About Esther Broughton
Esther Margaret Broughton 1916 – 2008 Esther was born March 25, 1916 in Tantallon, Saskatchewan to Sigurdur (Sam) & Thora (Ásmundsdóttir) Johnson, as the second oldest of seven children.
Her paternal grandparents, Jón Guðmundsson & Kristín Thórðardóttir, with their children, left Stóri Skógur farm, Dalasýsla district in western Iceland, from the port of Stykkishólmur in 1888.
It was into a world of pioneer heritage and mid-war challenges that Esther was born. The vigour and potential these families brought with them to Canada proved itself. Her eldest brother Valtýr Bergman (Val) studied agronomy at the University of Saskatchewan.
After a WW II stint in the RCAF he took further studies at Cornell University, becoming an arbor culturist (tree scientist) with Dominion Experimental Farms, and owned a nursery in White Rock BC. Esther pursued Education in Saskatoon and taught school for ten years before marrying.
Her first placement, during the Depression, was in a one room schoolhouse in the small hamlet of Aneroid, SK, earning $50 a month! She spent a few years there and was remembered as “the best teacher they ever had.” She also taught at Elfros and Wynyard. Her brother, Herbert Skuli, earned a Ph.D in Physical Chemistry at McGill University, later working for Shawinigan Chemicals and Gulf Oil in Quebec. Her brother Harold attended university, and later became a heavy equipment operator in the Yukon. Esther’s only sister, Anna “Christine” MacKay, was with the Toronto Stock Exchange and presented the daily market reports on radio. Her brother Raymond Wesley, born in Prince Albert SK, graduated from University of British Columbia in engineering and worked for General Motors in Vancouver.
Her youngest brother John Randolph (Randy), born in Wynyard, SK, studied medicine at UBC and became a family physician in Richmond Hill, ON. During WW II, when Esther lived in Wynyard, she met her future husband, James “Harold” Broughton. He was an officer with the RCAF stationed at Dafoe, a few kilometers west of town. According to family and friends, he was smitten by her beauty, intelligence and sophistication, not expecting this in a small Prairie town. And she was much taken by his smart appearance in his military uniform. He is said to “have cut quite a figure...”
They were married in Wynyard, June 6, 1944 and soon moved east. Harold, an only child whose father was a dentist, was from a well established Toronto family which arrived in Ontario from the
British Isles in the mid 1800s, with one branch hailing from the Orkney Islands. He had gone to a fine private school, earned a B. Comm. from the University of Toronto and worked as a chartered accountant for Clarkson Gordon, later joining the Ontario Cancer Treatment & Research Foundation as Secretary Treasurer.
He passed away in 1989. Harold and Esther settled in Toronto where they raised three children. Their home was a warm and happy place, centered on family in a closely- knit neighbourhood. Her children remember her as “a practical, down to earth person with profoundly egalitarian instincts, who was unfailingly respectful of others…a modern person with some very traditional values.” Given her family background and her avocation for teaching, she held education in high esteem, always encouraging her children to do their best. With praise and encouragement she volunteered as an ESL teacher helping others learn. Her daughter Catherine Margaret became a family physician, Thora Kristin an official with the Canadian International Development Agency, and son Alan James a lawyer with the Department of Justice. Her grandchildren remember her attentiveness, instructions in good manners, independence of mind and integrity. “Grandma had a pretty strong opinion on everything….she always took the time to explain what values underlay her opinions, which made even the most apparently outrageous comments make sense,” says one. Indeed, she had a wonderful sense of humour.
Although Esther was far removed from the community of her youth she was proud of her heritage and was an active member of the Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto, with her husband serving terms as Treasurer and President. Over the years they hosted many visiting Icelanders. Her support and dedication was recognized by an honorary club membership and a citation from the Icelandic National League of North America.
When she and Harold traveled to Iceland they marveled at the dramatic volcanic landscape, magnificent waterfalls, quiet green valleys and abundant birdlife – and remarked about their stay at the Borg Hotel, the grandest place in Reykjavík, where coffee was served from the finest of silver in true continental elegance! Esther and Harold were longtime members of the Granite Club of Toronto as well as Timothy Eaton United Church.
In later years, Esther was a resident at Christie Gardens Apartments & Care. She was predeceased by her brothers Val, Harold, Raymond and Randy, and is survived by her brother Herbert
(Mildred Lindsay) of Oakville, sister Christine of Toronto, as well as several nephews and nieces. She also leaves her children, Catherine Broughton (Dr. Joseph Marshall) of Thornhill; Thora Broughton (George Abonyi) and Alan (Heather Loucks) both of Ottawa, as well as grandchildren Adam, Alyssa and Erik Marshall, David and Benjamin Abonyi, and Sam and Avery Broughton. Esther was a very proud Canadian, who instilled a sense of civic duty and responsible citizenship into her family. One of her favourite instructional aphorisms to her children was “This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not be false to any man…” She passed away May 8, 2008 and was laid to rest beside her beloved husband in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.