EFFINGHAM — A giant in the Effingham business community passed away Friday.
William L. Broom Jr., known to friends as Bill, was involved for more than 30 years in the family furniture business founded by grandfather W.S. Broom until embarking on a long and fruitful retirement journey in 1990. Broom died Friday morning at Evergreen Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 15 days shy of his 89th birthday.
Relatives and friends remember a joyful fellow who was also straightforward in his dealings with other people.
"He liked to joke around a lot," said daughter Nancy Liss. "He was a pretty jovial guy."
But Broom was also the kind of guy who honored his commitments, starting when he had to skip his Effingham High School graduation ceremony in 1943 to answer Uncle Sam's call during World War II. Young Bill served in the U.S. Army from May 1943 to January 1946, helping to liberate France with his work on the Red Ball Highway.
"He was always proud of his military service," Liss said.
Not long after he got back from Europe, Broom married Virginia Wakefield. The couple were married 54 1/2 years before Virginia passed away in 2001.
Like many men of his generation, Broom attended college on the GI Bill. In his case, it was the University of Illinois, from where he graduated in 1949 with a marketing degree.
Liss said her father flirted with a career outside the furniture business. But his dad, William Sr., died in 1958, leaving Bill and his younger brother, Jim, to run the store with their mother, Winifred.
Along the way, Broom was active in a number of veteran and civic organizations. He was past commander of the Effingham American Legion post and also a member of VFW Post 1769, past president of the Kiwanis Club, former chairman of the Effingham Water Authority, a 50-year member of the Effingham Masonic Lodge and a member of Ainad Shrine Temple.
Daughter Nancy said her father had a number of other interests, including painting, fishing, University of Illinois sports, and last but not least, St. Louis Cardinals baseball. But she added that Broom always took care of his business before pursuing those other interests.
"I think he and Uncle Jim took the store to a new level," she said, adding that the brothers would often decorate the windows during special occasions.
Liss has her own special memories.
"He taught me how to do the soft shoe," she said of the dance. "I also thought he sounded like Bing Crosby when he sang."
Broom was also a patron of the arts, something Effingham physician and fellow artist Dr. Ruben Boyajian appreciated.
"He was such an interesting character," Boyajian said. "He had a number of different interests, but he was also very plain-spoken and straightforward.
"He was never arrogant."
After Broom retired, he and Virginia traveled extensively before Mrs. Broom's passing. They also enjoyed a family that grew to six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.