Martha Ellen Brumback, 1928-2012: Prominent families’ scion aide to Hoover

Martha Ellen Brumback had worked for former President Herbert Hoover after he left office.
Martha Ellen Brumback had worked for former President Herbert Hoover after he left office.

Martha Ellen Brumback, a scion of prominent northwest Ohio families whose administrative skills were prized by business and political leaders, even a former U.S. president, died Friday in Hospice of the Comforter, Altamonte Springs, Fla. She was 84.

Miss Brumback, a longtime Orlando resident, had lung disease, her brother John S. Brumback said.

She was born Sept. 27, 1928, 12 minutes ahead of her twin, Charlie, to Frances Tiedtke Brumback and John Sanford Brumback.

“Both parents had families that were important in the area,” her brother John said. Her brother Charlie — Charles T. Brumback — was a veteran of the newspaper business and retired as chairman and chief executive of the Tribune Co., parent firm of the Chicago Tribune.

Her mother’s father, Charles Tiedtke, and his brother Ernest operated a legendary downtown Toledo department store. Her father was a lawyer with a longtime Toledo practice whose family hailed from Van Wert, Ohio, and was associated with the Van Wert National Bank. The Brumback Library in Van Wert, dedicated in 1901, was built with funds bequeathed by her grandfather.

She and her siblings grew up in 4400 block of Miner Road in Ottawa Hills and attended the public schools there.

“We like Toledo and are proud of our history and kept track of our friends from there,” her brother John said. “The Toledo connection is close to us.”

She closed her career as a manager of the family’s business affairs and was a director of the Van Wert National Bank.

“Ellen was very sharp,” her brother John said, and she readily took charge. “That’s the key to being a leader in anything,” he said. “She was very fair. If she found someone who had a better idea, she’d go with that. She was very open-minded.”

Miss Brumback was a graduate of Abbott Academy in Andover, Mass., and received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wellesley College in 1950. Later that decade, she was secretary to the dean of the Harvard Business School, Donald K. David, who had been an influential business leader.

In December, 1957, Miss Brumback joined the secretarial and administrative staff of former President Herbert Hoover, then 84 years old. According to a January, 1958, account in The Blade, a secretary to Mr. Hoover wrote Wellesley College seeking recommendations, and Wellesley passed along Miss Brumback’s name based on her record with Mr. David at Harvard.

“[Mr. Hoover] was in contact constantly with the leaders of the country and the world,” her brother John said. “That was a very fascinating job for her.”

She helped with research for the books the former president wrote. Mr. Hoover received 53,000 letters a year that needed to be answered, The Blade said in 1958. When the former president vacationed in the Florida Keys, his office staff went along. Most of the time, though, she worked from his office, adjoining his apartment in the Waldorf-Astoria Towers. She lived at the Barbizon Hotel for Women nearby.

Miss Brumback’s grandfather Charles Tiedtke in the 1920s built a house in Orlando and said it “would be the great town of the future,” his grandson John Brumback said. The Brumbacks’ parents vacationed there and Miss Brumback, with an interest in politics, moved there.

For several years, she worked as an administrative aide for Republican Florida legislators and helped new Republican members of the Florida congressional delegation get settled in Washington.

She was a director in central Florida for the 1970 Census. She was a dedicated volunteer and supporter of the Orlando Museum of Art and the Salvation Army. She had a summer place in Sun Valley, Idaho, and was a supporter of its symphony.

Surviving are her brothers, Charles T. and John S. Brumback, Jr., and sisters, Frances and Cynthia Brumback.

Visitation is to be from 4 to 7 p.m. today in the Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, Lake Ivanhoe Chapel, Orlando. Memorial services are to be at 3 p.m. Thursday at Park Lake Presbyterian Church, of which she was a member and supporter . Burial will be in Historic Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo.

The family suggests tributes to the Orlando Museum of Art and the Salvation Army in Orlando.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.