|As a real estate lawyer,
George A. Brugger, shown
with his wife,
Ann, helped communities
blossom in Prince George's
and Charles counties.
He Lavished Endless Energy On His Family and Community
By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, January 1, 2006
George A. Brugger used to say that a big part of life was
showing up -- at weddings, birthdays, Christmas parties,
christenings, funerals. Be present for people, he counseled.
And throughout his life, he heeded his advice.
With abundant energy and a focus on excellence, Brugger
showed up in many different arenas during his multifaceted
life and left a lasting impression wherever he went. He
relished his role as head of his extended family; he helped
shape communities in Prince George's and Charles
counties as a real estate lawyer; he raised money for
charitable causes; and he worked for 20 years to make the
Federal District Courthouse in Prince George's a reality.
At the law firm he co-founded in Greenbelt in 1975, Fossett
Brugger Chartered, Brugger frequently was referred to by
clients as the big guy. At 6 foot 3 and nearly 200 pounds, he was a man of size and stature.
He had a commanding presence, said William M. Shipp, a principal in the firm. He had a
booming but controlled voice. Shipp said he also had great posture and always was
dressed well, the mark of a man who recognized that you're always on and always have to
be prepared for whomever, and whatever, you may encounter.
Although he was serious in his work and was taken seriously, Brugger kept the fun things of
life close at hand. He enjoyed high-performance cars, such as BMWs and Mercedes, and
could answer obscure questions about exotic fish and reptiles, which he had raised. For a
number of years at Christmas, Brugger would don red Santa Claus pants and stand at the
front door of the law firm wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. He wasn't afraid to make that
kind of bold statement to show that he cared about people, said his sister, Trina Leonard.
On Dec. 5, a few weeks before he could slip into his red pants, Brugger died of esophageal
cancer at his home in Washington. He was 64. He had also lived in Potomac and Chevy
Chase and had spent most of his career working in Prince George's. He was part of a
visionary group of people in the county who helped communities blossom where fields once
dominated. As a lawyer focused largely on real estate development, particularly land-use
issues, he was able to help some of the state's largest developers construct homes and
commercial buildings. As head of Prince George's County Economic Development Corp., he
pushed to attract businesses to the area and improve county schools. Ann Brugger said she
can see her husband's imprint across the county, in communities such as Greenbriar and
Woodstream in Greenbelt and the Laurel Lake Shopping Center in Laurel. Not everyone
agreed with Brugger's push for zoning changes in their communities. In 1998, some Calvert
County residents booed him at a meeting regarding sewer bans. I've been a zoning lawyer
for a long time, and I'm used to wearing a rubber suit to fend off flying tomatoes he said then,
adding that he was disconcerted by the incivility.
A native of Erie, Pa., Brugger moved to Washington as a child and attended St. John's
College High School (59). He graduated from Gannon College in Erie in 1963 and from
Georgetown University Law Center in 1967. He worked for Attorney General Robert F.
Kennedy at the Department of Justice and then for the Air Transport Association of America
as manager of public affairs. He joined the law firm of Beatty & McNamee in Hyattsville in
1969 and then co-founded his private practice with Clarence Fossett. When his father died
in 1979, Brugger, who was 38 at the time, readily accepted a new role as father figure for his
three younger sisters and protector for his stepmother. He perfected the art of brothering,
Leonard said. When Leonard and her sisters Lisa Wagner and Louise Caldwell married, it
was Brugger who walked them down the aisle. Family was an important part of who he was,
family members said. He enjoyed hosting large family dinners and was in his element grilling
salmon and lamb chops. He loved spending time with his children and grandchildren,
sharing family history.
As much as he loved his summer home in Vero Beach, Fla., where he could sit on the dock
and watch manatees and dolphins jumping, he never considered moving there permanently,
his sister said. He wanted to be present, and close by, for his family. We should live our lives
as a family,he would say.