Carl Nordyke Brownsberger

April 11, 1930 ~ June 9, 2021 (age 91)


Dr. Carl Nordyke Brownsberger, MD, died peacefully at home on Monday, June 8, 2021. His beloved wife of 66 years, the translator Susan Brownsberger, had died in February. 


He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law William and Carolyn Thum Brownsberger of Belmont, MA, his daughter Sarah Brownsberger and son-in-law Hafthor Yngvason of Bellingham, WA, his sister Mary Brownsberger Young of Frederick, MD, five granddaughters and their spouses, Solrun Hafthorsdottir of Reykjavik, Iceland, Rae Brownsberger Miller and her husband Michael Miller of Boulder, CO, Bryndis Hafthorsdottir and her husband Sverrir Kristjansson of San Francisco, CA, Carly Brownsberger McNeil and her husband Daniel McNeil of South Portland, ME, Louise  Brownsberger and her partner Benjamin Soiefer of New York, NY, by four great-grandchildren, Jón Þór Ólafsson, Súsan Klara Ólafsdóttir, Sonja Lillý Ólafsdóttir, and David Miller, and by his beloved sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and cousins.


Carl was born in 1930 in Kodaikanal, India, where his parents, Sidney and Claire Brownsberger, served as medical missionaries. The family moved to Glendale, CA, in 1934. After graduating from Glendale High School, Carl went on to Yale University and Harvard Medical School and served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Korea. In 1962 he began to practice and teach psychiatry at the University of Washington in Seattle.


His wife’s Boston roots tugged and in 1967 the family left the beauties of the Cascades for home turf in Watertown, MA, where several generations enjoyed close ties. Carl directed psychiatric training at Boston City Hospital and then served as Chief of Psychiatry at Newton-Wellesley Hospital from 1974-1980 before devoting his time to private practice. 


Carl was a generous, attentive physician with a deep compassion for all who suffer from mental illness and distress. He adopted a pragmatic approach to psychiatric care, infused with imagination and sympathy. Wit, humor, and friendships sustained him through decades of hard work, as did a family life that included books, chess, fun on the beach in Eastham, MA, and, at his wife’s instigation, ballroom dancing and tango. 


In retirement Carl explored the ethics of end-of-life care and served as Medical Director at the Hospice of the Good Shepherd. He got together with friends in his “Vespers” group to discuss the Big Questions, read prodigiously, and remained a beloved counselor and wise philosopher into his final days.


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