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Around The Grange
Connecticut Grangers remember Gene Bromley

By A.J. Algier, Westerly Sun (12/13/12)

  DECEMBER 13, 2012 --

They aren’t even sure how to use the coffeepot at the Grange Hall without him, said his dear friend and fellow-actor in good-humored “George and Harriet” skits spanning decades.

Maurice Eugene Bromley, 84, died at his home Sunday, leaving his wife of 59 years, Christa (Schellmann) Bromley, children, grandchildren and scores of friends who describe him “one of the nicest people they have ever met.”

“I can’t imagine even thinking about doing anything at the North Stonington Grange without the master of the Grange himself,” said Nancy Wiessmuller, a member of the fraternal organization, who played Harriet to Bromley’s “grumpy old man” George in their skits.

Gene would be at any scheduled event before all others arrived. He would take off his hat and raise the flag, getting the coffee ready, turning the heat on and generally sprucing up the place, “greeting every single person as they walked in the door,” Wiessmuller said. Then, he would make sure everything was closed properly before leaving — thermostat turned down, lights off — and he’d take off his hat and lower the flag.

And on other days when there were no activities scheduled, Bromley would check on the building and grounds. He’d be sure the walkways were shoveled in the winter.

Similar descriptions of Bromley came from his colleagues on the fair committees and fellow Lions Club members.

“He was an old-fashioned, wonderful country man,” said Peggy-Sue Long, who served with Bromley for many years on committees for the North Stonington Fair. “It is a huge, huge loss.”

A hero to many throughout his life, Gene would undoubtedly be embarrassed by all the accolades being tossed his way. His old-fashioned courteous manner impressed myriad people throughout his lifetime, from fellow Grangers to politicians to those he just met in passing through the door of the North Stonington Grange during the nearly three-quarters of a century he was involved.

He was a staunch advocate for participation in one’s community on many levels. North Stonington First Selectman Nicholas H. Mullane, II, said Bromley attended meetings on a regular basis, spoke out on issues, held his ground and always remained smiling and good natured.

“He got along with everybody,” Mullane said, referring to the numerous and varied groups who used the fairgrounds. From the large doggy day events where “they were having a good old time” to the Boy Scouts, “Gene has always been a top volunteer,” ensuring everything went smoothly, Mullane said.

“When he was going for his operation, he had to make sure everything at the Grange was being cared for properly,” said Mullane. “He had his sister on the phone enlisting her help.”

From getting Little League fields prepared to getting a Grange food booth ready, no one ever hesitated to call Bromley, and more likely he was the one who headed a committee to get the ball rolling. That included the annual North Stonington Agricultural Fair. Bromley’s hard work and dedication helped to lay a foundation for the event, which began nearly 50 years ago.

Bromley once told a reporter that his great-grandfather settled in North Stonington in about 1890 and farmed, raising vegetables, cows and chickens to make a living. His own father, Maurice, did the same. Gene was a machinist, working at the Bostitch plant in East Greenwich, R.I., for 48 years. He served for three years with the U.S. Army in Germany.

He’d been a member of the grange since the age of 14, and was the 2012 Granger of the year of the Connecticut State Grange. He was also a charter member of the North Stonington Fire Department and received the humanitarian of the year award from the North Stonington Lions Club.

He is survived by his son, Alfred M. Bromley and wife, Carol; two daughters, Rosemarie Mulholland and her husband, Kevin, and Ingrid E. Bushwack; and two sisters, Meredith Pappadia and husband Joe ; and Cecile McGrath.

The funeral service will be at noon Friday at the Gaffney-Dolan Funeral Home, 59 Spruce St., Westerly, followed by burial at the Union Cemetery in North Stonington. Afterward, there will be a gathering of friends at the Grange Hall.

Everyone is still wondering who will make the coffee.

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