In Memory of Lane Brooks

Published Jan 16, 2024


Climate and Energy

Food & Water Watch remembers a dear friend and colleague who helped shape the organization with his boundless determination, empathy, and positivity.

Food & Water Watch remembers a dear friend and colleague who helped shape the organization with his boundless determination, empathy, and positivity.

For every bill passed, rally gathered, and dollar donated, there’s a behind-the-scenes team that keeps it all moving. From 2007 to 2019, Lane Brooks led that team at Food & Water Watch. Today, we mourn his passing and celebrate his life.

Lane was one of the founding members of Food & Water Watch; first, on its board, and soon after as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Finance Officer. He came to Food & Water Watch to continue a long career in development, raising funds for causes that he cared for deeply. Lane spent more than a decade at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, and time with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and OPERA America, before working as Director of Development at Public Citizen. 

That’s where he met Wenonah Hauter, founder and Executive Director of Food & Water Watch — starting a 28-year friendship that was integral to the organization’s development. 

Lane spearheaded Food & Water Watch’s development program and fundraising team. He was instrumental to day-to-day operations, from finance, to IT, to hiring. He helped shepherd Food & Water Watch from just a dozen staff members in Washington, D.C. to over a hundred nationwide. 

In many organizations, the job of operations is to manage risk and create stability. That can often mean saying “No” to gutsy ideas. But Lane was a staunch supporter of bold actions that could create real change — and he worked to ensure Food & Water Watch had the resources to make it happen. He was committed to the organization’s vision and its determination to pursue positions and actions that other organizations didn’t.

At the same time, he was infinitely generous, optimistic, and unflappable. And he remained so even — perhaps especially — in times of change and uncertainty. Lane helmed operations and finance during the organization’s exponential growth, amid challenging economic times like the 2008 financial crisis, and through the digital revolution that has transformed fundraising and the way we work.

Through it all, he remained a beacon of sage advice, kind words, and new ideas. He jumped at the chance to try new things and lay the groundwork to bring others’ ideas to life, while also bringing his own to Food & Water Watch’s wider strategy. 

A group of staffers stand in front of green trees and plants holding signs that read "THANK YOU" and "FOOD & WATER WATCH"
Lane, far right, with Food & Water Watch staff outside the D.C. office in 2016.

Lane shared his dedication and bright mind with other organizations and causes outside of Food & Water Watch, as well. Most recently, he served on the board of the Fairfax County Parks Foundation and was a founding board member of the Nonprofit Alliance. He also shared sharp political commentary with more than 50,000 followers on Twitter. 

But his spirit and enthusiasm expanded to so many other pursuits throughout his life.

Lane was born in Gladewater, Texas, to a military family that moved around the country throughout his childhood. Family was very important to him — he was especially close with his mother’s parents, Ovid and Re Phillips.

In college, he studied broadcast journalism at Louisiana State University. There, he met his partner of 52 years, Dan Settles. After school, he moved to Denver and worked as a Teamster for about a year, driving for Rainbo Bread. Then, he went on to work for the iconic Denver Center for Performing Arts. 

“It had seven theaters and took up four square blocks,” Dan recounted. “The streets were closed off for it, and it was covered with ten-story high glass arcades. Lane was Associate Director of Development there, and he specialized in special events. He was pretty good at organizing special events, and they were always quite popular.”

While in Denver, Dan and Lane helped found the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus and often skied with the Colorado Outdoor Ski Association. They also continued a passion they’d found in Baton Rouge — renovating old homes and apartments. In Denver, they bought and renovated a house first built in 1880, and did much of the work themselves.

This was just one of Lane’s many creative pursuits. He drew, he painted; he loved opera and art galleries; and he was passionate about style. Beautiful shoes, bright colors; French cuffs and cufflinks. He cherished bespoke suits and dressed to the nines, always. 

During his time at Food & Water Watch, Lane was diagnosed with ALS, which led him to move from a full-time role to a part-time advisory position in 2019. He and Dan moved to Sante Fe to enjoy the rich arts scene there. 

In Santa Fe, he remained active in his community. He worked with staff at Montecito, the assisted living facility where he lived with Dan, helping to prepare them for GED tests and fill out citizenship papers. In October, he performed in a two-person play called Maniken and Miniken.

Lane was optimistic and warm-hearted to the end. “He never complained,” Wenonah remembered. “The glass was always half-full for Lane.” 

