Edward Joseph Brazill, 85, a retired aerospace engineer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and a founding member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, died Aug. 21 of prostate cancer at Westminster at Lake Ridge, a retirement community in Lake Ridge.
As the father of a son who was found to have schizophrenia, Mr. Brazill became an energetic and outspoken advocate for those suffering from mental illnesses and for their families. In 1975, he became a founding member and president of Pathways, one of the first grass-roots organizations in the country advocating for more effective treatment. The organization also lobbied for more intense efforts to find brain disease causes, cures and methods of prevention; worked to educate the public; and sought to eliminate the stigma of mental illness. The group subsequently changed its name to the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Northern Virginia.
He was a founding member and one of the first board members of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and in 1979 helped organize a NAMI office for the Washington area. He frequently and forcefully reminded public officials that they needed to be more responsive to the needs of those with mental illnesses and mental retardation.
Mr. Brazill was born in Chicago. He enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and graduated from radio operator, radio materiel and special underwater weapons schools. In 1943, he served with the Royal Air Force Coastal Command in Northern Ireland. He also was crew chief for the deployment of the Navy's first homing torpedo, nicknamed Fido.
After his discharge from the Navy, he enrolled at Roanoke College and received a bachelor's degree in physics in 1950. He received a master's degree in physics from Virginia Tech in 1951. He also did graduate work in engineering management through Drexel University's off-campus program in Baltimore from 1957 to 1960.
After working for Standard Register Co. in Dayton, Ohio, and Bendix Corp. in Cincinnati in the early 1950s, he became the program manager for research in statistics, quality control and reliability at Baltimore-based Martin Co.
He joined NASA's technical and professional staff at the Office of Manned Space Flight in 1963. His duties included working as program manager for applications of tethers in space and doing research leading to flight demonstrations of advanced technology on the space shuttle. He retired in 1990.
In addition to his work with NAMI, Mr. Brazill was a volunteer for a number of organizations working with those experiencing mentally illness, including Pathway Homes Inc., Fairfax Opportunities Unlimited and the Personal Support Network. He served as chairman of the Coalition for Mentally Disabled Citizens of Northern Virginia from 1988 to 1996.
His first wife, Mildred A. Brazill, died in 1974.
Survivors include his wife of 27 years, Vivian LeForge Brazill of Lake Ridge; two children from his first marriage, Judith Marguerite Maiden of Boston and Joseph J. "Jerry" Brazill of Falls Church; two stepchildren from his second marriage, Jean LeForge of Kitchener, Ontario, and Joseph E. LeForge of Union Grove, N.C.; two granddaughters; and three great-granddaughters.