her union with her second husband, Dr. Ashton. A 16-year marriage to third and last husband Ralph Brooks (who himself retired 15 years ago as a restorer of antique furniture) would produce sons Richard, Peter and Brian Brooks, and daughter Karen Brooks-Winters. She had 15 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Viewing is scheduled July 9 from 5-9 p.m. at the First Baptist Church chapel. Funeral services will be held on July 10 at 11 a.m., to be followed by a light luncheon at the church gymnasium.

********** Published: July 8, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 12