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Material from several newspapers

Merritt E. Braga Archives continued

Braga Gallery

  Photograph from the Suburban Life Citizen.

Young Merritt's graduation picture  


  Photograph from the Suburban Life Citizen, courtesy of the Broadview Fire Department

The 1948 Broadview Volunteer Firemen.  Merritt Braga is standing on the ground to the left of the fireman on the engine.


  Photograph from the Suburban Life Citizen.

At the Broadview's 50th Anniversary Celebration


The "Dean", Merritt E. Braga, outside of the Village Hall


  Photograph from the Suburban Life Citizen.

President Braga helping at a blood drive.

Merritt Braga with two of his many awards


Merritt Braga donating to the Salvation Army


At a swearing in ceremony

From the Maywood Herald, February 13, 1980

1924-80: The Braga years

In 1900, when Merritt Braga was born, the village he would serve for more than half a century was known as "80 Acres" to some, "Oklahoma" to others.

In fact, Broadview had only been incorporated six years when Braga bought a garage and home at the intersection of two dirt roads, 14th Avenue and Roosevelt Road, in 1920.

He opened an auto repair business in the garage; married in 1921 and three years later was appointed village collector.  Between then and his death at the age of 79 on February 5, Braga served as a Broadview official with the exception of 1926 to 1933.

In 1933 he began a two-term service as village trustee.  He was first elected Mayor in 1937, an office he held for 42 1/2 years,

Under Braga's leadership Broadview saw its growth from a sleepy farm town of 50 homes and scattered farmhouses to a residential/industrial community of over 10,000 residents in 2,300 homes co-existing on 1.5 square miles with close to 150 industrial neighbors.

Emil Parkes, village clerk, has been active in Broadview politics since moving to the suburb from Austin in 1943.  He credits Braga with instigating and implementing the tremendous period of growth in Broadview that took place in the 1940s.

In the late '40s, International Harvestor bought property in the village and boosted assessed valuation about 10 million dollars.

Shortly after that, when the housing boom of earlier years slowed, the village fathers saw the need to provide an industrial section and rezoned the west section of the village north of Cermak Road for that purpose.  About one-third of Broadview is now inhabited by industry.

Noting the population increase of the '50s, Braga and his board started thinking about paving roads and creating a business district.

Braga won his first bid for mayor on a platform of creating building and zoning codes and setting a plan for village growth.

He prided himself on his successful efforts to upgrade police and fire protection in his village.  He was instrumental in the establishment of the library and park districts.  Churches and schools also topped his list of pet projects.

Under Braga's leadership, Broadview became an active member of the Illinois Municipal League and the mayor himself was the recipient of many honors proclaiming his dedication to this village.

In 1962 he was named Man of the year of Proviso Township Moose Lodge in Bellwood.  In 1975 Braga was dubbed "Mr. Broadview" at the Loyola University Founders Day.

In 1972, Braga retired from his auto repair business when he felt his duties at the village hall required more time.  As he celebrated 48 years of public service in 1978, though, the thought of retiring from public life was the furthest thing from his mind.

"As long as I'm physically fit...I intend to continue," he said at the time.  "As a matter of fact, many people tell me that they don't know that the village will do without me."

From "The Graphic", Tuesday, February 13, 1980

Merritt E. Braga: 1900 - 1980

A procession of nearly 100 cars filed into Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park Saturday to pay final homage to Merritt Braga, the man.  Braga's spirit will live on with the history of Broadview, said Rev. Wesley Smuzar, who presided over the funeral rites.

"No one could find fault with Merritt Braga.  He was a man of integrity and honesty.  He was a warm, human person," said Smuzar.

In a touching eulogy of Braga's accomplishments, Smuzar said Braga was "truly Mr. Broadview."

"There are many anecdotes we are missing about this great man.  But let them be enshrined in your hearts in a very real, warm, personal blessing of two souls," Smuzar told the 250 or so who gathered at Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Of Braga, mayors in surrounding villages offered nothing less than the highest praise.  Said ex-mayor Foster Pottle of Berkeley, "We wish there were more like him."

Said Bellwood Mayor Sigel Davis, "To me he's the epitome of what a government official should be."

"He's always made himself available, both to his residents and especially to the senior citizens of the area.  He never turned away anyone in need," said William Francione, Mayor of Stone Park.

Smuzar continued, "He shunned any show of an aristocratic image and appeared at local organization accepting little or no fanfare.  This warm, soft-spoken approach was a successful one for a man who played an intricate part in laying the foundation of the village.  Yet when I speak of the 'sort-core approach' it doesn't imply that 'anything expedient goes' -- far from it.  He had deep-set principles and they stood."

"Under his leadership, Broadview has been shaped into a thriving, well managed industrial area.  The village departments formed under Braga are the envy of many area towns," Smuzar said.

Born December 14, 1900, in a modest farm house near Elgin, Ill., Braga spent 59 of his 79 years in Broadview.  In 1920, when the village was but six years old, Braga bought an auto repair garage at 14th and Roosevelt Road.  He married Alice Johnson of Maywood two years later, and remained with her for 40 years until her untimely death.

Braga and his wife raised three sons and a daughter: Donald, Robert, Norman and Eleanor Cannon.  He was the grandfather of 15 and the great-grandfather of 12.

In 1963, Mayor Braga married Lula Mae McKinley and for 17 years she was the village's first lady.

Mayor Braga interested himself in local politics after his arrival in Broadview.  In February of 1927 he was appointed special police officer; in that same year he was appointed village collector and election judge.  In 1928, he was reappointed as election judge.  In 1929 he was elected to trusteeship, and served in that capacity through two elections.  In 1937 Braga was elected mayor for the first time.  As mayor, he was re-elected 11 consecutive times, and ran uncontested his last three terms.

His pride and joy were the village service departments; fire, police and public works.  The Broadview Fire Department is one of five statewide to receive a Class 3 insurance rating.  The police department was the first in the state to hook up a computer network with the state police  headquarters in Springfield.  The public works department was once fondly referred to by Braga as one which brought "a sense of security and comfort to the citizens of this community.

In 1961, Braga was elected president of the Illinois Municipal League.  In 1962, he was designated "Citizen of the Year" by the proviso Township.  Another high point came on September of 1978 when the Broadview Business Association held a dinner and testimonial ceremony in his honor.

As a political figure, Smuzar said, Braga "was unimpeachable -- unassailable."

"In that regard, Braga is the closest thing to a living legend that the village has to offer."

Photographs from the Broadview Historical Society archives.

Last Modified:  02/12/2003