Brother Elmer (William) Paul Brummer, CSC

May 11, 1926 – February 14, 2018

Brother Elmer Paul BrummerThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Elmer (William) Paul Brummer, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Litchfield, Illinois, Br. Elmer died in Austin, Texas, on February 14, 2018. He was in his 72nd year of religious life in the Congregation.

Born in Litchfield, Illinois on May 11, 1926, William grew up in north central Kansas in the small, FrenchCanadian farming community of Aurora where he remembered everyone being Catholic. He was the third of the four children of Albert Paul Brummer, a mechanic, and Edmay Aslin, a homemaker. Baptized William Paul Brummer at St. Peter’s Church in Aurora on May 27, 1934, he was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Salina Diocese from grade school through high school in Aurora, graduating in 1943.

Ads in the Sunday Visitor put him in contact with Brother Theophane, CSC, the vocation promoter for the Congregation of Holy Cross, United States Province. However, Brother Martinus Bombardier, CSC, two years ahead of him in high school, was the major influence in William’s decision to follow a religious vocation. In January 1944, William entered St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, and on February 2, 1945 made his first profession of vows, taking the name Brother Elmer. On August 16, 1948, Br. Elmer made his final profession. In June of that same year, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Notre Dame.

Beginning in 1948, Brother Elmer taught mathematics and biological sciences in Holy Cross schools in California: St. Anthony High School, Long Beach; Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks; and St. Francis High School, Mountain View. In 1966 he received his M.S. Ed. in Physical Sciences from New Mexico Highlands University. 1967 marked his move to Texas where he taught for a year at Notre Dame High School in Wichita Falls, while studying at North Texas State University. He served the next two years at St. Edward’s University in Austin, while taking additional courses at the University of Texas. In 1970, he began graduate studies at Clemson University, receiving his Ph.D. in Plant Physiology in 1972. Brother Elmer’s dissertation was on the immune response of serum proteins in rabbits.

A microbiologist by avocation, Brother Elmer then became a post-doctoral fellow at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas from 1972-1974. The following years until 1987, Brother was a research associate at Chest Hospital, San Antonio, Texas; a public health fellow at New York University; a resident associate at the California Institute for Medical Research, San Jose, California. Brother Elmer specialized in immunology and infectious diseases and published numerous research papers on these topics. In 1987, he had a year’s research fellowship at Chiba University, Tokyo, Japan.

Brother Elmer stated “the research work is supposed to be secondary to our life in prayer and community. My research was very interesting and time-consuming, but every day I came home to our community of Brothers. There is always somebody to share your life with.”

On the occasion of Brother Elmer’s 50th Anniversary of Religious Profession in 1995, Brother Richard Critz, CSC, Provincial, wrote: “As my own teacher, as a research scientist, mentor, and international presenter, you have worked steadily and quietly, never seeking the spotlight. You have always maintained as your primary focus your identity as a religious brother, keeping faithful to your religious exercises and doing your part to foster community life.”

Brother Elmer retired to the St. Joseph Hall Community on the campus of St. Edward’s University in 2007. He celebrated his 70th Anniversary of Religious Profession in 2015. When he was not keeping up with the latest research in microbiology and infectious diseases, he greatly enjoyed organizing trips to explore neighboring towns or to camp outdoors in Texas parks.

Brother Elmer passed away in his sleep the morning of February 14, 2018 in his room at St. Joseph Hall.

Please join me in giving thanks for the life of our beloved Brother Elmer, who faithfully served the Lord as a dedicated religious of the Congregation of Holy Cross for so many years.

Br. William Zaydak, C.S.C.
Provincial Superior

Thanks to Brothers Harold Hathaway and Richard Critz
for their assistance with this obituary.

A Gift from Above

Brother Elmer was called home to heaven unexpectedly on February 14. He was having trouble sleeping while lying down and passed peacefully while sleeping in his chair.

