his Life
Life story of Ernie Brockmann

     Ernst Rudolf Brockmann was born on August 2, 1931 in Wilhelmshaven, Germany to his parents Henri Berthold Brockmann (1899-1974) and Ina Frieda (Jochimsen) Brockmann (1908-1995).  The family made their home in the heart of the city at Marienstrasse 12, Wilhelmshaven, Deutschland.  A year and a half after Ernie was born, he became a brother. Karl Heinz was born January 26, 1933.  The family enjoyed taking long leisurely bike rides.  Little Ernie would be in a kid bike seat on the front of his dad’s bike facing him and little Heinz would be on his mom’s bike.  The family would take extensive bike rides west of Wilhelmshaven into the countryside.  Ernie’s father was a talented soccer player.  He would take Ernie and Heinz to the big stadiums to watch professional soccer tournaments on many occasions.

     Ernie and his family moved to Hamburg in 1939.  After the war began, his father, Henri was reactivated into the German Navy as a Commander.  His mother, Ernie and brother were sent to a farm in Schwandorf, Bavaria to escape the heavy bombing in Hamburg.  His second brother, Hans Jurgen, was born during the war on January 25, 1941.  Ernie attended a small school in Schwandorf with less than 100 kids.  At recess, the kids would play soccer or “Volkerball”.  He also ran the 60-meter dash, 1000-meter dash, broad jump and long jump in sports competitions.  The music him and his family would listen to was mostly Bavarian folk, some classical and of course a lot of marching music.  Ernie would normally wear Lederhosen.

      Ernie attended a Military training academy, a part of Hitler youth starting in November 1943 located in Regensburg.  The military academy was only 40 kilometres south of their farm.  The Military Academy was a repurposed Roman Catholic Monastery, which was taken over by Hitler Youth leadership during the war.  3 monks remained on site during the war.  Ernie and his classmates were divided into squads, platoons and companies.  They stayed in 4-man rooms.His room was called, “Lutzen”.  They all wore military style uniforms.  The instructors were all Nazi officers who had doctorate degrees.  It was a very strict environment, there was no talking aloud. In the winter months at the farm it was very cold and the snow was several feet high so he would ski to school.  When he got home from school, he would have four hours of homework and chores around the Bavarian farm to complete.  Ernie and his brothers tended to their 350 rabbits, horses, chickens, geese, ducks and guinea hens.  In their free time they would play cards until late at night. 

      Towards the end of the war, conditions were worsening and the cities throughout Germany were getting heavily bombed.  Three weeks before the war’s end, Ernie escaped from the military academy with one of his buddies in April of 1945.  They watched from a distance as the war drew to an end.  American troops entered their farm on May 1, 1945.  The troops raided the house. 

     During the Battle of Normandy when the Allies (US, Canada and England) attacked the German occupied northern French coastline, Henri was captured at the submarine base of St. Nazarine, France.  He remained a prisoner of war in France from June 1944 until June 1947.  He was forced to slave labor for three years.  Once Henri was released, he returned to his family and moved them back up to Hamburg.  Ernie loved having his father home.  In 1948, Ernie and his dad took a long 130-mile bike ride from Hamburg to Wilhelmshaven, passing through Bremen and Henri’s hometown of Oldenburg.  They left Hamburg at 5 am and rolled into Wilhelmshaven around 4 pm.  It was quite an accomplishment and a wonderful memory getting to spend quality father, son time together.

     Shortly after the war, Ernie’s mother told him about her 4 siblings who were living in the United States that he didn’t know about.  It was at that moment, Ernie felt something inside him saying that he needed to go to America.  Ernie spent 3 years on a waiting list waiting to immigrate to America, and then in 1950, his wait was over.  He arrived by plane in New York, NY on July 22, 1950 (a week before his 19th birthday).  The next day, after a couple more flights, he reached his final destination in Portland, Oregon.  He stayed with his Aunt Marie (Jochimsen) and Uncle Bill Young.  Marie was Ernie’s mother’s oldest sister.  Their home was at 1325 SE 31st Ave, Portland, Oregon.

