Area NN is an interesting one here in Mount Olivet. It’s shape is somewhat triangular as it sits against the western boundary of the cemetery, not far from the Barbara Fritchie and Thomas Johnson gravesites. The section often raises curiosity among visitors as the stones within are somewhat positioned very closely together—almost too close together, but there is a reason. Most of those people interred here today, came from other burial grounds that once graced downtown Frederick.
Some of these gravestones have death dates that predate the cemetery’s opening in 1854, and there are several examples written in German. The Colonial architecture is clearly evident and the rationale for these stones placed so close together lies in the fact that these comprise church group reburials dictated by the trustees of local congregations. Three different churches bought the bulk of the lots on NN to be exact— the Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran and Methodist Episcopal. These churches once had their own designated burying grounds downtown, but elected to transfer bodies via mass removal to Mount Olivet, allowing for reuse or resale of the former graveyard properties.
This option took the congregations out of the graveyard business and deferred the job to an entity that solely was suited to handle the assignment. This was certainly not an uncommon practice for the time, and in the case of Area NN, most of this reburial activity occurred in 1907-1908.
As for the makeup of the property, the Methodist are to the left, Lutherans in the middle and Presbyterians to the right. I plan to write future articles about all three congregations in context to their earlier burying grounds, but not here. I have only brought all this up because I found that there are several other burials on Area NN that are not affiliated with the three church re-interment projects. I discovered one recently by researching the final resting place of this week’s person of interest. He died 50 years ago this past week.
Donald Lewis Bruchey
The grave of Donald Lewis Bruchey sits prominently in the foreground of the designated “church lots.” His gravestone type is called a slant face marker. To the immediate right is a larger stone for his parents: Harry W. (1885-1934) and Lydia Mae Strailman (1889-1963).
On November 18th, 1969, Don Bruchey found himself visiting at the home of friends living in Pikesville, northwest of Baltimore. He had just been seen by thousands of television viewers days before, while performing his full-time job as a news anchor on WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida. No one could have predicted the terrible circumstance that would soon beset this charismatic, 41 year-old who had returned to his native Maryland in advance of celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. Don would suffer a heart attack and would die a short time later at Baltimore County General Hospital in Randallstown.
The Frederick native had worked in the broadcasting business for more than half his life—21 years. Don Bruchey had started as an on-air announcer at Frederick’s WFMD radio station in 1948. This came three years after graduating from Frederick High School in 1945 where he was a theater standout and an outstanding baseball player who was signed to a professional contract by the Detroit Tigers.
He would play catcher for their minor league affiliate in Thomasville, GA—the Thomasville Tigers. Baseball had to wait however, as Bruchey served his country in the Army in Europe during the waning months of World War II.
The 1940 US census shows Don living with his mother Lydia at 312 E. Patrick Street in downtown Frederick. His father, a barber by profession, had passed away back in 1934 when he was six. He was the youngest of four children.
Don's professional baseball dreams were short-lived. He would play for local teams such as the Frederick Hustlers and the Junior Yanks for a few years.
Don set his sights on a career. Interestingly his true passions for sports and acting would pave his path. The young man took a pivotol Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Course in 1947. His penchant for acting beyond high school had him playing leads in several local stage productions here in Frederick and at the storied playhouse venue that once stood in Braddock Heights under the direction of James Decker. He performed regularly with Frederick's Community Players ensemble and with a like group in Hagerstown known as the Potomac Playmakers. It appears, the actor was introduced to the world of radio through the broadcast of some of the Community Players' productions in 1948. Don's talents led him to be asked to do narration work for recordings and emcee duties for local events.
Don would leave Frederick and WFMD in 1950, taking a job at Brunswick, Georgia's WGIG where he hosted his own show titled "Spinner Sanctum." After a year he came back to Frederick and WFMD. It is most likely he came back for the love of his life, Miss Marilyn S. Kehne of Yellow Springs area of Frederick. He took on employment at Baltimore's WFBR in 1952. Don took up residence on N. Calvert Street in Baltimore. The couple would marry on March 14, the following year.
Bruchey eventually headed south again, going to Greenville, South Carolina and WGVL in late 1953 where he hosted a studio-based music program called "Club 23." I assume this could have been similar to Dick Clark's "American Bandstand." The former Fredericktonian returned to Maryland, and Baltimore, in late 1954 and worked at radio station WWIN. Don also got his chance to work in television with sports on Baltimore's WMAR, Channel 2. He would host a sports program called "Football Scoreboard" in 1955. He was also asked to present weather from time to time.
Don’s impressive reputation as a former athlete sportscaster served him well. His theater background also allowed for him to bring dramatics to the events he was covering. Bruchey’s obituary states that he had valued associations with several star athletes including Johnny Unitas, Gino Marchetti, Art Donovan, Don Shula, Chuck Thompson, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Brooks Robinson. Within a few years, he would transition to covering news.
Don successfully transitioned into news from sports and served as a reporter and finally a news anchor for Channel 2 (WMAR). On eBay last year, I found an ad featuring Don Bruchey in an old TV Guide dated July 27th, 1965. It was an intriguing find which led me to write this blog. He anchored the 11PM edition, the prime newscast of the station.
In 1968, Don jumped at the opportunity for a change of venue, and more importantly, the chance to serve as lead news anchor for a station in Florida. After 13 years in “Charm City,” he relocated to Jacksonville in January, 1968, taking with him wife Marilyn and three daughters: Donna, Cheryl and Christine. An eitor's note in the Baltimore Sun in 1968 remarked that Don was homesick for Maryland.
As I said at the outset, Don and family traveled back home to Maryland 50 years ago this week for Thanksgiving in 1969. He would suffer a heart attack while visiting friends in Pikesville. Interestingly, his father had also died of a heart attack in his forties.
Don Bruchey’s body would return to Frederick for burial. Services were held at All Saints’ Episcopal Church on W. Patrick Street on Saturday, November 22nd. Graveside service followed here at Mount Olivet within the historic backdrop of Area NN as he was placed to the side of his father and mother, Lydia, who had died earlier in 1963. As could be imagined, the service was largely attended and including relatives, friends, former teammates, former acting partners, and news colleagues.
I was excited to see that one of his pallbearers was Stu Kerr, a legendary Baltimore television star I remember from my youth. He was a weatherman, afterschool movie host, played Bozo the Clown, emceed "Dialing for Dollars" and was the star of local show "Professor Kool's Fun Skool."