Monday, May 21, 2018
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Administrator left school at 17 to train for war

Burnell O. Brandeberry, 1926-2013




Burnell O. Brandeberry, 86, a Toledo resident and a longtime educator who served on the board of trustees of Indiana’s Huntington College, now Huntington University, died on Friday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg.

The cause of death was Parkinson’s disease, said his son, Gary Brandeberry.

Mr. Brandeberry, who traced his family history to the Revolutionary War era, was born in Hudson, Mich., on July 3, 1926.

He attended school in Waldron, Mich., before his family moved to Huntington, Ind.

He was 9 when his father, Chester Brandeberry, was killed by a train in 1939 while driving a truck.

His father was a farmer who also took truck-driving jobs to support his family during the Depression, his son Gary said.

His mother, Hazel, moved her family to Huntington, where she attended Huntington College.

After receiving her degree, the family moved to northwestern Fulton County, where he attended the former Chesterfield Township High School.

He left a semester before graduation, at age 17, to enlist in the Army Air Corps during World War II, his son said.

“He and his best friend enlisted in the Air Corps, where he trained as a gunner on a B-29 bomber,” his son said. “He was fully trained and ready to ship out.”

The war ended before he saw combat.

After his discharge, he returned to Huntington, where he received a bachelor’s degree in education from Huntington College in 1950.

His first teaching job was in Dalton City, Ill., where he taught math and science and coached, his son said.

He returned to Fulton County in 1959, teaching in several township schools before becoming a principal at Chesterfield High School, his alma mater.

In 1959, after receiving a master’s in education administration from Bowling Green State University.

He moved to Toledo to become an administrator with Washington Local Schools, where he was employed until taking a disability retirement in the late 1970s, his son said.

“As a career educator, my father never made more than $20,000 a year,” his son said.

Sam Burnett, a Washington Local principal concurrently with Mr. Brandeberry, considered his colleague “a very good friend” as well as a collaborator on projects, particularly reading, over a 20-year span.

“In our era, reading was fundamental, and we would often talk about what the role [of the teacher] would be in the first, second, and third grades,” Mr. Burnett said.

“We had a common understanding of both classroom management and of what was important for the students,” said Mr. Burnett, whose 42 years with Washington Local included teaching, administration, and serving as a school board member and board president.

In 1962, Mr. Brandeberry was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was 39 and was told he had a 5 percent chance of living.

The cancer and colon were removed, leaving him with a permanent colostomy.

“He really beat the odds” and continued to live a full life, his son said.

Mr. Brandeberry was principal at Horace Mann, Trilby, and Hopewell elementary schools, all of which have since closed.

In 1972, while principal at Trilby, he was named to a three-year term as trustee of Huntington College, a liberal arts college affiliated with the United Brethren Church. He served until 1984.

He was active with the Harvest Lane United Brethren Church for 38 years and as a 16-year member of Westgate Chapel, where he served as deacon.

A man of faith, in 1978 he joined Gideon’s International, an interdenominational association that distributes Bibles as part of its worldwide missionary work.

“My parents were always very religious,” son Gary said.

After Mr. Brandeberry retired, he and his wife bought a travel trailer and visited parts of the southern United States in search of warmer climates.

The couple settled on San Juan, Texas, near the Mexican border, where they spent 23 winters and tended citrus trees.

During their travels, he used trips to the East Coast to research his family’s roots, taking photos of grave sites and compiling information that determined that his family originally came to the United States from Germany and served in the Continental Army.

As a result, Mr. Brandeberry became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, his son said.

Surviving are his wife of 67 years, Ardith; sons, Gary and Gene; daughters, Kathy Thomas and Karen Brandeberry McClain; six grandchildren; a step-grandson, and 10 great-grandchildren.

Visitation is 2 to 8 p.m. today at Walker Funeral Home. The funeral is 11 a.m. Tuesday at Westgate Chapel, followed by a graveside service at 3 p.m. at Waldron Cemetery, Waldron, Mich.

The family suggests tributes to Gideon’s International, Westgate Chapel, or Huntington University.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: or 419-724-6050.

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