BAR HARBOR — Ernest Haskell Brooks, 78, died quietly on March 22, 2016, in Bangor, after a life of creativity and inspired problem-solving. Ernie was born Sept. 5, 1937, in Lynn, Mass., to Earl and Dorothy Brooks. He graduated from Merrimac High School in 1954. Coming from long line of New England artists, he knew he wanted to pursue his passion of art, and enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1955-1956. His education was interrupted when he left Boston to serve in the US Coast Guard from 1957-1960.
He made his life’s career designing and building restaurants, bars, the occasional home kitchen and his own home in Tremont. His signature work has defined dining establishments from Gloucester, Mass., and New Orleans, La., to Bar Harbor. His trademark, in addition to his stubby cigar and cocky Confederate cap, was repurposing salvaged wood and architectural details. Old paneling was refinished to build the British pub-style bar at the Thirsty Whale, his hand-carved signs advertised the once popular restaurants Duffy’s Quarterdeck and The MaryJane, and his craftsmanship is still seen in what is now the Black Friar Inn and Pub and Galyn’s Restaurant. Fiercely independent, he worked for clients he liked, and would walk away if not treated with the same respect he gave. His design sense and ability to assess a space and find the best use for it assured he had no shortage of customers, and he became known as the man who put the bar in Bar Harbor.
Conversation was another art to him. He was well-read, and his home had hundreds of neatly organized books on art, history, cooking and philosophy. He thrived on lengthy arguments and well-defended debates.
He also loved to pass on all the things he found so delightful and interesting about the world to his children, and encouraged them to always look at things from every side.
En route from Merrimac to Bar Harbor, his longtime home, he designed and built interiors along the way, and raised three families. His early specialty was Chinese restaurants. A foodie before that was a word, he would watch the chefs at establishments he was designing, and they gladly taught him how to chop and sauté. Food, along with art, were constant elements in Ernie’s world.
There is remarkable circularity to Ernie’s life. When he first came to Bar Harbor, he stayed at a rooming house. The landlady told Ernie she would trade the secret of her blueberry pie filling for his perfectly domed apple pie recipe. That rooming house has since been transformed into Galyn’s Restaurant. Ernie’s woodwork and design create the atmosphere in the upstairs lounge where he first laid his head in Bar Harbor, filled with visions of antique molding, and rebuilt English pubs.
In another full circle, when in his 60s he decided to reach out to his high school love, Dianne. He courted her with letters, and soon they choose to share a life, cruising Marden’s and dining around Bar Harbor at the restaurants Ernie had helped create.
In addition to a legacy of fine craftsmanship Ernie leaves behind a recipe for his killer fish chowder, and a host of loving family and friends.
Ernie is survived by his sweetheart Dianne Ross; sisters Marge Allen and Rhoda Brooks; sons Haskell Brooks and Andy Barker; daughter Bronwyne Hostettler; son Brandon Brooks and his wife Danielle; daughter Morgan Brooks and partner Christian Fitzgerald; daughter Kymry Brooks and fiancé Christian Todhunter; five grandchildren, Indya, Isaac, Julian, Rhianna, and Paisley, and cousin Charlotte Gulezian. Longtime friends include Karen Zimmermann and Dennis Smith, Frank Ryan, and Ray “Fuzzy” Carbone. Ernie was preceded by his dear friend Nathan P. Hall.
A celebration of life for Ernest will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 26, 2016, at Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Somesville, with a gathering to celebrate Ernie’s life to follow at Galyn’s Restaurant, 17 Main St., Bar Harbor.
The family wishes to thank the staff at MDI Hospital and Eastern Maine Medical Center for their kindness and care.
Those who desire may make contributions in Ernie’s memory to a local children’s art program of their choice.
Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.