If I were to ask you what holiday falls on February 14, of course you would say, “Valentine’s Day.” Yes, St. Valentine’s Day! This year was unique though, it was also Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The Catholic Almanac teaches us that as the newly blessed ashes are placed on the faithful’s forehead, we are reminded of our obligation to do penance for sin and to seek spiritual renewal by means of prayer, fasting, and good works, and by bearing with patience, and for God’s purposes, the trials and difficulties of everyday life. Ash Wednesday will hold a new special meaning for us, thank you Brother. Brother Elmer’s loved ones will recall how he was not only spiritually renewed, he was spiritually transformed from this life into eternal life.

Good evening, I am David, Brother Elmer’s nephew-inlaw. I am married to Brother Elmer’s oldest brother’s youngest daughter. Let us remember in prayer Brother Elmer’s sister, Betty Jane, and the rest of the family that could not be with us today.

Brother Elmer grew into his pants at the young age of nine when his father died. He, baby sister, and two older brothers grew very close because of that difficulty. Other family lived nearby and helped mom raise the children. It was rough! Then, several years later his grandfather passed away also.

To make certain food was on the table, big brothers hunted rabbits and squirrels, and sold the pelts in town. His family knew trials, and they remained very close knit with one another. Prior to his interest in becoming a Brother, he worked in wheat fields, for the railroad unloading iron from rail cars during the war, and he drove a milk truck when he was 15. His sister said her brothers always had jobs.

Brother Elmer said “Yes!” He first said yes to listening to “the call,” and then yes to following his heart and giving his life to Christ, serving Christ, serving others, and sharing the good news found in Christ.

Family was important to him, and one of his greatest gifts was how he stayed connected to his loved ones no matter where he lived. A great-nephew shared that his quiet strength would support his quest for higher education. He went to great efforts to be home with his mother and siblings for holidays and special events such as milestone birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings.

His family offers you, this family – his work and Church family – our condolences. You are saying goodbye to a great servant of God today. Brother Elmer no doubt was a faithful friend, someone to count on, confide in, gain wisdom from, and perhaps take a walk, drive, or go camping with.

He spoke of the deep friendships he formed with you and his colleagues over the years. His faith-filled days as a Brother and member of the Holy Cross order were a blessing to him and us. He enjoyed mentoring others, teaching others, working with and living with his Brothers, and listening to others.

He enjoyed nature and being outdoors! He took advantage of vacations and jumped at the opportunity to
fill the car with his brothers, nieces and nephews, and drive off to the central California mountains or coastline. He took day trips well into his 80s.

When asked what he was currently working on, he would perk up with excitement and explain it in a way a non-scientific mind could understand. I did mention humble, didn’t I?

If you feel a touch, hear his voice or just sense he is near, believe it, hold on to it. You are not going crazy. It is a gift from above.

Thank you for being a gift to us, Brother Elmer. May your spirit live in us as we carry blessings to others.

Eulogy by David Sanders
Br. Vincent Pieau Residence Chapel
Memorial Service
February 20, 2018

The Work Was Secondary

Reflecting on the life of our Brother Elmer, I think first of his life journey of 91 years. Actually, he was only a couple of months shy of being 92 – a long life that experienced tremendous changes in society, the Church, in Holy Cross and in the biological sciences. Yet, through all these changes, I think we can agree that Elmer kept a steady hand on the plow, keeping the furrow straight as the turbulence of life swirled around him.

To know why Elmer was such a strong individual we only need look at his upbringing. Though born in Litchfield, Illinois, he truly was a son of the middle border region, namely Aurora, Kansas. (Definitely there are advantages to growing up in Kansas as I can personally attest.) Growing up and being educated in a strong Catholic environment gave him the foundation to hear his call to religious life.

Elmer was baptized in 1934, at the age of eight. Nothing is written about the delay or what influence this had on Elmer’s life, or when the family moved from Litchfield to Aurora. However, in a letter of recommendation to the Congregation, his pastor stated, “It gives me special joy to recommend William Brummer in as much as I have been instrumental in the return of his entire family to the Catholic faith and seen their family, especially the children and father, give a good example of Christian life in the community.” In any case, through the influences of his early years, Elmer became a confident and straight-thinking young man. It must have made perfect sense to him to follow the encouragement of his pastor, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the example of Brother Martinus Bombardier to join the Brothers of Holy Cross.