He’ll be laid to rest with Dan’s family in the town of Healy, in Lane County, Kansas. His legacy lives on in the organizations and causes he dedicated his life to, and among all the friends and colleagues he brought warmth to along the way.

Food & Water Watch Staff Remembers Lane

I was struck by how calm and unperturbed Lane seemed when I’d come to him with a messy or intricate operations question I thought would frustrate him or ruin his whole day. But he’d just respond in his breezy, nothing-to-see-here-kind-of-way, explaining the labyrinth of steps I needed to take to resolve the problem, while I genuinely admired his always stylish shoes. I’ll always remember that too. He had the greatest collection of shoe colors and designs I’ve ever seen.

Today, as I think back, what I’ll always appreciate most is seeing Lane maneuvering around the growth of the organization and the balancing of new staff in our newish organization, and the many personalities & antics of those first few years of the org. All that coincided with the need for FWW to navigate the serious up/down cycles of the economy such as the serious economic collapse of 2008 when so many non-profits disappeared. I don’t know how Lane felt inside, maybe he was really despairing, but outwardly, to my eyes at least, he navigated it in such dignified manner and with zen-like tranquility. In fact, it seemed to be when FWW most thrived! I’m sure a crisis happened frequently over the years without me giving it a second thought. Thank you Lane! 

— Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Organizing Director
Lane stands amid the marching crowd, smiling and holding up a sign that reads "Ban Fracking Now."
Lane at the 2016 March for a Clean Energy Revolution in Philadelphia.

Lane and I are “Best Friends”, “Chosen Family”, “Partners in Fun & Crimes” and have been for approximately 43 years, 3 months. We met in Denver, CO when I bought my first home and our “back yards” were adjacent to each other. The rest, they say, is history!

I will always remember what I call “The Lane Effect”: “an effect whereby someone who is having difficulties, challenges, dark thoughts, etc. have an encounter with Lane Brooks. Within mere moments, light, hope, levity, wisdom, and humor help dispel the aforementioned negativities.”

— Kevin Larson, Salesforce Director
Lane sits at a table and smiles during the all-staff retreat.
Lane at Food & Water Watch’s first all-staff retreat in 2009.

Words can’t fully express how much I will miss Lane. Lane was a true champion for our development team and especially me. He was always supporting, challenging and bringing his expertise to our meetings. Lane started the fundraising team and his legacy will be forever remembered. 

I know being the behind the scenes person isn’t easy. It’s often less glamorous. But it’s no less important and, in my opinion, critical. Lane cared deeply about the longevity and success of our organization and in speaking from my heart and from our team, we will work hard every day to ensure that Lane’s legacy lives on forever. Thank you Lane for all you did for me and our whole fundraising team. We miss you.

— Tamara Tripp, Managing Director of Philanthropy
Lane stands off to the side, smiling and holding a glass award, as Patty speaks behind a podium.
Then-Director of Food Policy, Patty Lovera, speaks about Lane as he receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the all-staff retreat in 2019.

If it weren’t for that third and final interview he facilitated with me in his office in 2015, I would not be here in this org today. For that alone, I am eternally grateful to him.

As for the pleasant memories of working with him through the years, they are all running together in my mind like a filmstrip montage and I am cherishing each frame. I don’t know all that there is to life, but I do know that Lane played a huge part in enriching mine.

In my heart, I will hold on to the energy of his magnanimous wisdom and down-to-earth humor and be thankful that I had the privilege to experience both in good measure.

— Trent Macintosh, IT Operations Adminstrator
Lane and Wenonah stand side-by-side wearing matching blue Food & Water Action t-shirts.
Lane and Wenonah at the 2019 all-staff retreat.

One of the things I admired about Lane is that he always wanted to say yes to our ideas when we brought them to him. He wanted to find a clever way to make what we were hoping to do possible, and that allowed for so many of our successes over the years. 

In addition to the Friday treats,  Lane also had a crystal candy jar that he filled with Dove chocolates that many of us really enjoyed over the years. I’m so happy that I got his candy jar for my office when he moved.  

I will really miss Lane, but I will always treasure all he taught me and all that he did for our organization.

— Emily Wurth, Managing Director of Organizing
Six staff members gather in front of a tree, wearing matching blue Food & Water Action hats and shirts.
Lane, second from the right, with other Food & Water Watch staff who previously worked with Public Citizen at the 2019 all-staff retreat.

Make a gift to Food & Water Watch in honor of Lane.

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