Rosa L. Broadous, a community leader who was matriarch both of a prominent San Fernando Valley family with 10 children and of the Baptist church she co-founded with her husband in 1955, has died. She was 89.
Mother Broadous, as she was affectionately known, died Oct. 28 of complications related to old age at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, her family said.
Six of her children became Baptist ministers, fanning out into the community to make a difference just as their parents did from their longtime home in Pacoima.
In 2000, The Times named Broadous one of seven "Great Dames" who helped shape California. These were women who came of age at a time of limited expectations and found a way to acquire power anyway -- and use it for the greater good.
Although she started Calvary Baptist Church in Pacoima with her husband, the Rev. Hillery T. Broadous, she was not officially seen as a co-founder at first because a woman's role was to direct the choir, work with youth or entertain, Broadous told The Times in 2000.
But that was changing, she said, punctuating the observation with "Praise the Lord."
After the church was founded, many younger congregants who had recently left home began calling her "Mother Broadous," and the name stuck. Her role as "church mother" was recognized in a cornerstone of the church that her son, William, continued to pastor after her husband died in 1982.
Everywhere she went, she was called Mother Broadous, said Jose De Sosa, a former president of the Valley NAACP.
"She served just about every organization in the Valley in some capacity," he said. "Her background goes from civil rights to community to social organizations."
Her lengthy list of accomplishments includes helping to found the San Fernando Valley branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People; one of her sons, the Rev. Zedar Broadous, later served as its president.
As a board member of the Valley Interfaith Council, she left a legacy by "getting the black community involved with the organization," said Barry Smedberg, a former council president.
"She always seemed to have kindness and understanding," Smedberg said. "She had this kind of aura of righteousness about her."
Broadous also served on the board of the Northeast Valley Multipurpose Senior Center, now named for her daughter, the Rev. Alicia Broadous-Duncan, who was executive director of the center when she died in 2003.
Honored in 1997 as a "queen mother" by the Valley chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, Broadous wore several pins that represented her community involvement. Her favorite pin, she said, was from her literacy class, which she taught every week for more than 20 years at the church.
She was born Rosa Lee Thompson on Dec. 8, 1918, in Gould, Ark., the only child of a laundrywoman and a mill worker.
In 1936, she met her future husband when he came to stoke the wood stove at her boarding school dorm.
They married the following year and moved to Oregon, where her husband found work in a shipyard. After he served in the Army in World War II, they came to the San Fernando Valley in the late 1940s.
When she saw a need, "she just stepped up," said a daughter, the Rev. Pamela J. Broadous, pointing out that her mother organized the Valley's first communitywide observance of Negro History Week, in 1956.
As a widow, Rosa Broadous returned to school, earning an associate degree from Los Angeles Mission College and studying at Cal State Northridge.
"The secret of my success," she told The Times in 1997, "was being willing to give service whenever I was asked."
Broadous is survived by nine children: Marie Broadous Neloms, Rosita Furaha Broadous, Hillery L. "Abdullah" Broadous, Apostle William T. Broadous, the Rev. Zedar E. Broadous, the Rev. Pamela J. Broadous, the Rev. Arthur L. Broadous, the Rev. M. Cecilia Broadous and Francine Broadous Oputa; 32 grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren; and 12 great-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Calvary Baptist Church, 12928 Vaughn St., Pacoima.