Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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'There are some who never know the tragedy of the grave; who sleep only to awaken in the sublime knowledge that they have not lost, but have found life. For death, after more than eighty years of strong and vital living, is achieved, not suffered. Landor tells the story in a simple couplet :
"I warmed both hands before the fire of life,
It sinks, and I am ready to depart"
The words bespeak courage, action, attainment, peace. They bespeak William Brosmith.
I knew only the closing decade of his life, but I knew it in the fullness of its fruit and in all the ripe richness of its talent. Yet, however close the heart and endeared the hand that spreads its history upon the record, the pen must pause, and the memorial pall before the living testament which evokes it.
Greatness, to be recognized, must be articulate. It must speak a language of public honor and material benefaction, or be ignored, and from this aspect, one might dwell at length upon the career of William Brosmith.
Born in New York City, the son of worthwhile Irish immigrants, at thirteen this boy found himself fatherless and the partial supporter of a mother, three sisters and a brother. The very rudiments of learning apparently denied to him, he went to work, but soon sought and found opportunity of continuing his studies at night school. Even at a tender age, and despite the limited hope held out to his ambitions, he looked ahead to a career in law, and when but a hard-working lad of sixteen, he won certification as clerk in the offices of Beach & Beman, practicing attorneys, New York City. At twenty-two, he was licensed to practice his profession.
Soon thereafter, Mr. Brosmith successfully prosecuted a client's claim against the United States Mutual Accident Association, one of the largest accident insurance companies in the country. A remarkable grasp of the highly specialized principles of insurance law won the private admiration of Charles B. Peet, president of the company, and the young attorney soon received the first of many great compliments which, throughout his career, were to be paid his learning and his industry, the offer of the general attorneyship in this company. Thereafter, his rise was meteoric. Before the turn of the century, James G. Batterson enlisted his services with the Travelers Insurance Company at Hartford, in which association he was to develop a stature second to none in the profession.
The public and the insuring companies, particularly casualty companies, probably do not realize that much of the language which today comprises the final repository of their respective rights and duties was the product of this man's forthright honesty, expressed in a medium which attests it. Many years ago, at a meeting of the International Association of Accident Underwriters, he said; "Why use words capable of being understood in two or more possible senses? If there are certain types of so-called accidents which we do not intend to cover, and for which we do not receive a premium, why not say so in plain, understandable English?" Here was a mind that analyzed clearly and spoke candidly, or did not speak.
The manifold activities in which Mr. Brosmith was a participant and recognized leader establish the breadth of his interests and measure, in some degree, his contributions not only to the field of insurance and to the law, but to church and state as well. The presidency of the Association of Life Insurance Counsel, of the International Association of Accident Underwriters, of the International Association of Casualty and Surety Underwriters, and of the Hartford College of Law; the chairmanship of the advisory committee of the insurance federation of America and of the committee on insurance of the American Bar Association; charter and active member of the American Law Institute; member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, of the New York County Lawyers' Association, of the New York State Bar Association, of the Connecticut State Bar Association, of the Hartford and Middlesex County Bar Associations; director of the Travelers Bank & Trust Company, of the Connecticut River Banking Company and of the Dime Savings Bank of Hartford; member of the Connecticut council of defense during the world war, of the highway safety committee organized by Herbert Hoover, of the Connecticut civil service commission and of the Hartford municipal commission; trustee of St. Francis Hospital and of St. Joseph's Cathedral Corporation; president of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce, of the board of charity commissioners of the city of Hartford, and of the Holy Name Society of St. Joseph's Cathedral; chairman of the commission of public welfare of the city of Hartford; trustee of Albertus Magnus College and of St. John's Industrial School Improvement Association; vice president and general counsel of the Travelers' companies; recipient of the rare papal dignities of Knightship in the Order of St. Gregory the Great and in the Knights of Malta, and honorary Doctorate in Law from Holy Cross College, signify in some degree the scope of more than half a century's active and militant endeavor.
A rare coincidence of qualities contributed to this man's pre-eminence. An apt mind, a strong body, and a passionate interest in the genius of the common law were some of these. But it was his youth, his refusal to acknowledge the decay of years, that marked him perennially alert and vital. Age took nothing from acuity that never crystallized, nor an intellect as fluid as quicksilver, and as alive. Clear-eyed to the end, he conceded nothing to the compelling claims of time, and he died as he had lived - buoyant and aware.
Such, in brief, is the story of William Brosmith, wide indeed as the wide flowing sea and as difficult of recapitulation. But there is a final chapter, a humbler and dearer chapter, that cannot go unattested. There is the story of the simple, Godfearing man, whose spiritually recognized many creeds, but only one morality, whose charity was broad and deep and never ending, and whose personal purity of life was as fragrant as the breath of May. He died on August 21st, 1937, at the age of eighty-two, virile, courageous and undefeated. "Sunset and evening star" shadowed his adieu, but he met the infinite in the lightening dawn youth. He took with him much of love and something of veneration, but he left aglow the flame of a worthy life, undying as his own strong soul.[footer.htm]