Cook and animal lover Brooke Johnson of Princeton dies at 54

Brooke A. Johnson of Princeton passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, April 2, joining her beloved father, George, after his sudden death last year. She was 54.

Brooke was a fifth-generation Princetonian born at the old Princeton Hospital in August 1969. She grew up in the heart of downtown, skipping under Witherspoon’s pear trees, selling lemonade in front of Johnson Electric, picking wild strawberries, and chasing fireflies along Wiggins Street and Park Place.

She attended Community Park Elementary School, graduated from Princeton High, and went on to attend the universities of North Carolina and New Hampshire, where she studied environmental sciences. An avid outdoorswoman, Brooke spent much of her time hiking and camping, living in her tent for months on end, reading, meditating, and photographing the beauty around her. Her photos of Carnegie Lake and the birdlife there were spectacular.

Brooke was also an avid follower of the Grateful Dead and the Blues Travelers bands, and in her younger years traveled all across America with her brother George to see them. Likewise, she attended many a Broadway show, always a lover of a good story, especially any Edward Albee or Stephen Sondheim production.

But one of her biggest passions was cooking. After working for a stint in Princeton Hospital’s kitchen as a young teenager, the cooking bug stuck and Brooke continued in the cooking industry throughout her adult life. After college she spent several years in Boston honing her skills as a baker. Upon returning to Princeton, she worked at the Institute of Advanced Study and Princeton University in their food services departments, at Theresa’s on Palmer Square as their hostess, at Princeton Junction train station’s En-Route snack shop, and at the Blawenburg Market, where she gave cooking and pastry making classes. In 2010 Brooke began her own successful catering business “Cook With Brooke”, serving dinners for Prince Albert of Monaco and Governor Phil Murphy among many others.

During the pandemic, her catering business took a hit and Brooke returned to her love of nature and animals to start a dog walking business. “Cook with Brooke” became “Walk with Brooke” as she turned to her childhood stomping grounds once again, walking dogs on downtown streets, hiking Princeton’s parks, and photographing it all.

Brooke took the loss of her dad in the summer of 2023 very hard. Her Father’s close friends Doug Hoffman, Noel Sabatino, and Mike Miller, along with the Princeton Fire Department, were a huge comfort to her and her family.

She once said, after her dad passed away, that she vowed to continue to give her time to those in need of help, and to live a life of service just as her dad always did. All who knew them both would certainly agree that she was “her father’s daughter”, and Brooke would have taken this as the highest of compliments.

But no matter what difficulty she faced, Brooke always managed to turn it around. She brought light and passion to whatever she did, her loud cheer and laughter never failed to light up a room, and her hilarious storytelling could rival any Sondheim. She will be sorely missed by all who knew her, including her menagerie of furry friends whom she cared for with love and respect.

Daughter of the late George W. Johnson, Brooke is survived by her mother Catherine Nestor Johnson, and her brother George W. Johnson. Brooke’s grandparents, deceased, were Dorothy L. and Martin S. Nestor, and Cecilia M. and Reuben F. Johnson.

Brooke is also survived by her Aunt Peggy (Margaret) and Flavio Fener, Josephine Johnson, Linda Lee Nestor, and Marta Lowe.

Many cousins including Heather Fener and Brandon Kessler, Lindsay Lowe, Molly and  Brian Rooney; and other family members, Sue Bruswitz, Caroline Clancy, and Missy and Kenny Bruvick. And her special friends Kelly, Robin, Matt, and Zuzu.

A memorial service for both Brooke and her father will be held at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 19, at the Mather-Hodge Funeral Home at 40 Vandeventer Avenue in Princeton.

Visitation will be held from 6 p.m. until the time of the service at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Princeton Fire Department and to SAVE Animal Shelter.

The family would like to give special thanks to the Princeton Police Department and the Princeton Rescue Squad/EMS for their quick, responsible, and compassionate response to the family’s call for assistance.

Rest in peace to Brooke and George for your love of family and friends and your dedication to your hometown of Princeton.

3 Comments

  1. This is a moving obituary. It’s obvious that Ms. Johnson did much in her short life and touched the lives of many, animals and people.

  2. Thank you for writing such a beautiful eulogy. It fills me with a longing for the past when I spent nearly every week of my life with Brooke while growing up in Princeton. I moved away after high school and unfortunately never kept in touch, and here I am 36 years later learning how she lived her life since then. To me, she was one of the most grounded people I’ve ever had a chance to meet. She had a heart of gold and was always comfortable around everyone she was with – rich or poor, shy or affable, and grumpy or jovial. Somehow, she always found a way to smile. Yet( she would also set people straight if they were ever being uncool or mean spirited. Her presence set a perpetual tone for kindness, defining her as simply a wonderful friend. I wish I had kept in touch with her to share how I have been constantly seeking a way to find others with a spirit as rich as hers. Dear Brooke, I love you so very much and will never forget the kindness you always showed me and to everyone around you. To learn how you discovered the joy of cooking for others and loving furry friends is all to fitting. It serves as a reminder that the kindest of people always remain that way throughout all of their lives. I miss you. – DM (PHS class of 1988).

  3. Both Brooke and George are some of the nicest people ever. My deepest Condolences go out to George and their families

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