Family, friends remember an eternal optimist
THE much-loved young scientist killed in a shocking workplace shooting was described as an eternal optimist for whom "the sky could never get bluer''.
Jeffrey Brooks, who died aged 24, at the Beenleigh Crayfish Farm in 1996, drew more than 1000 people to his emotion-charged funeral in Alstonville in northern New South Wales, not far from his home town of Lismore.
His mother Wendy told The Courier-Mail that the overwhelming number of mourners was due to her son's kind, laid-back nature.
"Right through life, he was just so easy going. And I think that was one of the reasons he had so many friends. And he was just so non-judgmental of people. He would accept people the way they were,'' she said.
At the funeral, Jeffrey's father Lawrie read a quote that he felt best reflected the depth of feeling for his son.
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. This is how we think of Jeffrey now. That he is, and always will be, in our hearts, even though we miss him terribly.
"We all know that Jeffrey wasn't perfect, but we also know that they don't come any better.''
Best friend Paul Martin remembers him as the most positive person he had ever met.
"You know, the sky could never get bluer for Jeff,'' he said. "For the rest of us it was all grey, but everything was rainbows and unicorns for Jeff. He was so happy in his life and in himself and he was incredibly positive and always saw the silver lining in everything.''
Jeffrey was the oldest of Wendy and Lawrie's four children. Wendy, a woman devoted to her faith, and Lawrie, a softly-spoken and methodical engineer, raised their children in a strong Christian household. They were taught to be caring and respectful of others and they developed a deep love of nature, spending many weekends roaming and fishing in the countryside around their rural home.
Jeffrey met a girl, Nicky, through his church's youth group and they fell in love and married.
At the time of his death, they had moved to Carina in Brisbane and were planning to start a family.
Jeffrey, an aquaculturist who had completed his studies at Southern Cross University, had scored what he thought was his dream job, helping turn around the fortunes of a failing crayfish farm.
His father Lawrie said that from a young age his eldest son had realised what he needed to do as a career.
"His thing about life was we're going to run out of fish, because they're cutting down all the mangroves and all the breeding places and putting in houses,'' Lawrie said.
"The future will be in fish farms and crayfish farms and prawn farms … so he said he was going to be part of it.''
Jeffrey, a robust young man at 122kg and 188cm, enjoyed playing rugby with his mates at Wollongbar Alstonville Rugby Club. Fishing and hunting were also passions and Lawrie taught Jeffrey from a young age that he had to respect firearms.
He followed his father's teachings to the letter and friends and seasonal workers at the crayfish farm all state he was pedantic when it came to gun safety, which is why they were all shocked to learn police had determined he had accidentally shot himself by pulling a loaded weapon towards himself. And particularly as the gun in question was a faulty one he had always refused to use.
Jeffrey was also blessed with a great sense of humour and was known as a prankster.