The altruistic and compassionate energy of the late John Paul Broderson was alive Sunday evening at Cove Spring Park when the Frankfort InterFaith Council gathered for its annual community picnic.
Broderson — a longtime Frankfort ophthalmologist who died Oct. 24, 2018, at age 77 — was remembered “for promoting the interfaith qualities of justice, compassion and human kindness.” The council presented posthumously its 2019 Ruby Layson Award to Broderson, who was an enthusiastic member of the council. His wife Marcey Broderson accepted the plaque.
“This organization meant so much to John Paul,” she said. “His church and his Bible studies and groups were important, but the interfaith council made him feel a part of the community in a deeper way than he had ever experienced.”
Other family members accompanying her at the award presentation were daughter Julie Garland of Frankfort, sons Paul and Kelly Broderson, both of Lexington, and granddaughter Emma Grace Stevenson of Frankfort. Around 70 attended the picnic dedicated to the memory of Ruby Layson.
Layson, a charter member of the interfaith council, died in 2017. She was a journalist, educator, environmentalist, world travel and tireless worker for peace and equality.
John Paul Broderson was a native of Franklin in Simpson County. He was a graduate of the University of Kentucky and UK School of Medicine. He completed his internship in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and his residency at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
While doing his residency, he went to Calcutta, India, working in camps and performing cataract surgery on “some of the poorest of the poor for several months.” That experience impacted him for the rest of his life,” Marcey Broderson said. He admired Mother Teresa, who said, “A life not lived for others is not a life.”
After his medical training, he moved to Frankfort where he practiced ophthalmology for 35 years. When he retired in 2006, his life’s passion for serving others increased tremendously. He served on the Drug Court Board, assisting participants in their journey to a better life; and was on the Salvation Army Board. He taught life skills at Franklin County Regional Jail. He led the men’s Sunday school class at First United Methodist Church and provided daily service to the church’s Least of the Brethren program.
He’s remembered as a generous and compassionate man, who showed love and respect for everyone with no thought of religion, race or social status.
Retired educator Jim Jackson, one of the founders of the interfaith council, read a 2016 writing by Broderson titled “The Orchestra of God.” In the article, Broderson said, “Over a period of years, I have come to believe all of God’s children are one.” He said he believes all major religions have the same focus on the “deeds of social justice, compassion, and walking daily with our higher power.”
In God’s orchestra, “if the Jews are woodwinds, the Christians are strings, and the Muslims are the brass, they all have very different instruments with separate sounds and parts, but are playing the same tune together and in unity . . . Stop focusing on the instrument and listen to the beautiful sound of God’s heartbeat, coming from the orchestra pit of humanity.”
At the picnic, several council members from different faiths read a part of the Charter of Compassion, which guides their work on the interfaith council. Gayle Bourne, who is Jewish, said, “Judaism commands compassion both toward people and animals, as well as the earth itself.”
Julia Rome, a Baha’i, said teachings in her faith “that develop compassion in our hearts” include universal compulsory education, a spiritual solution to economic problems, and the elimination of racism and prejudices of all kinds.
Rich Green, a Christian and member of Good Shepherd Catholic Church, said, “I acknowledge that we who claim to be followers of Jesus often fail to live compassionately, and that we often increase what this charter calls ‘the sum of human misery.’ For our Christian churches’ self-absorption, blatant offenses and frequent negligence of the needs of others, now and throughout our existence, I apologize and ask forgiveness.”
Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells thanked the council for working to promote compassion, respect and understanding of all religions. He said it’s the responsibility of all elected officials and leaders “to spread the word and make sure our community hears that voice of compassion, unity and love. And it’s not easy because every day unfortunately (in his job), I hear the ugliness, the non-compassionate talk and non-compassionate actions.”
Wells said John Paul Broderson was a very compassionate man who believed in humanity. “I have his Orchestra of God on my wall, and it’s just exactly how we should live our lives.”
The local interfaith council has members from the Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i and Unitarian Universalist religions.
Charles Pearl, a retired State Journal staff writer, is a freelance writer and a member of the Frankfort InterFaith Council.