In his quiet, gentle way, Harold Brewster made his mark serving his local community, as well as in his professional capacity as an engineer.
One of his most notable roles was as a leader at the YM-YWHA of Union County, where Brewster, who lived in Hillside, served as president from 1985 to 1987. The facility bears the name “Harry Lebau Center” in memory of his father-in-law, who served as its executive director for 37 years, and his wife, Ruth Lebau Brewster, who served as its first woman president in the mid-1970s.
Brewster, who died on Jan. 31 at the age of 84, became president of the Y soon after the dissolution of its merger with the organization that would become the JCC of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains.
In a condolence note to Ruth, Y executive vice president Bryan Fox wrote that her husband stepped up to take on the presidency “at one of the most difficult and tenuous times. He was the right man for the time, a peace maker, an inclusionist, and a quiet leader able to bring together diverse segments of our community.”
Fox told NJ Jewish News that at the time “there were hard feelings all around. The Y was in terrible physical and fiscal shape with huge debts and deficits. Harold was charged with finding a way to rebuild the agency, rebuild relationships, and rebuild a staff to make this happen.”
Fox himself was hired two years into that term.
“Harold was always accessible, calm, reasonable, helpful, and supportive,” he said. “The fact that he was a nice guy went a long way too.”
Brewster’s connections went far beyond the Y. He also served on the Hillside Township Committee and the board of trustees of Shomrei Torah Synagogue, as vice president of the Elmora Hebrew Center, and on the board of the former Jewish Federation of Central NJ.
He began his professional life by earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at City College of New York, where he was a member of Tau Beta Pi Honor Society. He followed that with a master’s at Kansas State University and further study at Princeton University and Columbia University.
He worked for a number of years with Exxon International, and after retiring from there, he established Harold Brewster Associates, which did work with major oil companies, the IRS, and the Department of Energy.
Brewster was a retired lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the Naval Air Turbine Test Center in Ewing. As a result of his work there, he developed papers that he presented at Oxford University in England.
Among other volunteer positions, he served as a director of judges of the Bronx Science Fair, and as a member of the board of trustees of the American Institute of Science and Technology of New York City.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughters, Sharon Brewster Ingraham and her husband, Andrew; Allison Brewster Franzetti and her husband, Carlos; and Pamela Brewster and her husband, Stuart Rosenthal; his grandchildren, Jordana Ingraham, Harrison Ingraham, Mariana Franzetti, Lee Rosenthal, Ryan Rosenthal, and William Rosenthal; and his brother Irwin and wife Norma.
His funeral took place in Westfield on Feb. 3.