John Brustad

Engineer, veteran, whistler

John Brustad, a Claremont Manor resident, died peacefully on May 1, 2013. He was 93.

Mr. Brustad was born on March 3, 1920 in Minot, North Dakota to John H. Brustad and Anna S. Brustad. His father worked for the Great Northern Railway, running from Saint Paul, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington.

Mr. Brustad received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of North Dakota in 1942. After graduation, he served as a sergeant in the US Army in the Pacific theatre of World War II. Upon being honorably discharged, he earned a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Southern California in 1950.

Mr. Brustad was living in Long Beach, California when he met and fell in love with his neighbor, Kathleen O’Callahan, who was a fellow veteran, having been a member of the WAVES all-woman Navy division. They were married in 1951 and had 4 children, Marianne, Robert, William and John. 

Mr. Brustad worked for General Dynamics, Pomona Division as a missile design engineer from 1960 until his retirement in 1987. Whether at work or at home, Mr. Brustad was known for his upbeat demeanor.

“John was a coworker and a neighbor,” Jim Huff remembered. “I will always think of him as ‘the whistler.’ I liked to go past his office at GD and whistle a couple bars of ‘Old Black Magic.’ He immediately would start whistling that song. Same for any other song.

“I called him ‘injection-lock Brustad’ (electrical engineers will understand that),” Mr. Huff continued. “He was smart as the dickens and a really great guy to work with. It was great knowing you, John. If there is a heaven, St. Peter is hearing ‘Old Black Magic’ as I write this.”

While his job kept him busy, Mr. Brustad always found time for his children. A strong proponent of education, he would pose math problems to his children at night and often introduced a discussion of history at the dinner table. In his spare time, Mr. Brustad enjoyed playing poker and barbecuing, with juicy steak being his specialty. Over the years, he also took a number of backpacking trips with his family in the Sierras, including memorable getaways at Mt. Whitney and Yosemite.

During his retirement years, Mr. Brustad volunteered with the American Red Cross, Reading for the Blind and several other organizations. He was an active member of the University Club of Claremont and golfed on a regular basis.

“At the manor, they pointed out his whistling, and said they really miss his laugh,” Mr. Brustad’s son Bill said. “It would kind of brighten things up when they’d see him coming.”

Mr. Brustad is survived by his 4 children, Marianne Nardella of Moscow, Pennsylvania; Robert Brustad of Fort Collins, Colorado; William Brustad of Perris, California and John Brustad of Dana Point, California. He is also survived by his daughters-in-law, Lorraine Brustad and Vone Brustad; by a son-in-law, Mark Nardella; by 5 grandchildren, Erik Brustad, Heather Brustad, Erin Nardella, Mike Nardella and Robert C. Brustad; by 2 nephews, George Brustad and Harry Beck; and by a niece, Lois Hesse. He was preceded in death by his wife, Kathleen Brustad, in 2008 and by his brother, George A. Brustad, in 1985.




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