William C. Brubaker, founding Colts band member

Bill Brubaker

William Charles Brubaker, a retired aeronautical engineer who was a founding trombone player in the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, died Feb. 12 at Sinai Hospital of complications from injuries he suffered near his Lutherville home. Family members said he was struck by a vehicle while walking last year. He was 91.

Born in Altoona, Pa., he earned a degree in aeronautical engineering at what is now Trine University in Angola, Ind. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Forces in a communications unit.


Family members said he met his wife, Helen Virginia Hall, in Ocean City during a severe thunderstorm that disrupted the resort's power. He was staying at the Hamilton Hotel, which was temporarily lighted by candles. Their first date was a stroll down the boardwalk to a penny arcade, said a daughter, Donna Monius of Timonium.

After moving to Maryland, Mr. Brubaker became a Glenn L. Martin Co. engineer. He worked on military aircraft and 12 of the Gemini launch vehicles.

"Hanging on his wall at home are two plaques, each holding a recovered piece from two of those Gemini boosters," said his daughter. "He worked on Apollo 1 through Apollo 12."

She said he subsequently was a Bellcom technical adviser for NASA's Skylab and other missions. Before his 1989 retirement, he worked in auto and school bus safety at the federal Department of Transportation in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In June 1947, Mr. Brubaker dropped his allegiance to the Pittsburgh Steelers and appeared at Overlea Hall on Belair Road to join the first Baltimore Colts Marching Band. He wore a cape and a jockey cap in the team's then-colors of green, white and silver.

"He was a good trombone player," said John Ziemann, president of Baltimore's Marching Ravens. "He was gentle, unassuming, kind and well-educated."

He played and marched for 20 years and appeared at the 1958 NFL championship game between the Colts and the New York Giants.

"One of my father's prize possessions was the game program and a piece of the goal post that he captured in New York at that game," his daughter said. "He also treasured his original sheet music of the Baltimore Colts' fight song."


Mr. Brubaker was also at another championship game. He played at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in December 1964, when the Colts lost to the Browns, 27-0.

He left the band in 1967.

Family members said he would arrive in Towson before sunrise to secure seats at the annual Fourth of July parade to see the football marching band, Colts or Ravens, appear.

Mr. Brubaker, with his sports memorabilia, appeared in director Barry Levinson's 2009 sports documentary film for ESPN, "The Band That Wouldn't Die."

His daughter said her father continued to attend Ravens games until last year. She said he fulfilled a wish to watch the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII.

"He lived for 2 p.m. on Sundays during the years of the Baltimore Colts," his daughter said, adding that he and his wife were present at Memorial Stadium when a plane crashed into the upper deck Dec. 19, 1976.


Mr. Brubaker was a 47-year member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He visited the Gemini and the Apollo monuments on the Space Walk of Fame in Titusville, Fla., near Cape Canaveral. His daughter said he met Bill Pogue, a former astronaut who went into space aboard Skylab.

"They reminisced about Wally Schirra, another astronaut my father met," his daughter said.

He was a volunteer at the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and belonged to the Cockeysville-Timonium Lions Club for more than four decades. He served three terms as president and received awards for perfect attendance.

Mr. Brubaker worked with the Maryland State Department of Education and the Society of Automotive Engineers on a course, "A World in Motion," which he taught at Pinewood Elementary in Timonium. The auto engineering society also started a scholarship in his name. Family members said 17 high school graduates have received it.

A Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity, 20 E. Ridgely Road, Timonium, where he was a member.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include two sons, Charles Brubaker of Baltimore and David Brubaker of Clearwater, Fla.; two other daughters, Elizabeth Hahn of Ocean Pines and Laurie Lammle of Florida; a brother, Melvin Brubaker of Altoona; a sister, Mary Ellen Jones, also of Altoona; 11 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. His wife of 64 years died in 2012.