     Just as Ernie was getting settled, he heard word that Billy Graham was having his very first crusade in Portland on September 23, 1950.  It was at that revival that Ernie gave his life to the Lord and his life was forever changed.  Ernie soon started attending First Assemblies of God (a church that his Aunt Marie and Uncle Bill were founding members of).

     Ernie started working at Alpenrose Dairy in Portland.  He eventually worked his way up to Manager.  One of Ernie’s passions was fine cars.  In February 1951, he bought his first car, a 1946 Oldsmobile.  The following year, in April 1952, he purchased a brand new green 1952 Cadillac Coupe Seville.Although he owned mostly American made cars throughout his life in the U.S., Ernie thought that German made autos were the cream of the crop, especially Mercedes Benz.  He always praised their quality craftsmanship and smooth, quiet cabin ride.

     Ernie enlisted in the US Army on November 28, 1952.  Between 1952-1954 he was stationed in Germany and France as an Army Intelligence Officer.  After active duty, he was honorably discharged on October 27, 1954.  He stayed on with the Army Reserves in Portland until 1960 after serving a total of 8 years.  Ernie lived as a proud American veteran.  He was very patriotic and often said how thankful and blessed he was to live in America, the land of the free.  He received his United States citizenship in 1955, which he was very proud of.  Ernie got a job at Northwest Natural Gas as a Public Relations Junior Executive.  He worked there for 11 years from 1954 till 1965.

     In his first time back at First Assemblies of God, Ernie was called to the stage and everyone gave him a warm welcome back from his Army service.  Unknown to Ernie at the time, his future bride was watching in the audience hanging on his every word.  A friend suggested that JoAnn ask Ernie to speak at the next youth group.  They went on a double date for tea and JoAnn thought, “this guy is so interesting, I could listen to him for the rest of my life”.  Weeks passed and JoAnn wondered why he hadn't called on her.  She thought he wasn’t interested in her after all.  What she didn’t know is that Ernie was in fact interested in her, it was just that he always saw her attending church with what he thought was her boyfriend.  Ernie’s friend soon corrected him and told him that the guy she attended church with was her brother, Jerry.  Ernie was ecstatic and called on JoAnn immediately.

     Ernie and JoAnn had been going together for nearly a year, and it was Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1955 at the Prouse home.  Ernie was giddy with excitement and JoAnn wondered why he was acting so funny.  Suddenly, Ernie pulled out a ring and asked JoAnn to marry her.  She was overjoyed.  They both wed the next summer on August 24, 1956 at First Assembly of God, just 3 days after JoAnn’s 20th birthday.  After the wedding, they drove to Mount Rainier for a 4-night honeymoon, having a delightful time in the snow.

     Shortly after, Ernie and JoAnn purchased their first home together at 10819 NE Sacramento Street in Portland.  It was a cute white 3-bedroom home, a perfect place to start a family.  The next April, they traveled to Germany so that Ernie could introduce his new bride to his family.  While they were there, Ernie purchased a brand new 1957 Volkswagen Beetle.  He made sure to have it shipped back to Portland.

     It wasn’t but a year after their marriage that they welcomed their first beautiful baby girl.  Berinda JoAnn was born on September 3, 1957.  After Berinda was born, 3 more just as beautiful children followed.  Carmen Ina was born on April 24, 1960.  Their one and only boy, Bryan Ernest followed on October 9, 1961.  And finally, Deanna Renee arrived on March 20, 1963.  They felt blessed beyond belief and thanked God for four healthy beautiful children.

     Soon after they started having kids, Ernie realized that he needed to better provide for his family.  He started taking night classes at Portland State University while still working his day job at Northwest Natural gas.  He started out taking classes in pursuit of a law degree.  The other law students that Ernie was in class with were heavy smokers.  Every time Ernie would come home from class, JoAnn would tell him to undress before he came in the house because he reeked of smoke.  If there was one thing Ernie attested, it was smoking.  Before long, he made the decision to change his career path.  He felt God was telling him he needed to be a teacher.  After 8 years of night school, Ernie graduated with his BA in FL (German) and Social Sciences from Portland State University in 1965.

