The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 
By MARY LEGRAND
FRAN COLLIN PHOTO

The late Carl Breuninger in 2003, from Bonni Brodnick’s “Pound Ridge Past: Remembrances of Our Townsfolk.”

 

Many Pound Ridgers are mourning the death of longtime resident Carl Breuninger, who died Wednesday, Nov. 21 at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco a week after suffering a stroke. Mr. Breuninger, 84, took ill while at work at the Pound Ridge Cemetery, which he cared for daily as part of his longtime duty as town cemeteries commissioner. Mr. Breuninger was found lying on the ground by a woman visiting a gravesite and was immediately tended to by members of the police and fire departments and ambulance corps.

Born Oct. 5, 1928, to Carl L. and Lillian Bahr Breuninger, Mr. Breuninger lived his entire life in the same house in Pound Ridge, with the exception of two years of military service.

Speaking by telephone from his home near Seattle, Mr. Breuniger’s brother William said his sibling was “very much a small-town, hometown kind of guy. