Sunday, November 28, 2010

In Memoriam: Edward N. Broadfield, 1947-2010

I have two sisters. The younger, 7 years older than me, is now with her husband an observant Orthodox Jew. The elder, 9 years my senior, is a Quaker.

And now, a widow.

On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Day, after four weeks or so of his not feeling very well and (if I have my facts right, and I might not) an inconclusive visit to a doctor a while back, my brother-in-law woke up feeling very ill. My sister rushed him to an emergency room. And there, After an overnight stay at the hospital, unexpectedly and of an as-yet-uncertain cause, he died.

Ed was a big teddy bear of a man, a soft-spoken African American who has lived most of his life with disability, having lost one eye to previously undetected glaucoma in basic training after he was drafted in the late 1960s. (He received a medical discharge and lifetime Veterans Administration medical care soon thereafter.) His work was primarily in a volunteer capacity, engaged in the operation of the Friends Meeting that my sister and he have been longtime members of, and as a community mediator.

He was as spiritually centered as any person I've ever known.

In my family, he was the person who took the greatest interest in, and most seriously, my love of trains and model railroading. He'd been a train buff himself as a teenager.

I remember him fondly as well for two other gifts he gave me in my youth. He explained American football to me (my father had little to no interest then in professional sports, although he watched the amateur Olympics with enthusiasm). And when my father was away on overseas study for a year and I began asking my mother and my sister about sex, Ed was drafted to explain it to me. He did so with grace, compassion, tenderness and deep respect that was worthy of the best OWL facilitator anywhere.

When my oldest son was born, it was no question who should be his godfather at his dedication, and Ed fulfilled the task in his own quiet way.

In a note to family and friends about this news, DairyStateMom said this:
Ed was at our wedding; those of you who celebrated with us that day might remember a big, soft-spoken African-American guy with an enveloping hug.  I think a regular hug from Ed for all would go a long way toward solving the most intractable problems of human relations.
I couldn't put it any better.

Rest in Peace, Ed.


  1. Metafilter has a nice tradition, I think, of ackowleging a death by simply posting a period as a comment, because anything we say at these times is inadequate, but we want to acknowledge that we hear and sympathize.


  2. I'm so sorry to hear of Ed's death, DSD. He sounds like a truly wonderful man to have in one's life.

  3. I am so sorry. My thoughts are with you and your family. All words are inadequate, but I offer them anyway. :(

  4. I peruse your blog because of the UU connection (for Interdependent Web), and was surprised to see a familiar name. I knew Ed only casually, but know Joan rather better from my Quaker days in Philadelphia. What a small world it is.

  5. DSD - Again, I'm so sorry for your loss. Ed sounds like he would have been at home in the congregation we shared for a time. Be well...

  6. Ed had a slow, kindly way of mediating, wise and serious yet always with a bit of a smile. Who could engage in a flame war when he was present at the table? He coped with his physical challenges with dignity and rarely focused conversation on himself, but could make quite perspective-expanding observations when given the invitation.

    Thank you very much for posting your personal tribute to him. -- Jenny B

  7. thanks for posting this.
    I'm a long time friend of the family and Meeting member and hug recipient.
    Love and Healing Light to your family

  8. One of the things I have loved about Ed is the counter balance he always gave, and I believe will continue to give, to Joan. She is truly an activist in the best sense of the word, but it is also easy to get her revved on almost anything. Ed always had a way of sort of grounding and centering her, and I believe they have been a wonderful dynamic duo. He will be so missed, but, too, I believe that his life will continue to reverberate and give focus and balance to the lives of many of us onward for years to come. Blessings on all your family!

  9. Ed was like my brother, Joan is like my sister. I will miss Ed Broadfield very much. I had the good fortune of socializing with Ed and Joan as well as being a guest in their home on multiple occasions going back to 1990 when my family met them.
    I always appreciated Ed's insights on many topics. I will never forget his crisp diction.
    I am a better person because of my relationship with Ed and Joan.


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