Three men standing in front of green hills

The Day Jimi Passed Away


4 minutes reading

It was 9:13 on Saturday morning, September 4, 2004.  I had just woken up, which is odd for me as I am an early riser but I must have needed the rest.  My husband let me know he had to run into the office for a bit, said it was beautiful outside and suggested we make something fun for dinner.  I love to cook so it sounded like a great idea.

I went to the kitchen, made some coffee, grabbed a couple of cookbooks and headed to sit outside on our deck.  Our house is an old Spanish style built in the early 1920s with a deck overlooking beautiful oak trees that are over a hundred years old.  It is a very quiet neighborhood where sometimes you can hear the ocean but typically just the rustling of the squirrels hopping from tree to tree.

Excited for the evening, I began perusing recipes.  Strangely, I could hear music playing.  It was a soft, slow song and I soon recognized it as Amazing Grace,  a song that washes over me with memories of my parents as it was played at both of their memorial services in 2000.  I thought to myself that someone close to a neighbor must have died and didn’t think anything more of it.  I continued looking through my cookbooks, picked out my recipes and headed downstairs to make my shopping lists.

As I was writing my list, the phone rang. It was my sister-in-law, Bozena, Pascal’s mom.  She was upset.  She explained she had just called Jimi to arrange when to drop off Pascal with him for the weekend and that Jimi’s friend had answered the phone saying Jimi had a heart attack and to please come to McMinnville as soon as she could.  This made no sense to me as we had no heart history in our family.  When I asked if he was OK, she said she didn’t know and was just told to get to his house.  We hung up and I decided to call Jimi’s house.  The phone was answered by Jimi’s friend and when I asked if he was OK, I was told the paramedics were there but they couldn’t resuscitate him.  He was dead on his kitchen floor.

Confusion, emotion, disbelief, and panic set in.  I was in California.  I needed to get to Oregon. The next hours, days and weeks that went by were blurry to say the least.  I met so many people in his life who wanted to help.   There was so much to take in, to deal with, to schedule…and then there was the winery business he had which I knew nothing about.

But one of the moments that I will never forget was when I picked up his ashes and received his death certificate.  His pronounced time of death was 9:13 a.m., Saturday, September 4, 2004: the exact time I woke up that day, and within that hour, had heard the slow wafting harmony of Amazing Grace.  The world woke me up and the course of my life would change drastically from that day on.

When I reflect on the fifteen years since that horrible day, I miss him.  He was my last immediate family member, my only sibling, eighteen months older than me.  We lost our parents in 2000, and you expect to lose your parents at some point, but not your sibling, so young and so soon after our parents.

Yet I am so grateful for the gifts I have been given by carrying on his legacy: the winery, the “close as my own kid” relationship with Pascal, the “close as my own sibling” relationship Pascal has with my kids, the abundance of incredible, generous, awesome friends in the wine industry, many of which were his friends too and of course, all of YOU who have supported me and Brooks for all of these years.

There is so little in this life that we control, but for the things we can, the things that can bring hope, peace and joy to our lives, you have to go after them with all that you have.   In Jimi’s 38 short years, he was a role model for living life to the fullest through his experiences, his travels and in each and every conversation he had with friends, strangers, and everyone he came into contact with.  That is one of the many teachings he left us with.

I hope that our legacy brings inspiration to your daily life as it does to mine.

In hope, honor, heart and joy,


(Read Part 2 – The Legacy Continues)

17 comments on “The Day Jimi Passed Away”

  1. John Brooks

    Read this with a tear in my eye…but also a smile for all you have done to realize Jimi’s dream….

  2. Don Stone

    Heart rendering… Love to the family from Oklahoma.

  3. Sonny Jepson

    Yet further proof that Brooks is more than about great wine. It’s about family, and thanks for letting us all be part of it.

  4. Loretta Boatcher

    What a beautiful tribute to your brother Janie! If you ever get a chance, you may want to read a book that I am currently reading called “Signs” by Laura Lynne Jackson. Your story could have been one for this book. XO

  5. Jan Strombeck


    Your words of tribute and love for your brother are beautiful and attest to his legacy and well-lived life. We love Brooks Winery and knowing the story makes it more meaningful each time we visit. Don and Carolyn are our neighbors here in McNary, and we know they and their’s are a part of your “family.” Thanks for sharing your heartfelt words.

  6. Penn Wells

    I have read this before, but I will never tire of its message; about Jimi, your love and devotion and the outreach from your friends in the wine industry. Always a timely reminder to keep life, it’s blessings and its challenges in perspective and to approach every day like it’s… well you know. Much love, Penn

  7. Margaret Kuffel

    What an amazing story! Sending love to you and your/his family on this hard anniversary. ❤️

  8. Norman Lacy and Gayle Austen

    We visited Brooks on a 5 day Willamette stay in August 2018 on our way from Napa to the Rocky Mountainer and Lake Louise. I heard this story while at Brooks and now wear the cap on all my travels mostly in Europe and Australia. We can’t get your wine here in Melbourne, Australia but would love too. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  9. Alex Forbes

    Your story is so moving and beautiful. Very touching. I commend you for your strength and your commitment in the name of family in carrying on the Brooks
    winery tradition.
    Wishing you and your family health and happiness and continued success to Brooks winery.

  10. Kristen Talley

    Love this, Janie. Thank you for sharing it with us. Jimi was wonderful.

  11. damian davis

    Alex, Hell yeah it brings inspiration. All the days we recall the story of Jimmy Brooks. All the days we reminisce of the legends of Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine industory. And especially when we read your words Alex. Let’s raise a glass to Jimmy Brooks and to you and others for keeping the legend alive. Let’s do our best to share the story of Oregon Pinot and Brooks’ special place within that story. Cheers, Damian Davis, Portlandia Pinot

  12. Cathy Curtin Cleary

    Janie, you have done a beautiful job running the winery! Jimi would be so proud of you and how his winery has grown and how close you are to his son.You wrote a beautiful story ! I had the same experience when my brother and Dad passed. You story sent chills down my spine because not many people experience these feeling.

  13. nanda gatley

    This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing! You’ve done amazing things with his dream, to honor his legacy!

  14. Dj

    Oh my goodness …I read this and tears started rolling down my cheeks.
    You have an amazing talent to write Janie.
    Missing Jimi always!

  15. Kristy Anderson

    Thank you for sharing Janie

  16. Keri Tawney

    Thank you for sharing this.

  17. Bruce & Sue Bartels

    Janie, when we met this summer, we immediately felt the love you had for those around you- so open and obvious…A love saddened by the deep loss of Jimi, but tempered by those who love you, too- family and friends. You continue to make us _all_ feel like part of your Brooks family—strangers no more. Bruce and Sue

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