Alvan Bernard "Barney" Brunelle passed away on Friday, November 8, 2013 at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center in Boise following a brief illness. Services will be conducted Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church.|
Barney was born May 2, 1929 in Wallace, Idaho. He was the youngest of five children born to Alvan Henry and Marguerite Haney Brunelle. The family lived in Woodland Park in the Burke Canyon just north of Wallace. Barney attended twelve years of Catholic school in Wallace, graduating from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in 1947.
During his high school years, Barney worked as a deliveryman for Combination Grocery, and managed a U.S. Forest Service fire crew involved in the White Pine blister rust control effort. Barney attended the University of Idaho, graduating with a degree in geological engineering in 1952. He also joined the Air Force ROTC, which led him to joke that he "majored in mining and minored in majoring." Several summers he worked deep underground in the Silver Summit Mine near Kellogg -- drilling and blasting.
Following graduation, Barney entered the United States Air Force. He was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California as a fuel depot officer, and transferred to Mountain Home AFB in 1953.
Settling in Boise, Barney became reacquainted with Beverly Jo Wright, daughter of Calvin E. Wright and Gwendolyn Sathre Wright. They had previously met at the Academy in Wallace and later at the University of Idaho. Bev and Barney were married January 16, 1954 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Boise by Rev. Raymond Peplinski.
After discharge from U.S. Air Force, Barney's growing family lived briefly in Pocatello where he worked for the Idaho State Highway Department, then in Wallace where he was an engineer at Day Mines. In 1957 Barney joined the Bureau of Land Management in Boise as a mining valuation engineer. He spent several years in the field inspecting mining claims throughout Idaho.
By the mid 1960s Barney was a BLM minerals adjudicator. This meant less travel and more time at the desk and in hearings. It also allowed Barney more time for his priority items: community and family. Among the highlights: He coached Optimist football; ran the Sacred Heart School PTA; was appointed by Rev. James Hallissey as the first president of the new Sacred Heart Church Lay Board; chaired the Bishop Kelly Booster Club; and played slow pitch softball. He chaired the early state Catholic 8th grade basketball (Hallissey) tournaments, and played a lot of Bridge with Bev and their many good friends.
Along with other parents, Barney worked on building projects at Sacred Heart School and Bishop Kelly High School. His 1967 VW Bus – "the Crummy" – was an iconic presence at those gatherings and other school events. Barney was noted for efficiently running BK Booster Club meetings, allowing the group to quickly adjourn to the Black Palomino Lounge on Curtis Road for consultation with Rev. James R. Wilson.
Barney was also involved in significant BLM realty work such as Desert Land Entry claims and Recreation and Public Purpose land grants that added to the Idaho State Park system. He also taught at the BLM National Training Center in Phoenix, AZ.
Barney maintained his commitment to military service in the Idaho Air National Guard. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, retiring in 1974.
In 1979 Barney and Beverly relocated to Pocatello with the US Geological Survey. He administered the reclamation and royalty programs overseeing the vast phosphate mines in southeast Idaho. In 1983 the office was merged into the BLM and the Brunelles returned to their Boise home on Meadow Drive. Throughout his Federal Government career, coworkers regarded Barney as a thoughtful, decisive and likable professional. He retired from the BLM January 4, 1985, at the age of 55.
In his retirement years Barney enjoyed traveling with Bev throughout the US and abroad, tending to his nine beloved grandchildren, remodeling every room in the house (some twice), and building decks. He read multiple books including anything by John McPhee; made mixtapes, and researched family genealogy (he was very proud of his French-Canadian and Irish ancestry). Every Christmas meant marathon sessions of Mexican Train dominoes and other games with the grandkids, along with Grampa Barney's unique reading of two traditional poems.
Barney enjoyed writing and created an entertaining collection of short articles based on his life experiences. Many are posted at barneybrunelle.tumblr.com. He served on boards including the Boise US Employees Federal Credit Union, the Crescent Rim Lateral Irrigation District, and the Sacred Heart School Foundation. He remained a strong supporter of Bishop Kelly High and the University of Idaho throughout the years.
Throughout his life he remained intellectually curious, uniquely hilarious, supportive, thoughtful, insightful and giving. Barney was an incredible Dad and Grandfather, with an innate ability to be gentle in what he said, but firm in how he said it. He thoroughly enjoyed watching his children grow up and become whoever and whatever they wanted to be without hindering them with restrictions or criticism. He readily welcomed the friends of his children, and grandchildren, into his home – especially if they accepted the challenge of "quiz questions" from the most current World Almanac. He was proud of his entire family, and his family was equally proud to point to him as the Patriarch.
He is survived by his wife of 59.8 years Beverly, brother John Brunelle of Chicago, Illinois, children Mike (Beatriz Cortabarria) of Charlottesville, VA, Nick (Laurie), Therese (Pat Clifford), Andy (Betsy) and John (JoJo) all of Boise; grand children Kate Hudson (Charles), Jeff (Zoe), Jordan Clifford, Krista, Jone, Jessie, Cassie, Michael and Gwendolyn; brother-in-law Thomas C. Wright; and a full complement of exceptional nieces and nephews from the Brunelle, LaFrenz, and Wright branches. He was preceeded in death by his sisters Loretta LaFrenz, Patsy Brunelle and brother Alvan Thomas Brunelle.
Contributions may be made to the Catholic Schools Foundation of the Sacred Heart, Inc., 811 S Latah, Boise, ID 83705.
Published in Idaho Statesman from Nov. 12 to Nov. 24, 2013