RUMFORD – The annual Junior Sassi Memorial on Saturday at Black Mountain in Rumford held the same energetic atmosphere as always, but the volunteers in red jackets agreed someone special was missing: “Chummy.”
“’Chummy’ was the founding father of this club, and it wouldn’t exist without him,” said member Charlie Lever.
The Chisholm Ski Club of Rumford lost its oldest member, Wendall “Chummy” Broomhall, last month. His death has left members with mixed feelings about the mood of events without him.
“‘Chummy’ made it easy to be involved,” said Dick Lovejoy, a club member for about 20 years.
To Paul McGuire, who grew up skiing as a Chisholm junior, and later rejoined the club in the 1990s, Saturday’s event had an “upbeat feel.”
“That’s the way ‘Chummy’ would have wanted it,” McGuire said. “Setting up this morning, everyone knew what they were doing and everything just fell into place.”
For Broomhall’s brother, Raymond Broomhall, it was hard being on the mountain without his brother, even if the memories remain.
“I lost my best friend,” Raymond Broomhall said. “He used to call me every night and ask what time we were going up to work on the ski trails.”
Lovejoy said things “didn’t feel the same,” as he ate a snack in Muriel’s Kitchen, the warm and welcoming shack where volunteers and members could warm up and refuel.
Muriel Arsenault, another member missed by the club, who died in May 2016, was “very involved” and provided refreshments every event to those volunteering their time, according to member Andrea Bernard,
It has been about three years since she left the kitchen, helping right up until “she couldn’t anymore,” McGuire said.
“I beg to differ – she’s still here,” volunteer Kristin Day said. “I feel her pushing me to keep working and get things done.”
“Yes, ‘Chummy’ is still here, too, looking down and making sure we’re behaving,” Lovejoy added.
The “father figure” of the club was known for his sense of humor, community service, and, of course, his mad skiing skills, which earned him a spot in the Winter Olympics in 1948 and 1952.
“’Chummy’ was the oldest cross-country skier on the 1952 Olympic team, at 52,” said Paul Jones, a club member for almost 30 years. “But none of the younger skiers could beat him in training activities.”
Jones recalled Broomhall’s late start at the 1950 World Cup competition, held at Black Mountain, when Broomhall wanted to ski around the entire course before actually competing on it. His detour caused him to be late to the start of the race.
“He still finished fifth,” Jones said. “He said he was responsible for being in good shape.”
McGuire remembered seeing Broomhall, a “local hero,” at Black Mountain during his time as a junior Chisholm member, and reminisced about his giving nature.
“As kids, wherever (Broomhall) was, we wanted to be,” McGuire said. “We’d follow (him) around, and (he) always helped us. It was nothing official, but (he’d) give us a pointer or two, or cheer us up.”
Broomhall, according to McGuire, also operated a ski shop out of a spare room at his house, which is where McGuire bought his first pair of jumping skis.
“Chummy” Broomhall was one of four club members who has died in the past month, according to Raymond Broomhall, who said there is increasing focus on the club’s future. According to Lever, most of the club’s members are older than 70, and only four or five are younger than 60.
Lever said he hopes others are encouraged to join through events such as the Sassi Memorial, where parents bring children and get involved in skiing and the community.
“A lot of people are still working” Lever said. “If they’re like I am, when my kids were young, we skied at this spot all the time. Now it’s important to give back. This is how I choose to do it.”
Jones said the club is actively promoting itself to “younger friends.” Thus far, a few have shown interest.
“‘Chummy’ always said we’re a little club that does big things,” McGuire said.
Members are determined that the club, and “Chummy” Broomhall’s memory, will live on as they continue sharing their affection for Black Mountain and the community.
“I still get little palpitations every time I come up the hill,” Jones said.
Andrea Bernard and Kristin Day chat Saturday with volunteer John Preble at Muriel’s Kitchen at Black Mountain in Rumford. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Raymond Brookhall peers out the window of Muriel’s Kitchen at Black Mountain on Saturday afternoon. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Charlie Lever relaxes in the timing shack between the women’s and men’s races Saturday afternoon at Black Mountain. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)