We were saddened to learn that Catherine Broughton, a former Regional President and former member of SI Ashford and SI Maidstone passed away at the end of September 2020.
Catherine was married to Tom Broughton, who was a Toastmaster and they had twin daughters and three grandchildren. She lost her hearing during her 40s and when she was a Soroptimist, she had assistance from a Hearing Dog, Athena.
Catherine was an active Soroptimist (member of SI Ashford) and South East England Regional President in 1995-96. Soon afterwards, she transferred to SI Maidstone as she was living nearby at Boughton Monchelsea. First impressions of Catherine were of her professionalism, wisdom, and her gentle sense of humour, which resulted in many smiles and lots of laughter. Athena was a great icebreaker and wherever they went, Catherine was always warm, caring, and helpful and acted as an advocate for the Hearing Dog scheme.
In the late 1990’s Catherine started the Regional Merchandising selling items such as brooches to promote Soroptimism and raise monies for the Region.
Catherine received a cochlear implant whilst a member of Maidstone Club and it helped her to hear what was happening around her, and she was able to take on the role of SIGBI Federation Director for PR Marketing and Development in 2001-2002. At this time, she led on the development of the SIGBI Teams of Excellence (ToE) initiative with Sue Greener training up facilitators to deliver the modules.
Catherine used every opportunity to highlight the difficulties faced by people with disabilities, particularly those which are less obvious. She was resolute in asking and getting assistance at conferences so that anyone with hearing impairment could fully follow proceedings and this also increase awareness of other conditions that needed to be accommodated. Catherine spoke in a way which was firm but not belligerent and made you want to do better.
She was also President of SI Maidstone in 2002-03. It was during this time she caught a severe infection from which she struggled to recover, and developed Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).
Despite her health problems, Catherine retained her sense of humour and was a good friend. She felt strongly that SI was an important way of making a difference and spoke passionately about the organisation and our projects. Tributes to her show that both as Regional President and as President of SI Maidstone she was an inspirational speaker, encouraging and mentoring new members and helping them to get further involved in Soroptimism.
Catherine became housebound as a result of the ME and was often bedbound, so she lost much of her contact with friends and colleagues. She left SI Maidstone during this time as she felt she could not meet the commitments of being a Soroptimist and she and Tom moved to a retirement complex in Hawkhurst where they could be within a small community with some support.
Much of Catherine’s dwindling energy over the next years was focused on making herself heard by the medical profession rather than being dismissed as having an “imaginary illness”. In 2012 she started a course of a drug which gradually resulted in her returning to almost full health. At the same time, Tom’s vision was becoming very poor and Catherine took on much of their driving and domestic duties.
Catherine had a new hearing dog Beni and was able to continue her role as an advocate for Hearing Dogs, giving talks to groups, visiting schools, and in 2015, appearing on TV with Ben Fogle.