OBITUARY: Philip Bregstone – family, music and community

OBITUARY • SUSAN KATZ MILLER

Takoma Park resident Philip Bregstone, age 54, died on July 25, after a heroic two-year battle with cancer, filled with many moments of deep appreciation for life and love. He was known for his devotion to family, his success as an entrepreneur, and for his twin passions for music and community.

A native of Maryland, Philip spent a formative year as a boy in London in 1970, immersed in the pop music and Mod scene there, and often returned to London. He was a lifelong learner, earning a degree in music from Syracuse University, followed by two years in the Great Books program at St. John’s College in Sante Fe, and topped off with another year in the National Training Lab at American University, studying organizational development.

Philip’s desire to create community drew him to Colorado, where he and his family lived for ten years in the Nyland co-housing community. There he honed his wood-working skills, founded the Nyland Singers, and created neighborhood basement bands as an integral part of community-building. Philip embraced living on the land, and led the effort to raise chickens and goats at Nyland.

While in Colorado, he also developed a novel model for a flexible window-washing business, “Dr. Glass,” in order to maximize his time for family, friends, music, and community service. He then helped others throughout the country, and internationally, to succeed at the Dr. Glass model, spinning off ten franchises. His business was featured in Kiplinger’s Magazine, the Washington Post, USA Today, and CNN. “A lot of my friends are doctors and lawyers. They work hard, but they don’t get to see their kids,” Philip told a reporter in 1998. “I get to spend hours with my children. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Jonah, Julian, Philip, Roberta

Philip Bregstone with his wife Roberta Pracher and sons Jonah and Julian Bregstone.

After moving his family to Takoma Park in 2004, Philip continued to use his flexible time to be a great father and citizen: to volunteer in the public schools, coach the Teal team through nine seasons of Takoma Youth soccer, launch a men’s group, and help at the “Meals on Wheels” program for the homebound.

But it was his passion for music, both composition and collaboration, that led to many of his finest community projects. Philip was known for his irrepressible musical energy, for the breadth and depth of his musical knowledge and ability, and for exacting high standards that brought out the best work in other musicians. He taught piano and guitar, and sang with the National Philharmonic Chorale at Strathmore and at the National Cathedral. Every year, he transformed a motley crew of neighbors and friends into Christmas carolers singing four-part harmonies, in order to perform for the seniors at Springvale Terrace and around town.

Philip organized and produced the local teen band Bad Sauce, featuring sons Puck and Julian Bregstone, and played the Takoma Park Folk Festival. Last year, he organized an adult band with his sons on horns and wife Roberta on back-up vocals, and played a McGinty’s fundraiser for the Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington. And always, through the years, he organized barbecues and potlucks for friends and neighbors with musical performances in his basement studio, and singing around the fire pit. His “Let’s put on a show!” dynamism, his musical mentoring, and his ability to make wonderful moments happen all around him, will be remembered and missed in many overlapping communities.

Philip Bregstone

Philip Bregstone.

He is survived by Roberta Pracher, his wife of 22 years; son Jonah “Puck” Bregstone, a student at Oberlin College; son Julian Bregstone, a junior at Blair High School; brother Gary Davis of Los Angeles, and father Jack Davis of Potomac.

A memorial service, followed by barbecue, will be held at Christ Congregational Church on Colesville Road at 3pm on Friday, August 8th.

Donations in memory of Philip can be made to Meals on Wheels of Takoma Park, or to the Interfaith Families Project Bereavement Fund.

About the Author

Susan Katz Miller
Award-winning journalist Susan Katz Miller is the author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family."