Richard Fretwell Brubaker ’59

Richard Fretwell Brubaker '59Richard Fretwell Brubaker, 81, of Rochester, died October 23, 2018 at Seasons Hospice, from pancreatic cancer. Richard was born February 13, 1937 in Macon, Georgia, to Leonard Hathaway Brubaker and Frances Bush Brubaker.

He attended Davidson College in North Carolina and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in chemistry in 1959. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1963.

After an internship in general surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, he completed residency training in ophthalmology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in 1968. While in Boston, he met his future wife, Nancy Ogle; they were married in 1965.

He served two years in the United States Public Health Service, NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland, before moving to Nancy’s hometown of Rochester, Minnesota to join the staff at the Mayo Clinic as Consultant in Ophthalmology in 1970. 

Richard had a distinguished 30 year career at the Mayo Clinic, retiring in June 2000. He was a leader in patient care, research, education, and administration. Included in his many accomplishments were Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology 1984-1992, President of the Staff in 1990, and Medical Director of Mayo Medical Ventures 1994-2000.

He was an active researcher in glaucoma, publishing over 200 articles, and he received numerous local and international awards and grants. He was beloved by medical students, residents, and fellows for his gentle, humble, and enthusiastic teaching style.

Throughout his life, Richard’s spirit of curiosity and adventure led him to pursue many diverse activities and projects. He built harpsichords, sang in a barbershop quartet, ran many marathons, windsurfed on Pelican Lake, invented three bike boats, took up ice hockey at age 50 and snowboarding at 60, and learned to play the soprano saxophone during his 70s.

He co-authored with his daughter Jill two mystery stories for young readers. He amazed friends with his ability to double whistle. “Dr. Bru” could be seen unicycling, hacky sacking, and playing street hockey with neighborhood kids while on rollerblades. He was never too old to try something new. 

In retirement, Richard and Nancy developed a farm in Oronoco, where he planted hundreds of trees, built a 9-hole “golf course,” and created over a hundred metal sculptures in his art studio. He donated five of his pieces, which can be seen on Rochester bike trails, as part of the Art4Trails program.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his three children: Jill Brubaker (William Elmquist), Woodinville, WA; Bart Brubaker, Rochester, MN; and Heather Brubaker (Ted Sorom), San Rafael, CA; three grandchildren, Hillary, Brooke, and Hannah; brother Leonard (Margaret) Brubaker, Augusta, GA; and sister Barbara (James) Hightower, Tyrone, GA. 

A memorial service will be held Saturday, November 10, 11:00 a.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 1884 – 22nd Street NW, Rochester. The family will welcome visitors beginning at 10:00 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to the Rochester Area Foundation or Art4Trails at C4/Art4Trails, 609 4th Street NW, Rochester, MN 55901. 

To leave a special memory or condolence please visit

Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes 5421 Royal Place NW Rochester, MN 55901

View the online memorial for Dr. Richard Brubaker

Published in The Telegraph on Oct. 27, 2018