Community remembers former U.S. Congressman Bill Broomfield

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 7, 2019

 Former U.S. Rep. William Broomfield, R-Birmingham, died Feb. 20

Former U.S. Rep. William Broomfield, R-Birmingham, died Feb. 20

Photo provided by Nancy Aiken

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ROCHESTER HILLS — Former U.S. Rep. William S. Broomfield, who served Michigan in Congress for 36 years, died Feb. 20. He was 96.

Broomfield had strong ties to the Rochester area, according to Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm Manager Pat McKay.

“Bill Broomfield is related to the Taylor family, which settled the Stony Creek Village area in 1823, so his roots go back to the earliest pioneers in the Rochester area. He was a cousin to Sarah Van Hoosen Jones, and we have all the Christmas cards that they exchanged over the years. He was always very tuned in to his family’s history, because he had deep Oakland County roots.”

The Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm established the Broomfield Center for Leadership — an annual event consisting of lectures, seminars and programs that reflect on various leadership topics — in Broomfield’s honor around seven years ago. The yearly event is held in the museum’s adaptively reused calf barn, which was philanthropically supported by the Broomfield Charitable Trust.

“The idea behind it was to bring in a speaker who would motivate us to become great leaders,” McKay explained. “We wanted to help train people to be good leaders and talk about how you have to be visionary, you have to be honest — we really wanted to focus on that — and you have to be able to cooperate and collaborate. … And that’s what we saw in Bill Broomfield.”

This year’s event will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21, at the museum. Tickets will cost $40 per person, or $60 per couple, with proceeds supporting the rebuild of the museum’s equipment barn.

McKay said the Rochester Hills Museum will also house archival papers from Broomfield, which will be available for research about the Cold War and his “exceptional leadership.”

Broomfield began his career of service in the Army during World War II before serving as a state representative and state senator in the Michigan Legislature. In 1957, he was elected to Congress, where he served for 36 years until his retirement in 1993.

During his time in Congress, he earned a spot as the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee for 18 years, helping to shape much of the U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said Broomfield served during challenging times in history, including during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s, the Solidarity Movement in Poland, and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

“I feel fortunate to have shared time with the Congressman, to hear his stories and learn from his experience,” Barnett said in a statement.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered U.S. and Michigan flags within the State Capitol Complex and on all state buildings to be lowered to half-staff on Monday, April 29, in Broomfield’s honor — the day after his birthday.

“Congressman Broomfield embodied everything that we should expect from our elected officials,” Whitmer said in a statement. “He worked tirelessly on behalf of Michiganders, and our state is better because of his service. My thoughts are with Congressman Broomfield’s family during this time.”

Born and raised in Royal Oak, Broomfield was the son of the late Dr. S.C. and Fern Taylor Broomfield. He is survived by two daughters, Nancy Aiken and Barbara Shaffer, and four grandchildren. His wife of 62 years, Jane Broomfield, died in 2013.

Aiken reflected on her father’s life and service.

“He always felt his most significant vote was for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was just such a remarkable man. He was so happy every single day,” she said.

“Every day of my childhood, he would wake up singing ‘It’s a great life,’ and he really felt that way until the very end. He was just so happy and positive every day,” she added. “I’m getting so many wonderful notes from people that worked for him, and everyone is saying the same thing — and I know that’s how they feel — that he was just such an honest, happy, caring person.”

Private memorial services — according to the family — will be held in Washington, D.C., March 31 and in Bloomfield Hills in late April or May.

In lieu of flowers, the family is suggesting donations to the Broomfield Leadership Center at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm, 1005 Van Hoosen Road, Rochester Hills, MI 48306.

More about the Broomfield Center for Leadership can be found at www.rochesterhills.org/index.aspx?NID=607.

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