By TALIA WIENER
Zyon Brooks planned to get the words “Be Present” tattooed on his wrist — to remind him to bring his full attention to every encounter he had, his family said.
But Brooks’ life was cut short last week at the age of 19. The 2021 Montclair High School graduate was riding on an electric bike on the 100 block of Summit Avenue when his bike and a vehicle collided, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Katherine Carter said. He died the next day.
“In reality, that reminder may have been unnecessary,” the family said in an obituary provided to Montclair Local. “The flood of testimonials and condolences from his peers and friends makes it clear just how fully present Zyon was in their lives — how present he was in encouraging them, inspiring them and touching their lives. Zyon touched lives. Zyon was present.”
The driver of the car remained at the scene, Carter said. There is an ongoing investigation into the incident, and no one has been charged, she said.
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Brooks was born on March 13, 2002, in Bridgeton to Yvette Nichols and Lyndon “Lennie” Brooks, the obituary said. He earned numerous awards for academic excellence during his time in Bridgeton, including being named to the Principal’s List. He was also a karate enthusiast and earned a yellow belt.
He attended Bridgeton High School before transferring to Montclair High School. While at MHS, he worked as a junior counselor for the YMCA’s after-care program. He also began working as a host and server at Hunan Taste in Montclair in March 2020.
Brooks graduated from MHS in June.
He attended Shiloh Baptist Church in Vineland with his family until moving to Montclair.
“Zyon’s life was moving in the right direction, his peers began looking to him for support and guidance,” the family said in the obituary. “He served as a role model to his friends, and even aspired to design his own clothing line.”
Montclair High School will be working to provide support to those affected by his death, Principal Jeffrey A. Freeman wrote in an email to students and families on Monday.
“We all share a profound sense of loss and grief with this news,” Freeman wrote. “If you feel that your child or family needs support, we are here to assist you.”
The district will ensure that counselors are ready to fully support anyone in need,
Superintendent Jonathan Ponds told Montclair Local.
“We are filled with sadness and grief after learning of the tragic accident and death of one of our graduates,” Ponds said.
Friends of Brooks created a makeshift memorial at a pole on the corner of Summit Avenue and Park Street, with photos of him and candles.
His family said “Be Present” wasn’t really a reminder to Brooks himself, “it’s his request of us.” “He is imploring us to ‘Be Present’ with family — by loving each other fully, despite divisions and disagreements; to ‘Be Present’ with friends — by celebrating and encouraging those around us; to ‘Be Present’ with our faith — by committing ourselves to walking upright and with love; and to ‘Be Present’ with life – by finding joy in rain and sunshine alike,” the family wrote.
“Let our presence — in mind, body and spirit — be the enduring monument to the life of this remarkable young man.”
Brooks is survived by his mother, Yvette Nichols, and his father, Lennie Brooks; a sister, Zahria Brooks; two aunts, Nicky Cross (Babs) and Lisa Hardamon (Marcus); two uncles, Clarence Nichols (Cheryl) and Les Brooks; his great-grandmother, Anna Young; his grandfather, Oscar Brooks (Cynthia); his godparents, Carol Steward and Vincent White; some of his closest friends, including Ben, Jacob, Jimmy, Josh, Luca, Luis and Matt; and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins.
He was predeceased by two grandmothers, Mildred Nichols Perry and Duchess Brooks; a great-grandmother, Mary L. Brooks; his great-aunt, Josephine Handy; his great-uncle, John Handy; an uncle, Barry Nichols, and a niece, Kairi Sandoval-Brooks.
The viewing for Brooks will be Aug. 10 at Caggiano Memorial Home for Funerals.