Hugh Brandenburg

April 24, 2010|By MARLO BARNHART
  • Hugh Brandenburg poses with his trusty camera in this 2006 picture taken at the Western Maryland Hospital Center, where he was a volunteer for more than 25 years. The picture of birds behind him was one of Hugh's in a long career of capturing nature all around the world.
Herald-Mail file photo,

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes 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 Hugh Brandenburg, who died April 12 at the age of 85. His obituary was published in the April 14 edition of The Herald-Mail.

If it's true that one can come back in the next life as whatever one chooses, Hugh Brandenburg surely would be a bird flying wild and free above the Earth.

After a lifetime of photographing birds and other creatures, Hugh probably would take great pleasure in becoming one of his own subjects.

Photographing birds was Hugh's passion both during and after his years teaching on the college level. But one of his greatest joys was his special connection to the Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown, where he volunteered for nearly 30 years.


"Hugh is physically not here anymore, but he is still here," Chaplain Richard Bower said. "He sparked the staff to uphold the highest standard of excellence and loving care."

Richard said he and many others at the hospital find themselves asking what Hugh would do in a certain situation.

"I thank God I got to meet Hugh," Richard said. "He lived his faith so purely."

Cindy Pellegrino, chief executive officer at the Western Maryland Hospital Center, spoke April 16 at Hugh's funeral. She and others again will honor him Tuesday at 2 p.m. at a public memorial service in the first-floor auditorium of the hospital at 1500 Pennsylvania Ave.

"I got to know Hugh very well," Cindy said. "I knew it would be difficult speaking at the funeral."

So she set out to put her thoughts and feelings about Hugh down on paper, which helped her on several levels.

Cindy said Hugh came to the hospital as a volunteer on April 16, 1981 -- 29 years to the day he was laid to rest.

"That was the day we were first blessed with Hugh Brandenburg," she wrote. The tally of Hugh's volunteering came to a whopping 42,775 hours.

He was at his post when he was stricken, and after initial treatment at Washington County Hospital, Hugh opted to come back to the Western Maryland Hospital Center to end his days among friends, Cindy said.

He died April 12 at the age of 85.

Over the years, Hugh became close to many patients, including some who didn't speak English and others who only could communicate by blinking their eyes.

One of those patients is sharing Hugh's burial plot -- a wish he conveyed and was granted by Hugh before his own death, Cindy said.

When not volunteering at the hospital, Hugh was active in the Cumberland Valley Photographic Salon at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts for years.

Hugh helped catalog, frame and present the contest entries to judges since the mid-1960s. Hugh's own work often was featured and he also was published 15 times in Birds and Blooms magazine.

For those and other efforts, Hugh was Washington County's Most Wonderful Citizen for 1998, chosen from a pool of 90 candidates.

He served as the official photographer of Hagerstown High School's class of 1943, which is his own class. Each year at the reunion, he would post several of his photos from the previous year's gathering.

After teaching Spanish at the University of Texas, Brandenburg moved back to Hagerstown in the early 1960s. Looking for a creative outlet, he went to the museum and volunteered his time to help organize the annual photo contest.

The affiliation with the Western Maryland Hospital Center began when Hugh was approached by the hospital's then-volunteer coordinator, who had attended a talk on birds he gave at a Ruritan Club event 30 years ago.

"She wondered if they could afford me," Hugh said in published reports three years ago. "I told her OK if you can afford free."

In 2007, Hugh put his life story into a book that started with a passage about his philosophy about why we are on this Earth.

"Life is an adventure to be lived and to be savored," Hugh said. "We trust in the wisdom of God to grant us a certain amount of time between birth and death ... to fill in that time to His glory."

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