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Anabel Brunermer, force behind creation of county 911 system, dies

Butler County Commissioners Leslie Osche, right, and Kim Geyer, center, honor Anabel Brunermer, left, on Oct. 15, 2021, for helping to bring 911 services to Butler County 51 years ago. Butler Eagle File Photo

A figure whose lifesaving leadership was the driving force behind the creation of the county’s emergency communications system died Monday.

Anabel Brunermer was 95 years old when she died at Sunnyview Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Butler.

Brunermer served as president of GFWC Intermediate League in 1969. That year she founded a groundbreaking system for emergency communications.

The idea, which served as a model for similar systems throughout Pennsylvania and the United States, drew on inspiration from a Reader’s Digest article Brunermer read at that time. She presented this approach to a new system to Arthur Megan, then mayor of Butler, who helped develop it into a system that first relied on a single console and a single tape recorder.

That 9-1-1 service helped firefighters, police and emergency medical crews respond faster and more efficiently to calls, Steve Bicehouse said during the 2021 Community Champion Luncheon honoring the half-century of innovative, lifesaving work at the county's 911 center.

The 911 system became available June 1, 1969, to those in the Butler and Meridian telephone exchanges. By 1976, 33 of the county's 34 fire departments and 28 municipal police agencies could be dispatched via 911.

In 1985, all residents of the county were able to access the system.

A matriarch of volunteerism

Cindy Sweeney, who also is a former GFWC Intermediate League president, first worked with Brunermer when volunteering with Butler Junior Women’s Club in 1986.

“That’s when we met a lot of the women from the other clubs, and she just took us under her wing,” she said.“‘What can I do to help?’ ‘What do you need to know?’”

“We would walk at the mall sometimes, and it was so difficult to walk with Anabel because she kept getting stopped to talk to people,” Sweeney said. “If we went to other places in Pittsburgh or Greensburg or anywhere in the tri-state area, we always ran into someone who knew Anabel.

“She was a magnet for good people,” she said. “She was a shining light that made a difference but had fun on the way.”

In addition to volunteering and philanthropy outside the 9-1-1 program, Brunermer also served on the board for several nonprofits. These included the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, Butler County Symphony Association and the Visiting Nurses Association.

A celebrated life

Among awards presented to Brunermer were the 1998 Senior Distinguished Service Award, MADD Award for outstanding dedication to the community, and the Soroptimist's Woman of Distinction Award in 2004.

County Commissioner Leslie Osche, who knew Brunermer since beginning her career in the nonprofit sector, said she was especially glad the community honored Brunermer for her work at a recent Distinguished Service Awards event.

“She was just an amazing lady,” Osche said. “And I’m really, really, really grateful that, despite COVID and everything, that we were able to have the anniversary celebration for 9-1-1, that she was able to be there and be a part of that.”

“I’m sad so many leaders like that, leaders in the community, in the last couple of years have passed, and made just an amazing difference for this county,” Osche said. “And it’s hard to watch them go, and we can only hope to leave behind the same types of legacies that people like Anabel did.”

Brunermer is survived by two sons, Jeffrey Brunermer and Kenneth Brunermer.

Arrangements include an afternoon visitation from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Thompson-Miller Funeral Home with funeral services at 11 a.m. Monday from the funeral home, 124 E. North St.

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