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April 8, 2009 > Harry Brumbaugh, a man of his time

Harry Brumbaugh, a man of his time

April 9, 1925 - March 4, 2009

Historical biographical information of those who have passed away is often relegated to words on a page that state facts without a true appreciation for the depth and dimension of the individuals mentioned. However, those who have preceded us were just as real and complex as anyone alive today. To understand their role and importance, it is up to family, friends and community to contribute to their remembrances, adding perspective to personalities.

Harry Brumbaugh spent much of his life in Fremont and left a significant legacy as an educator at Washington High School and board member between 1966 and 1990 of the Alameda County Water District (ACWD). His extensive service on the ACWD Board of Directors prompted a meeting with fellow former board members, Frank Borghi and Clark Redeker along with ACWD General Manager Paul Piraino to explore Harry's personality and contributions.

As a teacher of government and social studies, it was natural for Harry to be very interested in politics. However, his attention was not limited to a single subject and he is remembered as an avid fisherman and conservationist, especially interested in preserving Steelhead in Alameda Creek, creation of recreational opportunities such as Quarry Lakes and a unified trail system. Known for thoughtful consideration of issues, Redeker noted, "He was a man of few words, but you better listen to him." During the tumultuous times of Harry's service on the board, water was a key issue which through foresight of predecessors were preparing for area requirements far beyond the needs of farmers and ranchers. The district stayed out of city politics and focused exclusively on local water issues.

Quarries in the area presented water contamination issues for the water district along with salt intrusion, a primary motivation for developing additional sources of water for the area. But contamination from those upstream in Livermore Valley who used Alameda Creek for disposal of waste was an additional problem especially to Harry. "At that time," says Piraino, "we were importing a lot more state water to recharge our groundwater." Piraino added, "Harry was a very strong proponent of recreation and joint use opportunities for the water district and other entities."

When the hotly debated issue of water fluoridation arose, the board was divided and Harry represented the swing vote. His adherence to civility and reason allowed discussion without rancor. "Harry had a dry sense of humor," says Piraino. "He would often slip in a zinger and the point would be made." Fellow board member Frank Borghi says, "Harry had a steady hold and kept us from getting excited. We were a calm board." He adds, "He must have been from Missouri because he always wanted the facts."

Hiking along Alameda Creek could be an adventure when Harry Brumbaugh was out and about pursuing his hobby of collecting pollen then pressing and screening it for anti-allergy uses by pharmaceutical companies. "He would have a great big hat and netting like a beekeeper," said Redeker who added, "Bees would be buzzing around this guy who looked like a weirdo with a portable vacuum cleaner on his back. He had his own special places to collect the pollen. Although there were competitors, he was the best one."

For 83 years, from his birth in Clovis, California through a tour with the U.S. Navy, a career in education and service with the Alameda County Water District, Brumbaugh was known for thoughtful and thorough contemplation of issues and reasoned response. The Tri-City community has been blessed by the life of Harry Brumbaugh. We send our condolences to his wife, Barbara, daughters Diana Brumbaugh and Jill Bekaert and the entire Brumbaugh family.

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