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Mary Howe Brumback, 81, a onetime Toledoan who was a support to her husband, Charles, as he rose through the ranks at the Tribune Co., died of cancer Tuesday in her Sarasota, Fla., home.
The couple moved from Chicago to Sarasota after Mr. Brumback's retirement in the mid-1990s as chairman and chief executive officer of the Chicago Tribune's parent company.
"She was always there in the support role," their son Charles, Jr., said. "She knew the business people, and she knew what was going on, and she was contributing in her own way very significantly."
Mr. Brumback was in the Army when they married in 1951. They settled in Toledo after his service in the Korean War. His parents were Frances Tiedtke Brumback, whose father, Charles, was a co-founder of Tiedtke's department store, and John Brumback, a lawyer.
The couple lived on Kendale Drive and, later, Orchard Road, and began a family. He became an accountant at Arthur Young & Co. She took part in volunteer activities and was in the Junior League.
While visiting his parents at their winter home in Florida, the elder Mr. Brumback came to the attention of Martin Andersen, owner of the Orlando Sentinel-Star, who hired him in 1957. The Chicago Tribune bought the newspaper in the 1960s. Through the years, Mr. Brumback rose through the ranks, becoming general manager and president of the Orlando paper.
Mrs. Brumback again was in Junior League and volunteered two to three days a week at Orange Memorial Hospital, now called Orlando Health.
Executives in Chicago brought Mr. Brumback north in 1981 to become president and chief operating officer of the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
"For dad, it was a wonderful business opportunity," their son said. "It was difficult, clearly more difficult for my mother. She had her friends in Orlando."
Still, she committed to life in a new city.
"She was happy to do it," their son said. "It was good for the family and my dad and his career. She was the quintessential corporate wife. Whatever he thought best, she was a good soldier and went along with the program."
In Chicago, she became a board member at the Boys and Girls Clubs and volunteered at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "She became active, and not in a socialite front-page-of-the-paper mode, but behind the scenes, willing to get your hands dirty and willing to do what needed to be done," their son said.
In retirement, she and her husband liked to travel. She organized get-togethers of family members and friends.
"She would not sit around waiting for people to tell her what to do," their son said. "She was a strong person. She was not flashy. She was very down to earth and just very genuine."
The daughter of Esther and Maurice Howe, she was born Nov. 24, 1927, in Pleasant Ridge, Mich., a Detroit suburb. Her father worked for General Motors, and the family moved as he was transferred to new assignments. She was a graduate of Abbot Academy in Andover, Mass., and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass.
Surviving are her husband, Charles Brumback, whom she married July 7, 1951; sons, Charles, Jr., and Wesley; daughters, Anne Meyer and Ellen Allen, and seven grandchildren.
Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Monday at First Presbyterian Church of Sarasota and at 2 p.m. Oct. 23 at Park Lake Presbyterian Church, Orlando. She will be buried at Historic Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo.
The family suggests tributes to the Mount Holyoke College annual fund through the school's office of development.