Living It Up
Barbara Broderick – A loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. A compassionate educator. A registered voter. A dedicated piano and organ player. A leader of Catholic church choirs. A COVID-19 survivor. These are some of the few titles Barbara Broderick has held in her 108 years of life.
Barbara has been a resident of the Lee Healthcare facility since 2014, and she previously resided at the adjoining assisted living facility, Laurel Lake. However, she started her life’s journey in Pittsfield, MA on April 22, 1913, which was a year before the outbreak of World War I. Barbara was the oldest of 4 children, and her early years were full of memories with her 2 sisters and 1 brother. When discussing her childhood, Barbara mentioned how she remembers being 5 years old when women gained the right to vote. When asked how the women in her life reacted to this, she said with strength and conviction in her voice that “every single one of them made sure to vote”. She also laughed heartily and recalled how they were equally excited about having access to a telephone. While she was too young to vote at the time, Barbara holds this empowering accomplishment for women close to her heart today. She is still a registered voter, and makes sure to vote by absentee ballot, because it is essential to always "say how you feel".
Barbara progressed to become a conscientious and dedicated student. After high school, she graduated from Elms College, and she is the only living alumni from her graduating class today. When asked how this fact made her feel, she grinned widely and said, “they all must’ve died very young”. While Barbara enjoyed every subject in school, she said that she never liked Chemistry, which holds a sense of comical irony, as she married a chemist in 1939.
Barbara and Howard Broderick met while working together at General Electric. Barbara was a secretary at the time and Howard worked as a chemist. Barbara warmly stated, “Howard was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant”. When discussing the early years of their relationship, Barbara lit up as she mentioned how a lot of their dates involved riding in the car because Howard had an impressive and new Buick. Barbara and Howard went on to have 3 children.
Barbara was adamant in how she loved and adored everything about motherhood. Similar to her love of playing instruments, her children formed a band at home, which Barbara was delighted about. She said, “one played piano, one played the saxophone, and one played on an upside-down metal waste basket”. She laughed joyously as she told this story, and her love for this fond memory was evident in her demeanor. Barbara now has 10 grandchildren and 18 great-grandkids.
In addition to being the matriarch of her family, Barbara was also a foreign language teacher at the former Rockwood Academy in Lenox, MA. Barbara speaks an impressive 5 languages, and she has carried these skills with her to this day. While living at Laurel Lake, the assisted living facility, Barbara taught Spanish classes to her fellow residents. Barbara expressed her love of languages, teaching, and helping others.
Having lived a long and fulfilling life, Barbara has experienced her fair share of obstacles. In December 2020, Barbara tested positive for COVID-19. Barbara was 107 at the time, and when asked if she felt any fear, she said that her only concern was for her loved ones. Her caring nature, compassionate sensibility, and unwavering fortitude led her to overcome the virus. Barbara turned 108 on April 22, 2021, and this special day was a celebration of a joyful and beautiful life. Barbara spent her birthday surrounded by all the things she loves: her family, music, 108 roses, and a sweet treat.
Barbara with her sons
Barbara being presented with a citation on behalf of the House of Represenatives from Representative Smitty Pignatelli who has known Barbara his whole life
The Town of Lee designates April 22nd as "Barbara Broderick Day"
When reflecting back on these 108 years, Barbara spoke with such tenderness when she talked about the effect that her parents had on her life. Her mother had a shop where they made their own hats, and her father was the superintendent of an electric company. The steadfast determination of these two prominent influences left a significant impact on Barbara. She specifically mentioned a story from her childhood about a time when her and her mother were coming out of church. Someone walked up to them, and Barbara remembers them saying, “Little girl, you have a lot to live up to.” Barbara still holds this cherished memory over a century later, and she has continued to uphold her parents’ legacy throughout her life.
Barbara exudes kindness, warmth, humor, and strength. From the moment she begins to tell a story about her family, her love for them radiates. As a mindset of perseverance and positivity encompassed her whole life, it is no surprise that her advice to younger generations is, “Stick at it and make it work. Whatever it is, don’t give up.”