Some might find Emil Broni’s outlook on life to be a little dark, but for a man with more than 37 years of experience volunteering for emergency services of New Paris, his views on death and disaster actually come from a place of utter human compassion.
“You see a dead person, you see a peaceful person,” Broni said. “That’s how I look at it. And I don’t wish anybody to be dead but I don’t like them to suffer for years and years afterwards either.”
It’s more sad for the friends and family of victims than it is for the victims themselves — they’re not hurting anymore, Broni said.
Broni started volunteering with the New Paris EMS and fire services in 1977. He retired in December and was honored with a special plaque for his commitment to bettering the community.
“He’s only in EMS to help serve the community, and vice versa with the fire department,” said Rick Frye, Broni’s EMT partner of the last seven years.
Frye remembered some advice Broni gave him early on: “Prior to coming on scene, you can’t do anything, it’s your actions and decisions you make that will help the people in need. Don’t worry what happened before you get there, you need to worry about what happens after you get there.”
That advice helped Frye become more comfortable dealing with the hardest parts of the job.
Broni’s volunteer efforts didn’t stop at being a first responder in New Paris either. He led the EMS crews at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair for the past 16 years, went to Louisiana to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina and more.
His giving spirit was cultivated when he was growing up on a farm in Denmark with seven brothers and a sister during World War II.
His neighbors were also small farmers who many had other jobs. When someone needed help, everyone chipped in to get a job done, Broni said.
“I grew up with that. You just kind of went along and helped,” he said. “That’s how I got into EMS.”
His willingness to help led him to serve in the Danish army and he was stationed in the Gaza Strip for a year.
Eventually, he moved to Goshen after living in Canada. His brother-in-law talked him into enrolling at Goshen College, where he studied biology and learned to speak English.
After joining New Paris EMS in 1977, he regularly sought out trainings to better prepare himself on the job. He went to yearly national and worldwide conferences, even in the final years of his career.
“That’s how I’ve gone about everything I’ve done in my life. I just have to know a little more,” Broni said. “I am a perpetual student, you could say.”
He also taught basic and advanced EMT courses during his career.
At 76, he retired with a lifetime of stories — he keeps newspaper clippings of fires he’s responded to in a book — and the comfort of knowing that he’s done what he was called to do in life.
“I’ve had a real interesting life,” Broni said. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it all over again.”