Former schools superintendent reflects on cancer journey, faith and importance of being present in new book

Nick Brossoit and his wife Jennifer Vachon. (Photos courtesy Nick Brossoit)

Years ago, retired Edmonds School District Superintendent Nick Brossoit thought he might write a book. So, he squirreled away stories about growing up, about his mentors, about his 30-plus years as a teacher and ultimately superintendent.

Brossoit has finally published that book. However, it would not be about all those things, but rather how the end of his life and his relationship with God would play out. Nick Brossoit has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. When the doctors told him that, in August 2020, they gave him six months to a year.

But “God has given me time to get this book out,” Brossoit told me; enough time “to share my journey with cancer.” As we talked, I didn’t get the sense that Nick Brossoit was a “preachy”guy, just a man who hopes that sharing his end game may help others. “I don’t think it’s about me, this whole cancer thing,” he said.  “I’m not really worried about the whole dying part; my life is secure. I’m just trying to help people to have a faith in God and that he has your back.”

Nick Brossoit did not come to his faith easily. Born and raised in Ephrata, Washington and the youngest of six children, he told me that he grew up in “a tough parenting situation.” His was a Catholic household, and he went to a Catholic grade school.

“I thought that one nun and one priest carried God’s spirit, until my parents got divorced,” he recalled. That’s when the priest came to Brossoit’s house, and he thought “finally someone is coming to help take care of my mom and create some support.” But, no; “the priest just came to tell us we couldn’t go to church anymore because we’re getting a divorce,” Brossoit recalled.

In middle school, he said, “I was hanging around with some of the wrong kids.” That’s when coach and teacher Marty O’Brien came into his life. O’Brien taught social studies and coached football and baseball. Baseball was the glue that held Brossoit’s teenage life together; he would, he said, do anything to get “in the game.”

O’Brien reached out to Brossoit, became his mentor, friend and a lifelong influence. In a story best told in his book, Brossoit said O’Brien’s memory sparked the title for his book: Love the People in Line. He writes that story far better than I can; you can read it for yourself.  The point of O’Brien’s influence, he told me, “is to pay attention to the people around you now… be present in their lives.” It is not, he added, “always looking out the window for the ‘next big thing’; be present.”

Nick Brossoit on the slopes doing what he loves.

That message is what he has come to understand now as he faces the end of his life. People “can be as close to God as they want to be.” It isn’t about religion, he said, but “more about yielding.” We are, Brossoit believes, organized and industrious, “driven by our heads and our actions.” But a “relationship with God is more about like breathing; he is there, and you have to invite him in and let him be a presence in life,” Brossoit said.

It is what he hopes others will remember and act upon. “In my cancer journey, I know the physical part and the medicine; but it’s the ‘unknown’ that has moved me to be closer to God,” Brossoit said. Love the People in Line is “a faith-based book of life and work experiences, where God has worked in my life and the lives of other people,” he added.

Nick Brossoit, wife Jennifer Vachon and stepsons Jack and Kael.

Brossoit spent 12 years as Edmonds School District superintendent, and 10 years leading Tumwater schools before that. He, his wife Jennifer, and stepsons Jack and Kael now live in Lynden, Washington. “It’s kind of like Mayberry,” he said, “easy going and lots of nice people.” He has two older children from a previous marriage – Alisa, a veterinarian, and Kyle, a chemical engineer.

Before his cancer, this was not a book that Brossoit thought would ever be published. Through the years, he had jotted down some notes, a journal of life experiences. When he got cancer, a friend got ahold of that manuscript and encouraged him to finish it. Love the People in Line was published March 7.

Now that the book is complete, “I honestly have a deep sense of relief, Brossoit said. “Just sharing from a faith-based perspective what you are going through is a sense of relief.”

“It’s pretty amazing,” he reflected, “the things I have done and explored,” adding that he’s “happy and honored” that the book has been published.

A book signing event with Nick Brossoit is scheduled for the Community Life Center in Lynnwood, 19820 Scriber Lake Road, Saturday, May 7 from 3-5 p.m. It is sponsored by the Foundation for Edmonds School District, the Edmonds Education Association and former Edmonds School Board member Ann McMurray. Guests can RSVP for the event by Friday, April 29 through the foundation’s website.

— By Bob Throndsen

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7 Replies to “Former schools superintendent reflects on cancer journey, faith and importance of being present in new book”

  1. If anyone deserves to live much longer that the doctors predict it’s Nick Brossoit. I attended most of Nick’s lunch hour briefings for many years when he was Superintendent of Edmonds School District. Among the many things I learned is that Nick is, without any doubt, a genuinely good person. May God bless he and his family.

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  2. It has been my honor to be a part of getting Nick’s book written, published and distributed. It has been my greater honor to come to know a man of great faith in God.

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  3. I taught in Edmonds School District while Nick Brossoit was Superintendent. He was good superintendent and his book sounds inspirational! I will check into it. My best to Nick, his wife and his family.

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  4. I have been given credit for getting the new EW baseball field started but that’s not the whole story. It wouldn’t have happened without Nick. The abbreviated version is I approached Nick about the field’s deficiencies at the April 2015 lunch that Ron Wambolt mentioned in his comment. Within an hour I got a call inviting me to a meeting about the field – 5 district officials and me. It would be my job to represent baseball in the Edmonds School District. I put together an informational packet containing some ideas of how the EW field could be improved making it more safe and delivered it the morning of the meeting. Before the meeting was to start, Nick and I had a conversation. He had reviewed the material taking notice the field wasn’t regulation sized. He told me it made no sense to invest funds in an non-regulation field. My heart sank. It was then he said, “You need a new field!” And that’s how it began.

    To Nick if you read this – I’ll be thinking of you.
    Congratulations on your book. I’m sorry about your cancer.
    And, Thank You for everything you did for the Edmonds School District.
    Take care – Stacie

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  5. Dr. Nick has made major impacts on education. As Ron W mentioned above his “Round Table” lunches we targeted at the community at large and not just parents. Those attending always walked away with new insights about our education system and ESD in particular. His leadership on the McCleary legal actions have and will continue to make continued progress for all of Washington State.

    On a personal level I have learned a lot from Dr. Nick and look forward to still more learning by reading his book.

    God speed Dr. Nick!

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    1. Ron, Jeanne, Charlotte, Stacie, Daroll, and all: thank you for the kind words. I am humbled and honored. I have such fond memories of our time together and pray God’s blessings for you. Sincerely, Nick

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      1. I remember Nick from Seaview PTA meetings and the Roundtable. I’ve never met a more involved, present and kind person associated with ESD or the government for that matter. No doubt Nick has made, and will continue to make, a positive influence on those who were lucky enough to experience a truly decent person. I speak for many when I say we’re the blessed ones. Continue on down the line…

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