In his formative years in Holy Cross, I believe Elmer took comfort in the fact that his experiences were as orderly and supportive as the community he left in Kansas. In fact, he commented that the novitiate was a good spiritual program. Elmer had Fr. Felix Duffy as his novice master. You may recall that Fr. Duffy authored the book Testing the Spirit that focused on the formation of novices.

After making first profession in 1945, final profession in 1948 and equipped with a degree in science from University of Notre Dame, Elmer began his life as a teaching Brother. He enjoyed teaching in those early years and enjoyed his life in community. After setting a stable pattern of life for twenty years, I was amazed when Elmer, in his forties, would take on graduate studies in a new arena. However, reading his file, I understood that Elmer immensely enjoyed the research side of science. He received his doctorate from Clemson in 1972 and, from that point on, I think we can safely say that as a microbiologist, Elmer never met an infectious disease he did not love.

By the way, Elmer’s research skills remained strong even through his sunset years. When he and Bernie made the decision that a new pop-up camper was needed, Elmer thoroughly researched various models, costs and manufacturers. Once satisfied, he came to me, handed me his report and stated, “This is what we want, you take care of the permissions and purchasing.”

I believe Elmer’s life as a religious and as a scientist is clearly reflected in what was posted about him on the Brothers of Holy Cross Vocation website in 2016 under Vocation E-news. The post states:

Science has made amazing progress over the past 60 years, and Brother Elmer has worked on the front lines — from the early days of computers to his work at the California Institute of Medical Research in San Jose.

“At St. Edward’s University in the late ’60s, they trained me on the IBM 1620,” he says, chuckling. “The students who were learning Fortran would turn in punch cards, and I would run printouts when I wasn’t teaching algebra and biology lab.”

By that time, Brother Elmer had already spent two decades teaching math and science and pursued his master’s degree in New Mexico. Then, just when many people tended to settle into predictable careers, he did what many Holy Cross Brothers have always done: he sought a challenging new path.

“I was on the faculty at St. Ed’s for 18 months, and then started graduate school in microbiology,” he recalls. “The study of microbes and bacteria, and immunology in host-resistant systems was pretty primitive when I got into it. Then, just like computing, the field exploded.”

Brother Elmer went on to earn his Ph.D. from Clemson University. Following that, he did two years of post-doctoral work in immunology at Baylor College of Medicine. He spent a year at San Antonio’s State Chest Hospital, and from there he went to New York University for three years on a U.S. Public Health fellowship.

“This was an opportunity to go to a lab that was, at that time, prominent in cellular immunology,” he explains. “We conducted pure research on transfer factor, which was a hot topic.”

His fellowship finished in 1979, and he began working with the immunology of primary fungal infections at the California Institute for Medical Research. In addition, he has taken two sabbaticals in Japan, the first for six months in 1989, doing medical mycology and collaborating on a chapter of a book.

“I was invited back in 1998 for three months,” he says, “by the Research Center for Pathogenic Fungi in Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo. I lived in an apartment across the street from the Center, and I was able to go to Mass at a local Catholic church where I remember bowing instead of genuflecting.” Brother Elmer has now marked his 70th year [2015] as a Brother of Holy Cross. He has conducted pure research in breakthrough arenas, from New York to
California and Japan, and his name appears on articles in many scientific journals. Yet, for a Brother of Holy Cross, he reminds a visitor gently, “The work is supposed to be secondary to our life in prayer and community. My research was very interesting and time-consuming,” he explains, “but every day I came home to our community of brothers. There is always somebody to share your life with.”

The post concludes: A young man interested in religious life might find this paradoxical. Yet this is the difference between any other man of science and a Holy Cross Brother. Brother Elmer Brummer finds scientific research, which is geared to measurable results, deeply rewarding. But above all he values the immeasurable!

