Part V: Meet Jean Bromley

By: Mark Lee
Fall 2014 Communications Intern
Senior majoring in advertising and public relations

JeanBromleyPeople who are engaged in life tend to be healthier and live longer. Meet Jean Bromley. Jean has lived a life filled with adventure and rich experiences. As she enters year two of her retirement, she sees her age as a calmer time to stay physically fit, volunteer, and fully engage in her role as wife, mother, grandmother and friend.

Jean was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1947, the daughter of a bridge-builder who worked for an American iron company. Jean’s family moved often – when her father finished a bridge, the next beckoned and the family followed. By age 12, Jean and her younger sister Margaret, had attended 15 different schools. While most of the moves were throughout the United States, they did spend a year living in the Dominican Republic.

“Our family viewed each move as an adventure, it was just something we expected, that we would move again. Now looking back, I realize that our lifestyle wasn’t so normal.”

When Jean was 12 years old, her father retired from bridge building and the family settled in the southern Missouri town of Buffalo. It was there her father took up farming. He remained in farming until his death at the age of 95.

“He was a terrific role model, all around, but mostly for his ability to adapt. He was always on high wires when he was working, but by age 62, he realized he couldn’t be doing that anymore.”

Jean graduated from Buffalo High School in 1965. She attended the University of Missouri, completing her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 1969.

Social work was something Jean knew very little about before being introduced to it.

“I had taken an introductory course. What appealed to me most was helping individuals help themselves.”

During summers in college, Jean got her first taste of social work in her hometown, working for the welfare office. She helped poor families budget their money.

“My first client was a family with several kids, maybe 6 or 7, who lived in a home with dirt floors. They were actually fantastic with managing their money. It was humbling to help them see their strengths, reinforce what they were already doing and support them. I will always remember that.”

Once she graduated, she did a summer fellowship near Copenhagen studying Denmark’s social service system.

Returning from Denmark, Jean received a scholarship to complete her Masters in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. There she met her husband, Jim Bromley, who was also pursuing a degree in Social Work.

After graduating from Washington University, Jean and her husband worked in various social work jobs starting in St. Louis, moving to Minnesota, Georgia, and California before returning to the Midwest to be closer to their parents. Jim took a job with the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee and they settled in Shorewood, Wisconsin with their son and daughter who were age 9 and 5 at the time.

Jean completed a post-Masters internship at Family Service of Milwaukee, now Aurora Family Services, which ultimately lead to obtaining her license in marriage and family therapy. She worked there, providing psychotherapy for 5 years.

After leaving Family Services, Jean joined her husband at the VA Medical Center where she worked in a variety of positions. One of them eventually led to a leadership position developing and implementing team-based programs.

“We started an adult day healthcare program for seniors, which is still around today. We started it from scratch. I love that. You create something and you work with a team, everyone has input.”

The program was designed to help ease caregiver stress and reduce the number of people being placed in nursing homes. Caregivers could bring those they were caring for to the program a few times a week, giving the caregivers some much needed respite.

Prior to retirement Jean created programming for young veterans returning from the Iraqi war and provided leadership and support to the social workers working with them.

Jean retired in May of 2013, joining her husband who had retired three years earlier.

Jean remains active by volunteering at the Bread of Healing clinic where she helps people enroll in health insurance provided through the Affordable Care Act.

“It helps me keep my social work roots.”

Jean and her husband hike and go kayaking on the lake and river near their home. She also enjoys weekly Pilates and playing Mahjongg with friends. They also make frequent visits to their son, daughter-in-law and grandchild in New York,daughter in Minneapolis, and Jean’s sister in Kansas City.

“I see it [retirement] as time to be with family and friends, exercise, volunteer, and do things that keep the brain cells going and to continue contributing to the world around us.”