A relentless desire to give, a love for the arts, and an even greater love for Wellington.
Those are a few of the ways friends and family members described Bill Brumfield, who died Nov. 30 at age 77 after a battle with cancer.
Known as a philanthropist who didn’t like basking in attention, Brumfield owned and operated Sparkle Market, which later became Village Market.
He will perhaps be best remembered for funding construction of the Patricia Lindley Center for the Performing Arts, named after Brumfield’s late wife.
He donated roughly half of the project’s $2.5 million cost and gave a near incalculable amount to the Wellington Schools over the years, including the total financing of a recent remodel of Wellington High School’s front entrance.
His children, William Jr. and Patricia Brumfield, penned a letter to the Enterprise thanking the community for its help through a difficult process.
“We would like to thank you for the love and support you have shown our father, Bill Brumfield, throughout his life here,” they wrote. “Our grandparents chose to move here for a business opportunity, but this town quickly became our family’s ‘home.’ It is our great fortune to have been raised and nurtured here, and to see the love our dad has for this community returned to him with such generosity.”
Wellington Friends of Theater director and WHS teacher Dave Conklin said he and Brumfield bought season tickets to Playhouse Square every year and would regularly take in shows together.
“We would have movie nights and have long debates on themes of what we watched, then apply them to life,” he said. “Bill was always engaged in the discussion. He’s allowed us to create theater at a professional level. The Lindley Center would not have been possible without him.”
Former mayor Barbara O’Keefe and Brumfield maintained a 70-year friendship. They grew up together on South Main Street.
She recalled games of front yard football in their neighborhood and running a popcorn stand with Brumfield in the 1950s near the corner of South Main and Herrick.
“We all loved to play outside and Bill was always with us,” she said. “He was truly a gentleman and a scholar. We also worked together at Village Market for about 50 years. He’s left some big shoes to fill to say the least. Bill really enjoyed Wellington. It’s hard to find people like him today.”
The two worked together extensively on the construction of the Main Street underpass.
“Bill attended all the meetings and was just so supportive throughout the entire process,” O’Keefe said. “It took 18 years to get it done but we did it. He was vocal about how important it was to this town and provided a number of facts and figures for us.”
Pastor Paul Wilson of First United Methodist Church, where Brumfield was a lifelong member, said he constantly showed how to put words into action.
“Mr. Brumfield was a pillar in the church and this community,” he said. “He had so much vision and he didn’t just talk about it. Look at the Lindley Center. It’s up to us now to live out the lessons he taught us. One of those lessons was compromise. He always talked about cooperation, even with people you don’t always see eye-to-eye with.”
In 1999, Larry and Eleanor Broome helped Brumfield spearhead the creation of Main Street Wellington, initially called Downtown Wellington. They worked to refurnish the building now occupied by Main Street, which was formerly a drug store.
“The arts and downtown were always very important to Bill,” said Eleanor. “Bill and Pat were instrumental in the entire creation of Main Street. Without them, it wouldn’t have happened. Bill epitomizes what it means to be loyal to your small town. He was just so gracious and so kind. He loved Wellington and always wanted to be quiet about all the good he did.”
Dottie Cianciola said Brumfield lent a constant helping hand at the Lindley Center since she was named the building’s director in September 2016.
“I was working hand-in-hand with Bill when I came on board,” she said. “He really guided me and showed the way, everything that was going on. He pretty much trained me. We went to First United Methodist together as well. He was also so humble and never liked to make a big deal out of his generosity, yet he’d pour his heart and soul into anything he touched.”
Brumfield served as Lindley Center director for roughly one year between the departure of Jim Nichols and the hiring of Cianciola.
He set up funds for the continued maintenance of the building and to pay the director’s salary, said fellow Lindley board member Lad Harrison.
“Bill gave from his heart,” said Harrison. “It wasn’t just giving financially. It was time, energy, and enthusiasm. It’s a legacy that’s hard to duplicate. I only really got to know him in the past five or six years, but he always wanted to be anonymous when he helped someone. I’ll miss going to Cavs and Indians games with him.”
His tone revealing grief still fresh for his departed friend, Conklin summed up what Brumfield meant to him and other supporters of the arts in Wellington.
“A culture has been made possible in Wellington with theater that will outlive us all,” he said. “That’s because of Bill Brumfield. We’ve all been greatly enriched by him and his generosity. He was a friend, a confidant, and I’m proud to have shared such big parts of my life with him. We’re all lucky to have known him.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.