Brandenburg, a caring father, became advocate for retarded

June 12, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Rowland Clay Brandenburg, who died June 1 at the age of 83. His obituary appeared in the June 3 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Growing up as one of eight children - one of whom was mentally retarded - Cinda Brandenburg Perry said she remembers how her parents struggled to make sure her brother, Drew, received all of the services and treatment they could get for him.

But even more remarkably, Cinda said she cannot think of an instance where she or any of the other children in the family ever suffered a lack of attention from either her mother, who died four years ago, or her father, who died June 1 at the age of 83.


Rowland Clay Brandenburg was a chemist with a degree from Gettysburg (Pa.) College. Instead, he chose to follow his father's profession, becoming a custom home builder until his retirement when he was 59.

His wife of 58 years, Mary Gaylor Brandenburg, was a stay-at-home mother with the couple's eight children.

"My parents were very loving," Cinda said. She remembers Bible readings at the dinner table, complete with a pop quiz at the end of the meal.

The third oldest, Cinda said Drew was born just after her.

"He was slow," she said. "He didn't walk until he was 21/2 years old."

As Rowland and Mary struggled to provide services for their retarded son, they joined forces with four other couples in the area to form the Washington County Association for Retarded Citizens in 1952.

"We all believed it wasn't right that our children couldn't go to school, so we started our own," said William "Mac" McLean, now the last surviving member of those five original couples. "The parents would take turns teaching the children several hours a day."

In 1958, with the help of the Rev. Kemp Horn, the group purchased a Smithsburg farm that, after renovation, became the Kemp Horn Training Center, where an adult day-care program eventually was created.

McLean said through the efforts of the Brandenburgs and the others, the plight of the mentally retarded finally came to light.

"We proved they could be taught and trained," McLean said.

William Brish, the Washington County Public Schools superintendent at the time, saw their efforts and took them into the school system, he said.

"Rowland and Mary were so very devoted," McLean said as he remembered those early days.

Surviving brother Hugh Brandenburg recalled many instances when Rowland and Mary worked with Drew to give him the education he wasn't getting elsewhere.

"It was very frustrating because he couldn't go to public school and he needed to get his schooling," Cinda said.

After Drew had spent some time at Kemp Horn, he returned home.

"He was put on the list for the Potomac Center, which was just new then," Cinda said. "When he went to live at the center, both dad and mom became very active there."

Rowland was president of the Potomac Center Auxiliary at the time of his death, she said.

Now 57, Drew is living in a group home.

Cinda said the Brandenburg children grew up in a nine-room house with one bathroom.

"Dad and mom gave all of us everything they could give, especially their time," she said.

All but two of the children went to college.

She remembers that her father always was reading newspapers. His favorite was The Wall Street Journal.

"I'd be practicing at the piano and he'd be reading his newspaper," Cinda said. "But if I tried to get up, he'd stop reading long enough to tell me to get back there."

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