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DISPATCH: Edward Brooke Add to ...

Edward Brooke, a gay man who lived most of his adult life in Toronto, was not well known, even within the city's homosexual community. But his quiet life was telling all the same.

He epitomized many gay men of his generation, born in the first half of the past century.

Mr. Brooke, who died of a heart attack in early November at the age of 63, was married briefly in the late 1960s and acted as a father to his wife's two children from a previous marriage.

When he divorced and came out of the closet in the 1970s, his new sexual identity was not accepted by his conservative family in London, Ont., launching a gradual erosion of ties to his relatives and prompting him to move to the more-tolerant Toronto.

In the city, he had a long relationship with Willem Stegenga, an outgoing furniture dealer.

During their time together, Mr. Brooke experienced the peaks of his life. He and Mr. Stegenga made money in Toronto's real-estate market and used some of their profits on glamorous trips, an Alfa Romeo sports car and home furnishings. They once took the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship to Europe and flew home on the Concorde.

But the AIDS crisis of the late 20th century interrupted the good times when Mr. Stegenga died of the disease in 1994.

Friends say Mr. Brooke never recovered, and his grief was complicated by poor health and dwindling financial resources in his final years. He died in a small studio apartment in central Toronto, estranged from much of his family.

A bookkeeper most of his life, he had less than $500 to his name when he died. But he left behind an antique chest of drawers containing the souvenirs of his life, including Concorde matchbooks from the day he flew high enough to see the curvature of the Earth.

-- By Jeff Brooke, Edward Brooke's nephew

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