Even though he prided himself on being a pre-Vatican II Catholic, Elmer was a man of deep faith and remained fully committed to his calling as a Holy Cross Brother. You could count on him being present for community prayer and community life. Although, he could drive you crazy with his mode of communal prayer or his slow but steady conversations, but you could count on Elmer for support. He might not agree with you on Church or politics, but he usually kept these differences to himself. If you were to tour Elmer’s two rooms at St. Joe Hall, you would find everything in order. Cell charts on the walls, camping equipment in one corner, beer making apparatus in another, beloved paintings by Br. Carl Tiedt and minimal personal belongings. You may not know this, but at 91, Elmer still cleaned his own rooms, did his own laundry and genuflected in chapel. However, I must admit he was beginning to drop more and more food on the dining room floor.

I used to think Elmer was a calm and easy-going person, but he told me last year that he was actually a high energy, nervous type person who needed to keep in motion, which counted for his need to always take on projects, projects the community greatly appreciates, such as reupholstering the kneelers in the chapel, rebuilding the St. Francis garden in the patio and repairing the wooden covering on the deck.

Elmer, you are now at rest in the Lord. You no longer have to find the answers you searched for in life. You now have full knowledge with the saints in heaven.

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

Eulogy by Br. William Nick, CSC
Br. Vincent Pieau Residence Chapel
Mass of Christian Burial
February 21, 2018

Tributes Posted Online

Uncle Elmer has a very special place in our hearts and those of our children. He shared his love of science and the outdoors with us as expressed in the many conversations and summer camping trips to Morro Bay. Uncle Elmer was physically active as far back as I can remember even challenging me to a tennis match during my college years and in complete control of each and every game. I can’t remember who won but it was probably Uncle Elmer!

During our childhood and into our adult years, Uncle Elmer was always interested in the latest news about our interests and achievements making us feel the deep love that he had for each of us. That feeling of deep love was felt by each of his great-nieces and nephews as they grew up as well. Uncle Elmer listened attentively to each of them and followed up with questions to get all the information making each of them feel very special. He was always ready to talk shop about education and science instilling in them a sense of our family values. Highlights of his visits would be martini hour and home made enchilada dinners.

While he deeply loved his physical family, his deep love for his heavenly father and spiritual brotherhood was always evident. We are so proud of our uncle’s many achievements but even more so of his spiritual qualities and deep humility. Our uncle led by example. We are so moved to have loved and been loved by our Uncle Elmer. He will always be remembered and cherished leaving a great legacy for us all.

Stephen and Suzzane Terrill

Our Top Ten Uncle Elmer Memories

  1. Made the best darn dirty martini ever
  2. Loved Baseball
  3. Enjoyed old western shows and thought no one was better in a movie than John Wayne
  4. Adventurous
  5. Took a morning walk each and every day
  6. A great historian
  7. Sharp intellect and energetic even in his 90’s
  8. Camping and hiking anywhere, anytime
  9. Loving brother and uncle, there when he was most needed, and also when he was not
  10. Modest and kind to everyone, and will be missed by all

(Beth and Larry Terrill)

Postings from Memorial Page at Harrell Funeral Homes Visit Online Obituary

Brother Elmer (William) Brummer, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1948-1951 Teacher, St. Anthony HS, Long Beach, CA
  • 1951-1952 Teacher, Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks, CA
  • 1952-1958 Teacher, St. Anthony HS, Long Beach, CA
  • 1958-1960 Teacher, Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks, CA
  • 1960-1967 Teacher, St. Francis HS, Mountain View, CA
  • 1967-1968 Teacher, Notre Dame HS, Wichita Falls, TX
  • 1968-1970 Teacher, St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX
  • 1970-1971 Graduate Studies Clemson University, Clemson, SC
  • 1971-1972 Teacher, St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX
  • 1972-1973 Graduate Studies Clemson University, Clemson, SC
  • 1973-1975 Post-Doctoral Fellow Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX
  • 1975-1976 Research Associate Chest Hospital, San Antonio, TX
  • 1976-1980 Medical Research Associate; Public Health Fellow, New York, NY
  • 1980-2006 Resident Associate Cal Institute for Med Research, San Jose
  • 1987-1987 Research Fellow Chiba University, Japan
  • 2006-2007 Resident, BHC Mountain View, CA
  • 2007-2018 Resident, St. Joseph Hall, Austin, TX