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Frederick W. Brune Jr., retired Gilman School educator and WWII Marine Corps pilot, dies

Frederick W. Brune Jr., retired Gilman School educator and WWII Marine Corps pilot, dies
Frederick W. Brune Jr. was a retired Gilman School educator who was a Marine Corps pilot in the Pacific during World War II. (Baltimore Sun)

Frederick W. Brune, Jr., a retired Gilman School educator who was a Marine Corps pilot in the Pacific during World War II, died Sept. 23 of complications from dementia at Copper Ridge, a Sykesville assisted-living facility.

He was 93.

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"The first thing that comes to my mind with the mention of Fred Brune is he was a true gentleman of the old school. He was kind and generous to a fault," said William Porter of Brewster, Mass., a former Gilman colleague.

The son of Frederick W. Brune, former chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, and Mary Washington Keyser Brune, a homemaker, Frederick William Brune Jr. was born in Baltimore and raised in the city's Poplar Hill neighborhood.

Mr. Brune attended Gilman and graduated in 1941 from the Millbrook School in Millbrook, N.Y., where he had followed his friend Mr. Porter.

"His family was impressed with my enthusiasm for Millbrook, and he followed me there in September 1937. He was just as enthusiastic as I about the school, and we held down the ends on the football team there for the whole of our matriculation," recalled Mr. Porter.

He was at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, after which he enlisted in the Navy.

After completing flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1943, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and stationed at El Toro, Calif.

In 1944, Mr. Brune was stationed in the Pacific at American Samoa and later at Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands and Kwajalein Atoll as a fighter pilot with the VMF-311 Squadron, where he flew both Grumman F4F Wildcats and Vought F4U Corsairs.

"Most of our job was divebombing old F4Us, that's what they needed so that's what they were used us for," Mr. Brune told the Frederick News-Post in a 2006 interview, after he was reunited with a fellow fighter pilot from those days, Francis Clark, whom he had not seen in more than 50 years.

After completing 35 combat missions Mr. Brune finished out the war as a flight instructor at Naval Air Station Daytona Beach in Florida.

He was discharged in 1945. His decorations included the Air Medal. He remained in the Marine Corps Reserves and at the time of his retirement in 1958 had attained the rank of captain.

Mr. Brune returned to Baltimore and in 1947 married the former Katherine H. Ryland. The marriage later ended in divorce.

After working as a test pilot in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was a partner in a Towson Chrysler dealership and for a brief time was manager of the Hochschild-Kohn department store in Edmondson Village.

"Fred was a near-genius with cars, motors and tools of all descriptions," said Mr. Porter. "While at Milbrook, he mounted a Dodge engine in a small Plymouth sedan and drove his 'Plodge' for the years between age 16 when he got his license and his joining the military.

"He also lived in his wood shop during those years and later and created some of the most beautiful furniture you could envision," Mr. Porter said.

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Because his old friend Mr. Porter had spoken so enthusiastically about teaching at Gilman, Mr. Brune took a job there in 1965 teaching upper and middle school students.

"He taught industrial arts, which we now call design and woodworking. He had a wonderful sense of humor and really cared about his kids," said John E. Schmick, a former Gilman headmaster who lives in the Woodbrook neighborhood of Baltimore County.

"He and another wonderful guy, Hill Hilliard, ran the shop program, which is still very strong at Gilman," said Mr. Schmick. "But Fred was a no-nonsense teacher and he didn't tolerate anyone fooling around — after all, he had middle school kids working with saws and drills and upper school students with lathes. He was truly a character."

Mr. Brune was known for prodding his students with such expressions as "Mental Sunrise!" and "Don't be parrots, gentlemen."

"He believed that hands-on-experience struck a balance with academics," said his son, Frederick W. "Fritz" Brune III of Bellingham, Wash. "He logged many hours in what he referred to as the 'Dust Bin.'"

A model railroad fan, Mr. Brune used his love of trains and railroading when he conceived a project for 12-to-14-year-old students that would teach them modern mass-production processes.

He had them build a 15-inch replica steam engine complete with working drivers and a tender.

"We were looking for something that could be mass-produced and that the boys could follow through on even to the retailing level," Mr. Brune told The Baltimore Sun in a 1974 interview. "After a year of experimenting and setting up jigs, I think we can now make 30 or 40 of the wooden trains a week."

He oversaw their efforts as they sawed, drilled, sanded wheels, made wooden boilers and sealed the finished locomotive with a varnish-type compound.

Mr. Brune had recruited the old Stewart's department store in Anneslie and the now-closed Dropstitch studio on Cold Spring Lane to sell the engines to customers.

He retired from Gilman in 1992.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Brune rekindled his interest in flying when he purchased a single-engine Mooney airplane that could hold four passengers.

He continued flying until he was 80 out of Frederick Municipal Airport, where he had kept his plane.

In 1997, Mr. Brune became reacquainted with the former Dorothy Russell, whom he had known before World War II, and settled in Frederick. She died in 2011.

He enjoyed skiing at Stowe, Vt., and Mad River Glen in Waitsfield, Vt. He also enjoyed water skiing and built two water ski boats — one that was named Pooh-Bird — that were outfitted with Chrysler V-8 engines, which he used to entertain family and friends on Lake Conowingo, New York's Lake George and Lake Memphremagog between Vermont and Quebec.

Mr. Brune continued working in his home wood shop, where he built what he called "elliptical tables," which he gave away to family and friends and "practically everyone he crossed paths with in the last years of his life," his son said.

His son said that all of his children and grandchildren lovingly called him "The Old Ogre." Mr. Brune also enjoyed sipping Heaven Hill, his favorite bourbon.

A funeral for Mr. Brune will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 232 St. Thomas Lane, Owings Mills.

In addition to his son, Mr. Brune is survived by two daughters, Katherine B. Kimball of West Lebanon, N.H., and Marion Paterson of Simsbury, Conn.; a stepson, David Russell of Manassas, Va.; a stepdaughter, Mariann Wilford of North Carolina; and six grandchildren. A second marriage to the former Jean Smith ended in divorce.

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