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Originally published Monday, September 25, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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68-year-old Coupeville woman on a hunger strike over Iraq war

When hunger pangs hit Patricia Brooks, she turns to stitching. Her needle flashes silver as she stitches squares of purple and blue, pink...

Seattle Times staff reporter

When hunger pangs hit Patricia Brooks, she turns to stitching. Her needle flashes silver as she stitches squares of purple and blue, pink and red. It may also be her message of goodbye to her two granddaughters, ages 5 and 7.

Brooks, 68, who lives in a subsidized senior-citizen apartment in Coupeville, Island County, has been on a hunger strike since Sept. 11. A longtime activist who joined Coupeville Peace and Reconciliation on the street corner at Highway 20 and Main Street, Brooks was frustrated over the lack of progress in ending the war in Iraq.

"I have been in months of despair. My peace group had done everything they could to stop the war but it was having no effect," she said.

So on the fifth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Brooks stopped eating and started stitching.

"I beg everyone to write a letter a day for the next month, to the White House ... or your own congressional representatives to demand that these dangerous actions stop," she says on her Web site, www.tiptopwebsites.com/hungerstrike.

Brooks said she will continue fasting until there is a swell of protest against the war that the Bush administration cannot ignore.

If necessary, she said, she is willing to die for the cause.

Her action has attracted a lot of attention on Whidbey Island. Friends call. E-mails pour in. Hedgebrook writers retreat, where Brooks — author of two published mysteries — was once a resident, expressed support for her.

Day after day Brooks becomes a little weaker, and during a recent interview she had difficulty focusing her attention.

No one, she said, including her son in Dallas, Ore., is trying to talk her out of her fast. (He did not return a reporter's phone calls.)

In the meantime, she's had advice from other peace activists on Whidbey, who tell her to drink water hourly, and she does. She said her doctor, whom she refused to name, told her to get a blood test for liver and kidney function weekly.

She's lost about 10 pounds since beginning her protest, but Brooks insists she feels well.

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"I must say I never expected to feel this well on Day 15. I believe the body will tell you everything you need to know," she said.

"I admire her for doing it," said Peggy Burton, a fellow activist. "It's a stand she feels might make people sit up and take notice. ... I don't think I'd do it." She and other activists have not tried to talk Brooks out of the fast, Burton said.

In the meantime, Brooks stitches her quilts to her granddaughters, the colors reflecting their personalities. She wrote to tell them she'd be sending them the quilts before Christmas.

"If I was younger I'd be in Iraq helping the victims," she said. The hunger strike is "what I can do at this age."

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com

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