Robert E. Brumbaugh, car dealer, Navy vet

Robert E. Brumbaugh
Robert E. Brumbaugh
Posted: July 29, 2014

Robert E. Brumbaugh, 88, a decorated Navy veteran and former owner of Brumbaugh Pontiac in Lansdowne, died Monday, July 21, of complications from dementia at Frey Village in Middletown, Dauphin County.

Mr. Brumbaugh was the owner of Brumbaugh Pontiac until 1979, when the dealership closed due in part to falling demand for big, gas-guzzling cars. He had begun working at Brumbaugh Pontiac in 1950, and took over as president and owner of the dealership when his father, E.E. Brumbaugh, retired.

The dealership provided vehicles for the Driver's Education Program at Lansdowne Aldan High School and also sponsored many teams in the Lansdowne Boys and Girls Club.

Mr. Brumbaugh was active in the Lansdowne community with the Union Athletic Association, the Lions Club, the Lansdowne Zoning Board, and American Legion Post 65. He sold tickets to Lansdowne's Fourth of July fireworks events to support the athletic association.

Born in Lansdowne, he lived there most of his life. He graduated from Lansdowne High School in 1944, and enlisted in the Navy that year. He served until 1946 in the Pacific Theater. He earned a degree in business management from Temple University in 1950, and served in the Navy Reserve throughout his years in college.

He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism for helping rescue two men in Tokyo Bay on the night of Sept. 26, 1945.

"Noting that two men from a capsized motor wheelboat were in difficulty and apparently unable to reach life jackets thrown to them, Seaman First Class Brumbaugh, with three others - despite darkness, poor visibility, and very choppy seas - dove off the stern of his ship and carried life jackets and lines to the men.

"His heroic action assisted in their rescue and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service," said the award citation in the Military Times Hall of Valor.

"He was a very humble guy, and you had to ask him about it," said his daughter, Carolyn Brumbaugh.

Mr. Brumbaugh had been a member of the Philadelphia Potter Masonic Lodge since 1947; he became a "50-year man" in 1999.

Not one to sit idle in retirement, Mr. Brumbaugh went to work for the L.J. Alyan Pump Corp. in Upper Darby. He was a service manager for the firm throughout the 1980s.

In the 1990s, he worked at the Rite-Aid store in Clifton Heights, delivering prescriptions to customers by car. He retired for health reasons in 2003.

Mr. Brumbaugh was a lifelong member of the First Presbyterian Church of Lansdowne, where he served as a deacon. His mother, Anna J. Brumbaugh, had begun a program of distributing Bibles to the church's third graders; he continued the practice after her death. His wife, Elizabeth Lofland Brumbaugh, died in 2007.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by sons R. Bruce, Howard, and Thomas; another daughter, Elizabeth A. Smith; eight grandchildren; four great-children; and a sister.

Visitation from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday, July 28, will be followed by an 11 a.m. memorial service at the First Presbyterian Church of Lansdowne, 140 N. Lansdowne Ave., Lansdowne, Pa. 19050. Interment will be in Arlington Cemetery, Upper Darby.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the church.


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