Monday, March 27, 2017


When I was young, Brodie meant "retarded."

Today, we don't even use the word "retarded" when referring to people who are less advanced in mental, physical or social development as is usual for their age. For many years now, the word "retarded" is considered offensive and is no longer used.

The reason why Brodie became Guam slang for the cognitively impaired is because a school named Brodie Memorial School was opened on Guam for just such students. If you went to Brodie, in those days, it meant you were a student with special needs.

By around the 1980s, the term Brodie was no longer in use. It died. I am glad it did.

Even the school named Brodie changed and, in 1994, it became a regular Department of Education elementary school as special needs students were placed in their own neighborhood or village schools and no longer at Brodie.

But, who was Brodie? Why was the school named after him?


By the late 1950s, a married couple who were public school teachers on Guam realized that there were no special services provided for students with special needs. The couple were referred to Cynthia Johnston Torres, a business woman, who might be able to provide a sewing machine, a typewriter and other things needed for students with special needs. Torres was inspired to pursue an education in California as a special education teacher. She later became a principal at Brodie.

Meanwhile, a group of women from Andersen Air Force Base organized to provide an education themselves to students with special needs. A lady named Ruth Paterson was selected to lead the cause. They secured a quonset hut from the government, located on Hospital Road (now Chalan San Antonio) in Tamuning. Since this was a private endeavor, everything had to be donated. The Marianas Association for Retarded Children was born.

The school's original quonset huts, damaged after Typhoon Karen in 1962


Hearing about the need for help to make the quonset hut a suitable building for the school, a Chief Petty Officer of the Navy's Construction Battalion (or Seabees), Clifford Brodie, got in on the action. He, and his Seabee volunteers, donated their time and skill to building the school.

Just as that project was underway, a disaster hit Guam on September 19, 1960. A DC-6 plane carrying military personnel and dependents crashed on Barrigada Hill just after take-off. Eighty passengers and crew died, and fourteen survived.

Chief Brodie and his Seabees went up to the crash site to help with rescue efforts. They didn't give up on the school project either, and went back to building the school after helping with the plane crash rescue.

Perhaps it was all too strenuous for Clifford Brodie. He died in his sleep that night, on September 20, of a heart attack.

Crash Site on Barrigada Hill

When the school was finally finished, it was decided to name the school after Brodie, who had worked so hard to build the school. The school was opened on October 29, 1960.


Clifford Brodie was born in 1911 in Arkansas. He enlisted in the US Navy in 1943. Prior to this, he had been a carpenter. It's no surprise, then, that he was placed in the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) or Seabees.

After his death, his body was flown to Arkansas for burial at the Fort Smith National Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Muriel and two children.

CPO Clifford Brodie, USN
1911 - 1960


In 1963, Brodie Memorial School became part of the Department of Education. In 1965, the land adjacent John F. Kennedy High School was designated for the school and modern, concrete classrooms were built. In 1971, additional classrooms were built.

In 1994, the philosophy about special needs students had changed. It was now deemed better for them to be integrated in their own neighborhood or village schools. Brodie thus ceased being a special needs school and transitioned into a regular elementary school.

Today, the school enrolls children mainly from the Harmon Industrial Park area, and has the highest per capita number of non-Chamorro students in the public school system. It is a very vibrant, proud school with great spirit. The Seabees continue their long association with the school, whose mascot is the Bees.

I am so glad to know that the school, whose name we once used as kids to tease other people, is named after a wonderful human being who gave of himself to help others. May Chief Brodie Memorial School thrive and shine!

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