Tim Brookover, former OutSmart editor and a quietly influential member of Houston’s LGBT community, died on June 10, 2013.
by Rich Arenschieldt
Tim Brookover, longtime Houston resident, former editor of OutSmart magazine, past president of the Houston GLBT Community Center, and activist for numerous LGBT political and social issues, died on June 10 from complications of a recent cancer diagnosis. He was 52 years old.
Born October 19, 1960, on Galveston Island, Tim is survived by parents Claudia and George Brookover, brothers Stephen and Michael, sister Allyson, and other family members. Tim was predeceased by his partner of twenty years, Albert Mata.
Because of his personal and professional fondness for the literary arts, Tim will always be remembered as a passionate communicator, especially with regard to the written word.
Tim’s father, George Brookover, a retired Lutheran minister, recounts his son’s early exposure to literature. “Tim was fascinated with books. Words were always very important to him. When we moved to Humble in 1960, the neighborhood library was nothing more than a small wood-framed house. Tim was their most frequent and favorite customer—it was not unusual for him to read a dozen books a week.”
The event that changed Tim’s life occurred in high school. “He was entering his sophomore year and was standing in line to register for classes,” Brookover recounts. “The lines for language classes were very long. The table next to Tim had no line at all. He asked that instructor, ‘What do you teach?’ To which she responded, ‘Journalism.’ Tim enrolled in that class, and the rest is history.”
“Tim was very active in high school,” his father remembers. “He was editor of the school newspaper. We often picked him up late at night when he was working to meet a deadline. He loved that work and would often write about the world outside of school, sometimes in a way that was controversial. He took some criticism for some of the things he wrote, but he was never afraid of a lively debate.
“Tim was unique among his siblings and friends. Usually they would always ask, ‘What are we going to do?’ Tim would always ask, ‘What are we going to talk about?’ This probably served to prepare him for his work in the LGBT community and at City Hall. He never enjoyed team sports but always wanted to discuss things.”
After high school, Tim attended the University of Houston where he edited both the Daily Cougar and the yearbook. After leaving UH, Tim worked for several publications in Houston, including Ultra Magazine and Houston Home and Garden. At the Museum of Fine Arts, he spent five years in their development department writing grant proposals and also spent a significant amount of time and energy advising others on their plans for various publishing ventures.
Tim left the museum in 2002 to become editor of OutSmart, returning to his true calling, journalism. During his tenure at OutSmart, Tim was an important LGBT advocate, working to enliven the stories of individuals who comprise our community and highlighting their accomplishments and challenges. OutSmart’s writers (including this one) benefited greatly from his insightful editing skills, his grasp of community-wide issues, and his even-handed journalistic integrity.
In 2008, after six years at OutSmart, Tim became the communications director for Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell, who was newly elected to an at-large position.
“I met Tim when he was editor at OutSmart,” Lovell recalls. “I had interacted with him a great deal when I was running for office. He had done a lot to assist me with communicating to the LGBT community. When I was elected, I called Tim and said, ‘Get over here, I need you on my team.’”
“Tim was vital to the work we did. He brought a certain calmness to any situation in which he was involved—something dearly needed at City Hall. Tim was responsible for all of our publications that were distributed to constituents and the public. He was so adept at putting my ideas, thoughts, and feeling into words. He was able to capture the essence of what I was trying to accomplish and articulate that to large numbers of people.
“Tim was also skilled at responding to individuals who contacted our office; he was diplomatic and incredibly patient. Often, we were confronted with complicated issues that required a quick resolution. Tim would handle those expeditiously and with great care.
“City Hall always had lots of drama and lots of divas,” Lovell said. “Whenever we were challenged with a difficult situation, Tim’s advice to me was always: ‘Take a breath, step back, and look at things carefully.’ He always interacted with a variety of stakeholders in a very thoughtful way. He could diffuse situations where strong personalities were involved and still preserve those relationships.
“I could present an idea or plan of action to Tim and he had the ability to render that concept in such a way that would enable others to become interested and involved in what we were doing. This was Tim’s unique talent, and one that few individuals possess.
“Our journey was enriched by Tim’s presence,” Lovell said. “His contribution to the LGBT community extends far beyond what he accomplished while working at City Hall. Houston owes him a debt of gratitude. He never thought of himself first—the community was always foremost in his mind. Our staff was a close-knit family, of which Tim and his partner Albert were a part. I’m glad they are now reunited.”
Tim’s partner, Albert Mata, was integral to the Brookover family. “They met in 1992,” George Brookover recounts. “He was introduced to us and was welcomed as a member of our family. Albert was especially liked by all of the grandchildren—he was like a Pied Piper to them, always entertaining and enjoying them. He felt embraced and appreciated by us.
“When Tim received his cancer diagnosis in March of 2012, [we had] time to prepare for what we knew would be a very serious illness. Tim eventually asked to move in with us—something for which we are very grateful—and he lived for an additional year. In early June, he was admitted to the hospital and didn’t return home.
“We had conversations about what Tim had accomplished throughout his life. In spite of some fairly high-profile positions in the LGBT community [including a period as president of Houston’s GLBT Community Center], Tim considered himself to be a ‘low visibility gay activist.’ Though he was part of the media, he himself stayed out of the limelight, unlike many others at City Hall.
“What really motivated Tim was the quest for justice,” said the elder Brookover. “And not only for the LGBT community, but for everyone. He went about this steadily, with passion and without a lot of fanfare. Tim’s legacy is that he seriously invested himself in causes that were crucially important to him and to his community.”
Tim was also very involved in his faith community at Bethel Church UCC. Even there, Tim’s efforts evinced a literary bent. According to Vicki Hopper, co-support pastor, “Tim was very active and dedicated to many ministries at Bethel. Tim was in charge of our lay readers ministry, scheduling people to participate in reading the scriptures during worship.”
Pastor Hopper’s sentiments are typical of the thoughts expressed by many of Tim’s family, colleagues, and friends: “He was nurturing to all of us—a very steady and constant support, and generous with his time and talents, always mindful of those who needed assistance. It will be difficult to imagine this place without him.”
A celebration of Tim’s life will be held on Saturday, June 22, at Bethel Church, United Church of Christ, 1107 Shepherd Drive, Houston TX 77007. A visitation will take place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall, followed by the service at noon.