      Ernie’s first teaching job was at Tillamook High School in Tillamook Oregon as a German teacher.  The family rented a double wide mobile home a mile and half down the road from the high school.  At the end of his second year of teaching, on June 21, 1967, Ernie was awarded a one-year fellowship grant for advanced study in German at the University of Washington.  As a part of that grant he would also attend the Universities of Berlin, Munich and Bremen.  So, Ernie moved his family up to Seattle while he spent time studying at the UW and also in Germany before graduating with his masters in advanced FL (German) in 1968.

     Later that summer, Ernie took a job as a German teacher for the Everett School District.  His first school he taught at was Evergreen Middle School.  The Brockmann family made their final move to Everett, Washington where they purchased a home at 9233 Goblin Lane.  The family flourished in Everett and made it their forever home.  They began attending Bethany Christian Assembly and soon created some long lasting friendships.  Ernie can be described as a people person.  Everyone he meets loves him and he loves them back.  He would often say there are two kinds of people in this world, my friends and friends I haven’t met yet.  He was very friendly, kind and inviting.  He was also a great story teller, often telling amazing stories from his time during the second world war in Germany.  His students loved him too and he became known for his awesome war stories.

     A year after getting hired at the Everett School District, Ernie switched schools and began teaching at Everett High School until 1975.  In 1975, he became the Foreign Language Director of the Everett School District.  During that time, he continued to teach 2 German classes a day at Everett and Cascade High Schools.  In 1985, he decided to go back to full time teaching and took a job at Cascade High School.  Throughout his school career Ernie connected with his students in a way that not many teachers could.  He cared so much for each of his students and he was beloved by countless students over his career.  They called him Herr Brockmann.  During the month of October, the hallways would be filled with wonderful smells of sausage and sauerkraut, in which he made for his students to celebrate German Oktoberfest.  He also took his students on educational class trips to Germany where he taught them more about the history and culture of the country.

     During the 80’s, one by one his children started leaving the nest and getting married.  Carmen was first, marrying Mark Brian Yeadon (6/18/1958-) on August 16, 1980.  After that, his son Bryan married Melody Lynn Flathers (3/9/1961-) on February 25, 1984.  Berinda married Mark Steven Wolitarsky on August 16, 1986.  And finally, Deanna wed John Cameron on April 25, 1987.

      After their children got married and settled, they started having children of their own which made Ernie and JoAnn very happy  .They had 9 grandchildren altogether: Joshua David born July 17, 1984, Daniel Mark born December 2, 1986, Jacob Tyler born October 8, 1987, Alise Janae born June 4, 1988, Rachelle JoAnn born October 15, 1988, Nathan Garrett born August 23, 1989, Brock James born February 22, 1991, Madeline Esther born October 23, 1994, and Myrinda Shalom born April 4, 1996.  Their grandchildren were their pride and joy.  They spent as much time with them as they could.  There was rarely a moment in which they didn’t have at least one or two of their grandchildren at their house.  Ernie always took special interest in whatever each of his grandkids were into and made his interest as well.  He was very present in each of their lives and made sure to attend most every sports game, dance recital, piano recital etc.  He loved to take his grandkids to Airplane exhibits and give history lessons about what each plane was used for during the war.  His kids and grandkids could always expect an awesome war story, which always had them hanging on every word and detail. 

     In 1993, Ernie retired from teaching after working 25 years with the Everett School District (27 years total).  The 1993 Cascade yearbook was dedicated to him, or Herr Brockmann as they called him.  He was so surprised and touched that they would do that for him.Even though he officially retired, he wasn’t done with teaching just yet.  He continued to sub in the district for an additional 25 years after that.  He was everyone’s favorite sub and became known as a “legend” in his own right, often having classes standing and clapping for him when he entered the room to sub their class that day.  The students would always ask him to tell them war stories, and of course he didn’t disappoint.

