Bill Brownlee, age 93, passed away peacefully on October 3, surrounded by his four children in their family home of nearly 61 years in Chevy Chase, MD. Born in London, England, Bill moved with his family to the United States at age three. He graduated from St. Andrew’s School and Cornell University, served in the United States Army, and after working in a family business with his father and brother, joined IBM Corporation for a 30 year career.
He met the woman who would become the love of his life, Sheila Milligan, when she came from war-ravaged England in 1949 to visit a friend of her father’s. During a long stay on the Chesapeake, Bill and Sheila began a relationship that led to their marriage in England in 1953 and endured long beyond her death in 1998. When asked just recently, “what is your proudest achievement?” he replied, “marrying your mother.”
Bill was truly a Washingtonian, living here 80 of his 93 years. As an active member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (Bethesda) and then St. John’s (Lafayette Square), he grounded his life in the church’s lessons of humility and service to others. Those lessons were made manifest in his service to St. Andrew’s School in Middletown DE, from which his children, and four of his grandchildren also graduated. He was a trustee and alumni board member of St. Andrew’s, a trustee of St Anne’s Episcopal School, and served on the Chevy Chase Section Three Council from 2002 - 2020.
Bill was a lifelong rower, beginning in 1943 at SAS, then at Cornell (Class of 1950), the New York Athletic Club, continuing down the years until he was awarded “The Hammer” for winning his age class at the World Indoor Rowing Championships in 2017 and 2018. Somewhat to the consternation of his children, he continued rowing alone on the Potomac well into his 92nd year.
In addition to his children, Ian (Holly), Gordon (Pam), Steven (Denise) and Janet (Bill), Bill leaves ten grandchildren, and numerous Brownlee, Dolton and Milligan nieces and nephews.
A memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery will be held at a later date. Donations in Bill’s memory can be sent to St. Andrew’s School, 350 Noxontown Road, Middletown, DE 19709.