Remembering Bill Brubaker: Edmonds resident was a TV anchor, county councilmember and friend to many

From left: Bill Brubaker, Ray Ramsey and Bruce King (KOMO-TV archives)

KOMO-TV’s Bill Brubaker was “that guy” —  that guy we invited into our homes night after night, day after day, year after year.

With his on-air partners, Ray Ramsey (weather) and Bruce King (sports), Bill brought us up to date on what was going on in our world and why it was important. We laughed with him, cried with him, celebrated with him. Bill was our friend; he was my friend. Sadly, we lost that friend last weekend. Bill Brubaker passed away. The lifelong Edmonds resident was 85. His wife, Marlene, preceded Bill in death just two months earlier.

I met Bill Brubaker – “Bru” – more than 40 years ago, when I joined the KOMO news team. Bill and Marlene took our family under their wing, told us what a great town Edmonds was, and their daughter Teri was our girls’ favorite babysitter. My wife Sonja literally “grew up” with Bill; her family was among those who invited him into their homes each night.

Bill was born in Spokane, graduated from WSU when it was still called Washington State College and launched what would become a legendary career in 1959, on the radio in Roseburg, Ore.  

“Bashful Billy” at KXLY, 1962

A year later, he landed a summer job at KXLY radio in Spokane. When the station switched to a rock ‘n’ roll format, his on-air name became “Bashful Billy” Brubaker. In 1962, he got the “big break,” joining KOMO radio just in time for the Seattle World’s Fair. And he almost lost his job on his first day. Bru didn’t recognize a guy who walked into the building and tried to throw the man out. That guy was Oliver Fisher, corporate executive with Fisher Broadcasting, which owned KOMO. To hear Bill tell it, Mr. Fisher was very gracious about the actions of this brash young man.

Marlene holding Kathryn and big sister Terianne

Good thing he kept his job, because by then Bill had married Marlene and had moved to Edmonds, where they eventually raised two daughters, Terianne and Kathryn. They lived here for more than 50 years.

Bill worked at KOMO for 25 years.

At KOMO, Bill began a legendary broadcast career that spanned 25 years. On his first reporting assignment, in 1965, Bru spent five days living on a tugboat, reporting live on the transfer of Namu — the first Orca in captivity — from Canada to Seattle, Namu. Later that year, he took to the anchor desk with Ray Ramsey and Bruce King, and the threesome kept KOMO’s 11 p.m. news at the top of the ratings race for 13 years. A few months later, Bill took over the 5 p.m. anchor duties as well.

“Bru” and co-anchor at Evergreen State Fair.

When a feisty piglet at the Evergreen State Fair tried to upstage Bill, they worked it out, live, on air. The piglet didn’t give up without a noisy sparring match. Bill thought he’d got the last word. The piglet proved otherwise! 

In his time at KOMO, Bill garnered numerous awards, including an Emmy. The Seattle chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences inducted Bill into its “Silver Circle,” a lifetime award for broadcasting excellence. In 1991, the Freedom Foundation awarded him its Medal for Public Communication. During that time, he had joined the Naval Reserve and rose to the rank of captain, spending 36 years with the Navy.

Bill being sworn in as a Snohomish County Council member.

Closing the door at KOMO in 1987 opened so many more doors. That year, Bill was appointed to the Snohomish County Council to fill a vacant seat. He was re-elected to two full terms. On the council, Bill served as president of the Puget Sound Regional Council, vice chairman of the Regional Transit Authority, and chair of the Snohomish County Transportation Authority. He also chaired the council’s transportation committee. 

Bill was a licensed pilot and with his passion for transportation issues, mid-way through his second council term, he was a perfect pick to become state assistant secretary of aeronautics. Bru was based at Seattle’s Boeing Field, where he oversaw the state’s 16 emergency airstrips as well as the coordination of search-and-rescue efforts for missing general aviation aircraft, and training for pilots and mechanics.

In his “spare” time, Bill authored two books; a raucous take on the inside secrets of Northwest broadcasting, titled “Never As It Seems,” and another on the exploration of Pacific Ocean seamounts, for which he was one of two media representatives on board. He was also primary editor of a history of the Naval Air Reserve. Bill was an advanced scuba diver and spent time on ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau’s boat Calypso.

