Nelson Broms, (ne Abromowitz) of Ridgefield CT passed away on August 13, 2023. He died peacefully at home with his beloved wife, Pearl at his side. He was 104.
Nelson was born on April 15, 1919, to Solomon and Lillian Abromowitz in Jamaica, Queens, during a time of great social upheaval in a country rocked by both a global pandemic and foreign wars across the ocean. He was the son of a Russian Jewish immigrant shopkeeper and a young mother who supported her husband at their family store located on the old Plank Road in Jamaica, Queens. When Nelson was just an infant, his mother was mortally struck by a drunk driver--and Nelson carried in her arms—was thrown and landed on the nearby sidewalk injured and unconscious. He would never forget the care of the Catholic Mercy sisters who nursed him back to health. His father later married, Sophie, who had emigrated from Romania to join the Abromowitz family and become Nelson’s future mother. Nelson had three siblings, a brother Abe (Jim), who became a rising star in the American minor baseball leagues, a sister Belle and his sister Rose, who worked for 33 years in the Diocese of Rockville Center.
After Nelson graduated from high school he went on to study business at Baruch College in New York City. He never graduated. Instead, like many young men of his day, he left college in 1940 to enlist in the Army before the country was officially at war. He was assigned to basic training in San Antonio, Texas, at Fort Sam Houston, and later served in Europe as a general staff officer in Third Army Headquarters; ultimately serving on General Patton’s staff, he was an assistant G-1 in the quartermaster headquarters of the Ninth United States Army. For his service, Nelson was awarded the Bronze Star in 1945. He retired from the military as a Captain, United States Army Regular having spent seven years on active duty, including the Korean War.
In 1945 he married Selma Zinox and had two sons, Stuart and Todd. Selma and Nelson divorced 19 years later and in 1965 Nelson married his closest friend, Pearl Tasch. Pearl’s children from a previous marriage, Mitchell, Jane, and Sandy joined the family and, in time grew to include grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
An Exemplary Career in Service to Prosperity
After the war, Nelson’s uncle invited him to join his life insurance company where Nelson achieved early success selling group insurance coverage. In 1956, with an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit, he left to establish the Nelson Broms Company Inc. Always the innovator, Nelson created a new type of life insurance policy to be purchased by apartment building owners in New York. The policies covered tenants, guaranteeing landlords that a deceased tenant's rent would continue to be paid, and, more importantly, allow the tenant's family to remain in their homes and avoid losing their lease.
In 1971, Nelson was recruited by The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States (later part of AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company) and served in several senior management roles including chief strategy and marketing officer. He rose quickly in the ranks and was named chairman, chief executive officer, and president of The Equitable Life Holding Corporation. He led efforts to divest the company of international partners and focus on U.S. operations and secure regulatory approval for the conversion from mutual ownership to stock ownership—of The Equitable. He left The Equitable in 1983 to become a partner of the leveraged buyout management company, Clayton & Dubilier (later Clayton, Dubilier & Rice), one of the oldest, most prestigious private equity investment firms in the world. Nelson was instrumental in the formation and development of the managed healthcare and financial services sectors in the U.S.
Throughout his career, Nelson infused his brand of strategic leadership into diverse organizations in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. He has been honored by CEOs and non-profit leaders alike for his unique style of seeking and developing important partnerships—relationships that have lasted a lifetime and which have led to the flourishing of businesses and organizations in the business of service to people.
Leaders from Fortune 500 companies have recognized Nelson for his principles, integrity, and achievements. There was no problem facing society that was too big for Nelson Broms. He could mobilize the resources and in so doing, motivate others to work towards common sense solutions. Nelson’s network of interconnected friends got things done; ranging from new government policies to strengthening and creating new institutions.
Nelson was the co-founder and board member of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research; he served as a board member of the Ethics Resources Center in Washington, the Women’s Museum for the Arts, the Council on Economics & National Security, and the Family Academy in New York City.
After a stellar business career, Nelson set his sights on one of the most significant civil rights issues of our times—providing new opportunities for students of color to enjoy quality public educational options. He served as a member of the board of advisers for Distinctive Schools and was also a member of the board of directors for the Phoenix-based Great Hearts Academies and New York’s Harlem Family Academy.
In 2016, he served as the founding Chairperson of LEEP (Latino Educational Equity Partnerships), which led to the establishment of LEEP Dual Language Academy, the first dual language school in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. He served as a senior innovation partner with the Texas-based, Reasoning Mind to improve elementary school mathematics instruction in public schools using a unique computer-based curriculum.
During the last 28 years, Nelson served as a strategic adviser to university Presidents and non-profit leaders across the U.S. He holds an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from Sacred Heart University, was visiting entrepreneur at Columbia University, and founded the chair of Private Enterprise while on the Hofstra University Council. He directly supported the work of Arizona State University (ASU) and served as Strategic Senior Adviser to its President, sharing his views on knowledge, entrepreneurship, intellectual fusion, and social consciousness.
In 2012, ASU awarded Nelson its prestigious University Medal of Excellence.
The Home that Nelson and Pearl Built
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Pearl Tasch, his son, Stuart Broms (Carol) and daughter, Michaella Morrina and grandson, Marcus Cox; and son, Todd Broms. He is also survived by three children from his second marriage, their spouses, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
They include his stepson, Mitchell (Cheryl) and grandson, Jamie; his stepdaughter Jane Bronfman, (Andy), granddaughter Amanda Firsenbaum (Ross), great-granddaughter, Ellie, great-grandsons Josh and David; grandson Ben (Esther) and great-grandson, Theo; stepdaughter Sandy and granddaughter Olivia.
Nelson will be remembered for all the heart he shared with his friends and family. We will smile at his playfulness with words and turns of phrase, his keen memory, and his far-reaching ideas to connect others for the good of society and our country. He regularly conversed with Senators and Statesmen. When thinking about the end days, Nelson would tear up and say that “all of it, (his) whole life, was about the love for his family, for his country, that’s it”. He often paraphrased Khalil Gibrans’ famous quote, "And when you have reached the mountain top, only then shall you begin to climb." He will be missed dearly.
As Nelson requested, services will be held privately.
Kane Funeral Home, Ridgefield is in care of arrangements.
Obituary written by Roberto Gutierrez