On May 9, 1918 as the war in Europe continued to rage, the wheat crop for the state of Oklahoma was expected to drop due to a harsh winter. Lela Fay Brookover was the fifth child born, to Campbell and Edith Brookover in Shawnee, Oklahoma. In 1923 the Brookover family, now with six children, headed for California and what Campbell and Edith hoped were more prosperous times. Dad Brookover bought a Model T Ford truck and fixed it up for the trip. Ribs over the truck bed covered with canvas made it look like a covered wagon. The back was outfitted with mattresses and springs for double-decker sleeping. The family made their way across Texas picking cotton. After arriving in Southern California and a short stay there, the Brookover family moved to and eventually settled in Cotati, California on a chicken ranch on Redwood Highway.
After graduating from Petaluma High School, Lela left Cotati to seek her fortune in the big city—San Francisco—and worked as a switchboard operator for Greyhound Lines. It was there that Lela met and married the dashing appliance salesman and Navy reservist, Robert/Bob Whatley in 1940.
Children Elizabeth (Betsie)and Steven were born while World War II was going on and husband, Bob, did tours of duty at sea in the Merchant Marines.
Lela enjoyed caring for children and in the early fifties the Whatley’s became a foster home for a series of infants who needed special care or surgery before they could be adopted. A few years later, after completing Licensed Vocational Nurse’s training course at Laney College, she worked at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, on the pediatric ward, followed by several years working with handicapped children at Whitton School in Oakland. After many years of the single life, Lela married George MacCracken in 1975 and moved to El Cerrito, California. Lela served on the deacon’s board of her church and met regularly with a weekly prayer group. Lela’s love of nature and the outdoors as a child continued throughout her life. She enjoyed many outdoor activities as an avid and knowledgeable bird watcher. Following the loss of her husband George in 1992, Lela moved to Rossmoor Retirement Community in Walnut Creek, and stayed busy and active with Elder Hostel excursions, church activities, classes at the local adult school, organizing a knitting group, and always plenty of hikes and bird watching trips. Never one to let her hands be idle even while sitting, she either knit beautiful sweaters with intricate stitches, or worked on colorful needlepoint projects. Lela moved to Oakdale in 2003 to be closer to her daughter and continued to stay active with church activities, a knitting group at the Oakdale Senior Center, tending her garden, and weekly trips to the library.
Lela is survived by her children Elizabeth (Betsie) Corwin & son-in-law Frank (RJ) Corwin, Steven Whatley & daughter-in-law Elaine Whatley; sisters LaVerne Uhte, Dorothea Bowling; Grandchildren Amy Lindahl, David Jackson, Jamie Dalal, Sarah Egoville, Susan McArdle; seven great-grandchildren, one great-great grandchild, and many nieces and nephews. Lela MacCracken lived a long and active life making many friends along the way. The family will have a celebration of life at a later date. Memorial donations are welcome in Lela MacCracken’s memory to Community Hospice Inc., 4368 Spyres Way, Modesto, CA 95356, or Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance (OSPA), PO Box 1965, Oakdale, CA 95361.
The Oakdale (Calif.) Leader
Nov. 18, 2015