The Brookes — Taking Aim Together
When Elton “Pepper,” ’91, and Donna (Douglass) Brooke, ’93, held a bow for the first time, they knew they were hooked. “I’ll be honest, the moment we both picked up a bow we fell in love with the sport of archery. It was an instant thing,” said Donna.
It all started with wanting to do a sport together when they retired. The first sport they tried was golf, but Donna soon found it wasn’t for her. Around that time, their son-in-law, Walt Altman, ’99, and oldest grandson developed an interest in archery. For Christmas, they went to purchase a bow for their grandson. That’s when it all started.
“We joined a range soon after. Within a year we started competing. Some of our friends noticed how much we enjoyed archery and began asking us to take them to the archery range and show them how to shoot a bow. We knew we needed more training and certification so we eventually went on to earn S3DA Level I and USA Level I and II certifications. It’s been about six years since then, and we still enjoy sharing our passion for archery,” said Donna.
Pepper and Donna are traditional archers who participate in three dimensional (3D) shooting. Traditional archery includes recurve and longbow style bows. The type of targets they shoot at are typically 3D foam animals, such as a deer or a hog. In traditional archery, the bow does not have any sights or fancy gadgets. It is one of the simplest forms of archery. It is not unusual in this form of archery for men and women to compete together.
Donna finished in the top 10 in the Florida Archery Shooters Association State Championship in July of 2019. Earlier that year, in the Traditional Archery Society’s regional competition, Donna placed first in the women’s recurve division and Pepper placed second in the men’s recurve division.
Taking on the Ironman Archery Competition
The Brookes’ weekends might look a bit different than most. With a bow and arrow in hand, the couple can be found competing in a variety of archery competitions. One of their favorites to participate in is the ironman archery competition.
The ironman range consists of 10 targets selectively placed to make them almost impossible to see. Some of the targets are steel outlines of animals with small openings that the archer must shoot through. In this competition, an archer is only permitted to use one arrow. If the arrow becomes damaged, the archer may use anything found on the range to repair the arrow and keep shooting.
“I was shooting at the steel plate target, aiming for the foam circle and hit the steel plate. The arrow cracked and the point fell out. Using some pine tree sap, I was able to put it back in place and kept going,” said Pepper. “The arrow got so bad. I was using mud and leaves to keep the point in the arrow. I didn’t win but I made it all the way through the course. The best part was that I beat Donna!” Donna only made it to eight targets before her arrow gave way.
A Sport for All
Although Donna and Pepper didn’t delve into their newfound passion until recently, they had prior experiences with archery when they were children. Since retiring, archery has been Donna’s primary focus. Until recently, Donna was an instructor at their local archery club. She has decided to take some time off from instruction to enjoy spending time with their grandsons. Pepper is the principal at Seacoast Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida. Donna previously worked as a math and science teacher at the same school.
“This is a sport that anybody can get into — no matter what your skillset. Families shoot together. We shoot with our grandson. You don’t have to be a spectator in this sport,” said Donna.
When the Brookes instructed at the Fort Caroline Archery Club in Jacksonville, they taught anything from one-hour classes to recurring lessons for students with an interest in pursuing the sport of archery. It also was a natural way for them to share their faith.
“Archery is one of the fastest-growing sports in the nation, especially amongst women. It’s a sport where you don’t necessarily have to be athletic,” said Donna.
The Brookes found that a lot of youth and children who don’t normally enjoy sports excelled in archery.
“It’s fun to watch the progress of a kid over a few short weeks. They initially struggle to draw a bow back. And before you know it, they are drawing, setting up, holding the bow at draw weight, releasing, and making great shots. The satisfaction and joy you see on their faces makes it worthwhile,” said Pepper.
As they instructed youth, the Brookes found that many of the parents developed an interest in archery. It soon becomes a family sport and a great way for them to spend time together. They have even been able to tell people about attending their alma mater in Lakeland.
College Turned Home
The couple met at what was then South-Eastern Bible College in 1972. Their story started in the Pansler building.
“I first met Donna when she was waiting for her friends to go off campus for dinner. I remember thinking, ‘She’s pretty.’ We would chat back and forth occasionally after that,” said Pepper.
Pepper asked Donna on their first date while they were watching TV in the Pansler building. It was a Thursday night, and he asked Donna to attend church with him on Sunday.
“That was a safe first date. We went to church that Sunday at the old First Assembly. Then, we went canoeing,” he added.
The Brookes were married in April of 1973. They remained at Southeastern for another year before taking a break from school for nearly fifteen years to pursue other ministry opportunities. It was a way for them to gain more experience and decide what they wanted to do. However, they felt the need to finish their degrees. In November of 1988, they moved back to Lakeland to pursue schooling and returned as residence life coordinators in the summer of 1989. They both earned their degrees, even taking classes under professors who used to be their former classmates.
“This school has been a part of our family. I think that is true for a lot of people. It becomes a legacy. Southeastern will always be a part of our spiritual DNA,” said Donna.
“It’s not just where we went to college; it’s a part of our lives. It’s kind of like home in some way. It meant a lot to us and still means a lot to us,” said Pepper. “Southeastern was really unique for us because of the spiritual development, the growth, the relationships we made and finding our calling. Southeastern is a generational school. It’s coming home.” The Brookes spent another 12 years at Southeastern before moving to North Carolina and eventually to Jacksonville.
While at Southeastern, Pepper served as the vice president of student life and Donna worked as the resident life coordinator, in the accounting office, and in student ministry before working as Pepper’s secretary. The Brookes’s daughter, Kimberly Altman, ’98, spent most of her growing-up years at the university and even met her husband, Walt, at Southeastern.
As the Brookes look to the future, they plan to continue to pursue archery together as they invest in the next generation. “We get to talk to mothers and fathers of kids we instruct, and they will now ask us to pray for them. If we can make someone thirsty to know the Savior, that’s all I want. We want to share Christ and enjoy the sport,” said Donna.
“Our ultimate goal is to let Christ shine through us through the sport we love,” added Pepper.