This past Saturday, an old friend of my family was laid to rest in my hometown of St. Johns, Arizona. Helen Broadbent, who had been a neighbour of my parents for over 30 years, died at the age 87. While she had suffered from ill health in recent months, her death does leave me with a sense of loss. It is hard to imagine my hometown without her kind, warm presence.
Looking over the Facebook pages of friends, as well as a group established in honor of my hometown, I am struck by just how many people loved her. She had a real talent for relating to people. When you talked to her, she made you feel important. You felt as if what you had to tell her was the most important thing in the world. She was a truly generous soul. I will always be grateful for that.
Of course, one can’t really write about her without writing about her husband, Jesse Broadbent. She and her husband married in 1945. They had seven children, only one of which I knew well. By the time we moved to St. Johns, I think their youngest may have left home. Like my parents and siblings, they were and are devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons or sometimes as the LDS Church. Generally, church positions in the LDS Church, apart from those held by the general church leadership in Salt Lake City are part time and unpaid. My dad served as a bishop of his local congregation. When my mother was a girl in the nearby town of Snowflake, Jesse Broadbent was her bishop. Later, he would serve as stake patriarch. Later on, they both served in the temple. Their son, who continues to run the insurance agency in town, served recently as Stake President. In the Mormon church, local congregations are called wards and are lead by a bishop and two counsellors. A group of wards is called a stake. The wards are overseen by a stake president.
While I think that many people will miss her, and I will miss her as well, I am also grateful for all she did. I am grateful to have had them as neighbours. When I was enduring the assured purgatory that was St. Johns Middle School, I was so grateful that she was working in the school then. I had a terrible time getting along with my classmates. In fact, I got along much better with my teachers, though I’m sure I managed to drive some of them crazy. She always had time for the students and was always ready and willing to talk.
If the saying is true that it takes a village to raise a child, I remain grateful for people like her in my hometown who helped raise me. May she rest in peace!