Bill Brubaker
Marlene Brubaker

Faith was a big part of Bill and Marlene’s life. Marlene earned a masters degree at Trinity Theological Seminary in Indiana. In Edmonds, she began Stillwaters Counseling and participated in a number of ministries. She and Bill served as delegates to the U.S. State Department’s 2nd Annual Ministerial Conference on Religious Freedom and attended the International School For Holocaust Studies in Jerusalem.

For me, Bru was a mentor, a man with a wicked sense of humor, a vast knowledge of the world, a warm and gracious guy at work and home and, best of all, a friend. Bill was “that” guy; a dedicated broadcasting pro who represented the best in journalism. He was that guy who gave of himself and his life in service to others. Bru was that guy who made you feel welcome, made you think, challenged you, made you laugh and feel good about life. Bill Brubaker was that guy.

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. Thanks Bob. Bill was also our announcer for the air show at the Lynnwod Rotary International Air Fair which took place at Paine Field for many years. He helped make the show very highly rated around the world. Thanks for your service Bill. Ben Cain

  2. A great, honest and wonderful obit for a great, honest and wonderful guy. Bill was a buddy and a respected member of the old WSC cohort. We were classmates at Washington State back in the late fifties. Our careers joined again 14 years later at KOMO, him at his legendary anchor spot and me on the radio side. After retirement we kept in frequent contact and joined efforts in a couple of projects. I will miss Bill…greatly. Thanks again Bob, for doing his memory justice.

  3. I’m shocked and saddened by Bill’s passing. He was a great big brother to me, both at Washington State University and as my co-anchor on KOMO for eight years. Bob Throndson did a wonderful job writing about Bill. He meant so much to so many of us; always a gentleman and supporter.

    1. Nice to hear that you are still around, “Tex.” We are part of a slowly vanishing crowd.

    2. I first met Bill at the lynnwood Rotary air fair. A real Christian gentleman. He and I took a trip to paramount studios to review air fair footage that paramount shot at the air fair in conjunction with the film “officer and the Gentlemen” and before we left Hollywood , Bill admitted he was writing a movie script. Never heard any more about it. Wonder if he ever sold one? But I can tell you this, it was very nice traveling with him as a local celebrity, he got bumped to first class and made sure I was too. Nice guy!

    3. Bill was a prince, pure and simple. We got to know him when he was our County Council representative. We served on the Community Transit Board together and he helped convince me to accept the appointment to the Sound Transit Board. He was honest, straight forward, funny, hard working, thoughtful and committed to his family. He approached his council and CT Board work with the same qualities. He was a privilege to know and to work with.

  4. From a greater distance than the other people who knew Bill as peers and personal friends, I can still attest to the kindness, decency, and humanity of the man. I was a Snohomish County worker who served under his policy guidance and wisdom in transportation. And I know many of my colleagues felt that way. One time I even got to go to Bill’s home in Edmonds and got a taste of his hospitality. A wonderful man and an inspiration.

  5. Sorry to be so late with my comment. I talked to an Edmonds friend recently who asked if I knew Bill Brubaker from my former life working in television broadcasting and if I knew he had passed away. My answers were a definite yes and no. Bill and I – then Melisse Wilcox – graduated in 1960 from WSU. For 15 years at KING, KPIX San Francisco, KIRO and my last, KCTS Seattle. While at the latter I received an ME in media from UW. I left the stressful life of television to marry Rich Laing, a civil engineer for WSDOT, raise 2 wonderful girls and freelance for various publications, including The Longview Daily News as a columnist for 25 years. I now work as a quilt artist and live in Bellingham. Follow me at
    I have many memories of Bill, especially from WSC – classes, work sessions, racing back to my “house” after watching TV – all from hallowed Arts Hall. We didn’t see each other much after graduation but I enjoyed following his fame. Thanks, Bill for the memories. I also send good thoughts to Tex Sandifer and Jim Blossy plus other oldtimers.

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