     Around the time Ernie retired, him and JoAnn started attending Northshore Christian Church.  Ernie was always very involved there.  He was a part of many small groups over the years and was lead usher for the 11:00 service.He was well known, well respected and well loved by many in the congregation.

     As the years went by, Ernie and JoAnn found themselves approaching their 50-year wedding anniversary.  They had a big celebration held at their church, with over 100 people in attendance.  They also took their entire family on an Argosy cruise to further celebrate the event.  It was a wonderful time to look back and reflect on a wonderful marriage and love story that they had.  In thinking back on the countless times traveling through Europe, mostly Germany and Jersey Island and the 9 cruises they went on together to Alaska, Panama Canal, Caribbean and Canada, they sure had some fun times together.  Some of the family members refer to Ernie and JoAnn as the greatest love story of all time.  You could tell how much they loved each other by the sweet way they spoke to each other and the way they looked at each other.  They held hands every chance they got.  Whenever Ernie got home, he would holler “Hi honeybunch” and she would respond “Hi sweetheart, welcome home”.  Ernie took such good care of his wife, doing countless acts of service for her.

     Ernie continued to take such good care of his precious JoAnn even when her health deteriorated.  He stayed faithfully by her side, helping her with whatever she needed until she breathed her last breath and the Lord took her home on February 5, 2015 due to Metastatic Breast Cancer.

      By this time, Ernie’s grandchildren were all grown and were getting married and having babies of their own.  Ernie’s great grandkids were every bit as special to him as his kids and grandkids were.  He got the honor of walking his youngest daughter, Deanna down the aisle on August 28, 2016 to marry Jim Bernard Kelly (1961-).

     One day while he was enjoying some friends company at the French bakery on Silver Lake he caught the eye of a beautiful lady and engaged her in conversation.  Her name was Colleen Sue Cashen-Lienau (5/6/1952).  The two bonded instantly and although Colleen was a bit resistant at first, Ernie’s persistence won her over and she couldn’t help but fall in love with the sweet man.  She found him so interesting and very kind.  The happy couple married at Northshore Christian Church on September 2, 2017 surrounded by many friends and family.

     While married to Colleen, they made many lasting memories together.  They went to Europe on several occasions, went on a cruise to Panama Canal, and enjoyed some relaxation at Colleen’s vacation residence at Robson Ranch in Eloy, Arizona.  Colleen is a retired nurse and former nursing instructor at Northwest University.  She has such a big heart, a true helper and a lover of people.  Ernie’s family couldn’t help but fall in love with her too.

     Just a couple months after Ernie and Colleen’s 2nd wedding anniversary, Ernie suffered a stroke and fell at their vacation home in Arizona.  This was the start of Ernie’s deteriorating health throughout the course of that year.  But, Ernie never wavered or complained.  He was positive and optimistic and gave praise to the good Lord every day.  On Ernie’s 89th birthday, the family had a big celebration for him in his grandson’s backyard.  His family and some of his close friends were there to celebrate with him.  Everyone was laughing, telling stories and enjoying each other’s company and loving up on Ernie.  Ernie was taking it all in and had the biggest smile on his face.  He recalled to his wife Colleen who was sitting besides him that as he was looking around, he could see his children and his children’s children and their children and that he felt complete.  A week passed and Ernie suffered a series of major strokes which left him mostly unresponsive.  He was brought home, with his wife by his side every waking moment.  He was greeted by his family and friends who filtered in and out throughout the week, talking to him, singing to him, kissing him, praying over him, and shedding some tears.  He was so peaceful and not in pain.  Surrounded by his 4 children and wife, they said goodbye to the man and in the wee hours of the morning on August 25, 2020, Ernie Brockmann got to meet his Lord and Savior.

Please make sure to leave a story or memory of Ernie in the story section on this website.  God bless you!