Yesterday I put on a suit and tie for the first time in about five years – with good reason. Donna and I borrowed Sini’s car and went to a memorial service at the Pacific Beach Chapel. The service was a celebration of life for someone that was very dear to me and important to me during my teenage years and beyond. Donna M. Brutschy passed away November 5, 2017 at the age of 90. I wore a suit out of respect for her.
I can clearly remember meeting Donna when I was 14 years old. It was 1970 and I had become best buddies with her son, Howard. Howard and I had just spent the night camping out near Miramar. We had ridden dirt bikes there. At that time, we could ride dirt bikes a couple of blocks on the street from their house in Clairemont and get to Geddes Canyon. From there we could reach Rose Canyon, then ride to San Clemente Canyon which would take us to the mesa near Miramar. In those days there were no houses out there, just sage brush on the mesa with small canyons here and there all the way to Poway. The Miramesa neighborhood didn’t exist.
After our night out, we returned to the Brutschy’s house in the morning. Donna Brutschy immediately asked us if we were hungry. Howard answered in the affirmative. Donna asked me if I liked scrambled eggs. I said, “Yes.” Then she asked, “Do you like them wet or dry?” I was 14 years old and didn’t know how to answer – no one had ever asked me that question before. I just mumbled, “I guess I’ll just have them regular, ma’am.” That was my introduction to the nurturing character that was Donna Brustchy.
Howard and I were tight and we were almost always doing things together through our high school years and beyond. His sister Vicki, Donna’s youngest daughter, was my high school sweetheart for a couple of years. The Brutschy’s door was always open and Donna was the neighborhood mom. A few of my friends had known her for years as she was their Cub Scout den mother.
Donna had a way with words. In 1986, I took a promotion and moved my family to the company headquarters in Michigan for a few years – a move I would repeat more than 20 years later. Before we moved away, I was an avid bicyclist and stayed in good physical condition. After a year of driving a desk and getting through a Michigan winter, I had gained about 20 pounds. I came back to southern California on a business trip and stopped at the Brustchy’s house. Donna looked at my ample proportions and said, “You’re looking…prosperous.” That was her way of telling me I was fat! When I went back to Michigan, I joined a gym and started working out and got myself back in shape.
The memorial service was well attended. Donna had touched many lives and several people were compelled to speak and tell their stories of times with Donna. I wasn’t prepared so I didn’t share any stories there.
After the service we went to the Brustchy house off of Moraga Avenue in Clairemont. The Brutschys have owned this house since it was built in the 1950s. It’s been remodeled several times and the landscaping is nothing like it was back in the ’70s. We had food and drink and milled about telling each other stories about our connections to the family. Donna’s extended family including her three children – Christine, Howard and Vicki – and her nine grandchildren and seven great-grand children were there. Many of my old buddies from our high school years were there as well. It was a nice tribute to a lady who was the neighborhood mom.
It looks like the weather will remain relatively cool over the weekend – highs in the upper 60s. We’ve been invited to go boating on the bay with Gary Stemple and a few friends tomorrow.