“She was talking about Bellingham and her time here the last week of her life,” said her son Duke Zieglmeier. He had traveled to Bellingham from South Dakota with his sister Elizabeth Zieglmeier. They were visiting the BPS Central Kitchen to honor their mother’s request that her estate support Bellingham families struggling to pay for school lunch.
Eileen Curtis Zieglmeier Broadhurst, who passed away in December 2019, spent the early years of her life in the Pacific Northwest, attending both Larrabee and Lowell Elementary Schools. As a child, she moved 17 times before she graduated high school from Rapid City, South Dakota, as her mother cooked and ran cafes throughout the West.
“I don’t think her immediate family understood their situation as one of food insecurity, and maybe that’s because her mom was in the food services industry and maybe that helped her supplement what they were able to eat,” said Elizabeth. “I think as she got older she realized, ‘we really lived on the edge.’ And if we can find a way to prevent that from happening to other kids, that’s what she would have wanted.”
A high school teacher who earned her degree after raising her two children after her first husband’s death, Broadhurst loved history, political science, and often encouraged her children saying, “anything in life is possible.”
The following is from her online obituary from December 2019:
“Eileen developed a strong will, no doubt influenced by having attended so many schools during her early years. Whether drinking her red wine with ice, explaining to a waiter in Paris how to make French onion soup, or insisting on skiing from the top of Steamboat Springs in her 60’s, Eileen was an iconoclast whose absence leaves a huge hole in the hearts of her family.”
Although she only lived here as a young child, Bellingham continued to inspire Broadhurst throughout her life, and it was where she was happiest, according to her family. She had fond memories of picking blackberries in Fairhaven Park, visiting Larrabee State Park and driving on Chuckanut Drive.
“We came here eight years ago and stopped by Larrabee State Park and she didn’t want to stop. She just wanted to keep seeing it,” said Duke. “She would point things out, ‘I remember this, I remember that.’ She went by the water and it was when the starfish were out. She changed her whole mood when she was here. She loved it.”
While she cherished her time in Bellingham, she never forgot the feeling of not being able to afford school lunch while she attended Lowell and Larrabee Elementary Schools. Because of that lived experience, Broadhurst had a keen interest in helping children in need. That memory inspired her adult children’s road trip and gift.
At the end of their visit to the BPS Central Kitchen, the two provided a check for $50,000 from Broadhurst’s estate to the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation to support meals for low income families.
“This means a lot to us and we know we’re doing the right thing for her,” said Duke.
“This gift is significant because it comes at a time of growing hardship due to the economic impacts of the pandemic, when more families than ever before are struggling,” said Kim Lund, executive director of the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation.
“Traveling from South Dakota to bring us this donation is such a beautiful way for the Zieglmeiers to honor their mother. It is a good reminder that when children experience a scarcity of resources, especially food insecurity, it can create lifelong impacts that stay with them even if they transcend the scarcity later in life.”
The funds will be used to forgive current student lunch debt balances at Lowell Elementary School and the remainder will go to pre-populating lunch accounts for students in need across the district at every school.
Read more about the life of Eileen Curtis Zieglmeier Broadhurst in her online obituary.
For more information on how you can provide every child the opportunity to reach their highest potential in the classroom and beyond, visit https://www.bellinghamschoolsfoundation.org/.