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Alicia Broadous-Duncan, 66; Minister in L.A. Enlisted Her Faith in Service to Others

November 15, 2003|Jocelyn Y. Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Every morning, usually at 4 a.m., the Rev. Alicia Broadous-Duncan got up from her bed and had a talk with God.

There in his presence, she spoke about those in need -- not only her family, but neighbors, co-workers, community members, a state senator, the president of the United States of America, the planet. For two hours, she sat in her wheelchair, speaking each name, speaking each need and believing that prayer changes things.

By the time she headed out for work, she had already done part of her job.

The way the Rev. Alicia Broadous-Duncan prayed each day was the way she lived, family and friends said, with an abiding concern and care for others that was always present, even in the most intimate moments of her life. That concern, community activism and faith are part of her family's history and an enduring legacy of her life.

Broadous-Duncan, longtime minister and advocate for the elderly, died Nov. 1 at Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills of a pulmonary embolism. She was 66.

On Nov. 6, in the Pacoima church that was founded by her father and where her brother is now pastor, rows of mourners, including two dozen law enforcement officials, paid homage to the woman known in the community as "Rev. Alicia."

"She always had this look in her eye as if to say, 'Are you doing your best?' " said state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Los Angeles), a longtime friend of the family. "The look always conveyed, 'Of course you're not. We need to do more.' "

Rev. Alicia was raised to do more. The oldest of 10 children born to the Rev. Hillery T. and Rosa L. Broadous, she and her family settled in Pacoima in the 1940s, leaving behind their native Arkansas. The couple founded organizations, such as the Valley chapter of the NAACP and Calvary Baptist Church of Pacoima, and established a tradition of community service that the children would continue.

"It's hard to be a part of this family -- even if you marry into it -- and not be active," said the Rev. Zedar E. Broadous, a brother of Rev. Alicia and head of the Valley chapter of the NAACP. "You don't sit on the sidelines."

In 1957, Rev. Alicia married Lonnie Duncan II and in the 1970s, the family, which would eventually include seven children, lived in Compton. Rev. Alicia worked as assistant to the Compton city manager and assistant to the Compton chief of police and ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Compton City Council.

Many of Hillery T. Broadous' children joined him in the ministry. In the late '70s, Rev. Alicia became a minister, eventually earning a doctorate in pastoral counseling from Golden Grain Bible College and Seminary in Ventura.

Through her work as executive director of the Northeast Valley Multipurpose Senior Center, Rev. Alicia affected the lives of thousands of seniors. In 1990, she was tapped to head the merger of what had been two senior centers into one large facility, serving the diverse northeast Valley. Rev. Alicia directed an on- and off-site staff of about 80 people, overseeing the center's transportation program that offers rides to seniors, a nutrition program that delivers meals to the homebound, as well as an exercise program, arts and crafts, trips, a group for those with Alzheimer's disease, an annual cotillion and daily meals for the estimated 2,500 who use the center and its satellite locations.

Rev. Alicia oversaw the intricacies of the program but also maintained relationships with the seniors, serving as a source of encouragement to many.

"Alicia, more than anybody, was absolutely dedicated to creating a community center, not just an African American center or a Latino center, but a community center," said Alarcon, who supported her bid for the position. "She was really dedicated to getting people to work together."

At the center, she "demanded high standards of all the staff and wanted us to demand the same of ourselves," said Patricia Austin, the center's interim director. "It was always important that we do our best and that people love to come to the center."

Alarcon and Broadous-Duncan were personal friends. Alarcon sometimes spoke with her about larger issues affecting the community. But knowing that she prayed for him daily was important -- "more important than any campaign contribution," Alarcon said.

The two shared similar views -- and had experienced a similar loss.

"In 1987, I lost my son in a car accident," he said. "Alicia lost two sons. There was this common compassion that bound us. We didn't talk about it a whole lot, but it was there."

In recent years, she suffered health challenges, including hip problems that left her in a wheelchair. But poor health never stole her commitment to her work and ministry or the source of her joy, friends and family said.

"She loved to laugh and see people laugh," Austin said, recalling the e-mail jokes that would make her laugh out loud.

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