Broadus F. Horton
Broadus F. Horton
  • July 10, 1929 - July 9, 2017
  • Palm Harbor, Florida

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USAF Tech Sgt. (retired) Broadus Fernly “Fern” Horton, 87, shed his broken body and joined the heavenly chorus on Sunday, July 9, one day before his 88th birthday. Fern was predeceased by his parents, Broadus Alexander Horton and Ethel Harrison Horton, of Canton, North Carolina, by his older sister, Rebekah Horton Ballard, of Shreveport, Louisiana, and one infant son, George Franklin.

After graduating from Canton High School in 1948, Fern attended Mars Hill Junior College, near Asheville, and then transferred to Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana, where he earned his degree in Biblical Studies. After graduation, Fern and his college sweetheart, the former Ruth Garbarino, were married on the first day of summer, 1952.

Later that year, Fern enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and attended technical training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. While on temporary duty at the Air Force station in Yaak Montana the next year, Fern became ill and was eventually diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome. Fern was very thankful for the doctors and staff at Madigan Army Hospital at McCord Field in Tacoma, Washington, for taking care of him while his complete paralysis was cured.

Following his illness, in August, 1954, Fern was transferred to the 917th Aircraft Control and Warning Station at Puntzi Mountain, British Columbia, where he thoroughly enjoyed hunting rabbits in the snow during his off-duty time. While he was at Puntzi Mountain, Fern learned to build and fly model airplanes, a hobby that he enjoyed with his sons for many years. After a brief exit from the Air Force to investigate other opportunities, Fern re-enlisted in 1958 and moved the family to Cape Charles, Virginia for more work with the 917th AC and W.

In 1961, Fern’s training expanded from radar to digital circuitry, and he was transferred to Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts. Fern’s fondest Air Force memories were of the many hours he spent as part of the 14-member Constellation EC-121H aircraft crew, which flew extended missions over the north Atlantic, listening and watching for missile attacks from the Soviet Union.

In 1968, Fern was transferred to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, and he and the family moved to a neighborhood close to Tampa Airport. Some might have found the sound of jets irritating, but to Fern, it was music. Often, just for fun, he’d drive to the top floor of Tampa Airport’s parking garage to park and watch the aircraft.

In 1973, Fern was assigned to Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, and the small town of Vajont, Friuli, became home for two years. He was part of the 15th Communications Squadron, again watching for hostile activity from the Soviet bloc. Fern was honored to have been a founding member of Aviano Baptist Fellowship (later to become Aviano Baptist Church). While stationed at Aviano, he completed his Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from Wayne State University’s satellite program.

Upon returning to Tampa in 1975, Fern retired from the Air Force. He then briefly taught junior high school at West Gate Christian before joining the Florida State Employment Service’s Clearwater office, where he coordinated job placement of other veterans with community businesses.

Fern retired from this second government job in 1998, and in 2012, he and Ruth moved to their final home in Palm Harbor, to be closer to family. During his time in Florida, Fern had been a member of the West Gate Baptist and Hillsdale Baptist churches in Tampa, and then Berea Baptist Church in Palm Harbor.

Fern is fondly remembered for his wry wit, his love of his tomato plants, his harmonica playing, and his hatred of cats and all things spicy. He was kind and gentle and was very proud to have kept a valid driver’s license until his passing. His memory was outstanding, even to the end, and we will miss his stories.

Fern is survived by his wife of sixty-five years, Ruth Garbarino Horton, sister Marian Horton (and Rev. Carroll) Hamilton; sons Jim (and Diane) Horton, Neal (and Carrie) Horton, daughters Annette (and Zeke) Westfall, Marie (and Ted) Griggs, and Beth (and Paul) Barnard; grandchildren David, Esq. (and Amanda, Esq.) Horton , Dr. Steven (and Dr. Maura Manion) Horton, Kelly, Rachel, Jamie, and Melinda Westfall, and John Paul Barnard; great-grandchildren Stevie, Annabelle, and Liam Horton; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Viewing will be Saturday, July 15 at 10 a.m. at Berea Baptist Church, 370 Alternate US Highway 19, Palm Harbor, Florida, followed by funeral services at 11 a.m. and internment at Sylvan Abbey Cemetery, Clearwater, at 12:30 p.m.

Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

A Successful Man

1929 was significant in two ways for the Horton family. July of that year, in Canton, N.C., Broadus Fernly Horton was born in the family home and in October the Great Depression began. Daddy’s distinctive first name came from his father, Broadus Alexander, and his equally unusual middle name came from his mother’s favorite piano teacher. Her infatuation with this teacher and why her only son was so named was neither explained nor asked about. Canton, a town on the Pigeon River, was fortunate to have a paper mill. Although the mill gave the air that “certain smell” and was not kind to the river, it provided work to the men of the area during the austere times of the depression, one of whom was Daddy’s father. While much of Appalachia suffered, the Hortons had plenty. By plenty, I mean enough for the essentials; clothes, food, heat, and education. Daddy and his two sisters never had the newest or finest. They didn’t install an indoor bathroom until Daddy’s first year of college. Recycling meant something different to them than sorting trash into the properly colored containers. Their basement, which Daddy and Granddaddy dug out of the hard red Haywood County dirt, was lined with fruits and vegetables that Granny had canned. Hanging on nails could be found scraps of wire and bits of twine that just might