HomeHampton TimesThunderbird Lanes owner Elaine Brumberg passes away

Thunderbird Lanes owner Elaine Brumberg passes away

The great-grandmother brought joy to others through special needs bowling and visits to sick children

Lasting legacy: Elaine Brumberg, owner of Warminster’s Thunderbird Lanes, recently passed away. She was a force to be reckoned with in the bowling industry as one of the few older females to own a center. Source: Lee Shelly

In February 2020, The Times introduced its readers to Elaine Brumberg, a soon-to-be 80-year-old who had one mission in life – to bring smiles to others.

Not only did the owner of Warminster’s Thunderbird Lanes host special needs bowling every Saturday, she also regularly donned a bright pink fairy godmother costume and traveled to local hospitals to visit sick children.

Therefore, it was a sad day for the community on April 17, when Brumberg passed away. Loved ones gathered for a funeral service on April 20 at Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks Suburban North Chapel in Southampton, and a graveside ceremony afterward at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Trevose. She leaves behind four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Many are grieving the loss of Brumberg, an energetic force to be reckoned with at Thunderbird Lanes.

One patron said, “Elaine was a wonderful lady. She always took the time to chat with us at the bowling alley.” Another said, “I have bowled at Thunderbird over 40 years and appreciated all she did to help others. I recall one of my last conversations with her this past fall where I thanked her for persevering through COVID and allowing for the Tuesday night men’s league to return once again for fun and friendship.”

Brumberg made history in the male-dominated bowling industry as one of the few older women to own an alley. When her husband Norman, who owned five area bowling centers, passed away after battling Parkinson’s and dementia, his partner sold all but the Warminster location. Refusing to let Norman’s legacy die with him, she bought it and completely revamped the space in her late 70s.

During our 2020 interview, Brumberg said, “This is amazing because women don’t own bowling centers. They just don’t. It’s rare and I’m very happy that I did what I did. When I bought out the business, my kids, they sent me a certified FedEx letter, “Dear Mom, we think you’re crazy. At your age, why are you doing this?’ I wanted to do something I’d always been active in. I just feel like I’ve reached my calling.”

Prior to taking on Thunderbird Lanes, Brumberg helped Norman out on a part-time basis while focusing on a career in beauty. After serving as a model in her 30s, she became a makeup artist and, eventually, the author of three bestselling books. The first, Save Your Money, Save Your Face, was written while working as a beauty consultant for a dermatologist. This, along with its follow-ups Take Care of Your Skin and Ageless, What Every Woman Needs to Know to Look Good & Feel Great, aims to empower middle-aged and older women.

Though this was rewarding work, Brumberg’s years spent at the helm of Thunderbird were truly something special. Many patrons, especially Saturday’s special needs leagues, frequented the center every week for nearly two decades. Brumberg, who they could always count on for a hug, made it feel like a second home.

All are welcome: Elaine Brumberg hosted special needs bowling at Thunderbird Lanes every Saturday. Patrons could always count on her for hugs. Source: Thunderbird Lanes

As for her volunteerism at hospitals, the idea came after her friend Jen Su’s son Michael was diagnosed with cancer. Brumberg wanted to bring joy to kids like Michael during such a scary time. Deemed the “Fairy Godmother of Bowling,” she brought a traveling dinosaur bowling center and party favors to young patients. Since they couldn’t go to their friends’ bowling parties or host their own, she delivered the celebration to them.

“I do it like they’re having a birthday party. I bring them hats and leis,” Brumberg said in 2020. “It has brought me so much joy because if you see the smiles on these children’s faces and the parents, these children forget that they may die, God forbid, or that they’re sick. It’s the most incredible feeling that one could possibly get.”

When Brumberg wasn’t operating Thunderbird or visiting hospitals, she could usually be found traveling the country and world. Favorite spots included the Amalfi Coast, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Iceland, China and Tahiti.

She was also a philanthropist who often hosted fundraisers at Thunderbird for various charities, including Big Brothers Big Sisters. Even now, her legacy of generosity lives on. Contributions in her memory can be made to Bowlers to Veterans Link at bvl.org.

One of Brumberg’s wishes expressed to The Times – to “keep waving that magic wand and putting smiles on children’s faces until I’m 90, 95” – didn’t come true. But her kind spirit impacted countless individuals of all ages, which is pretty magical.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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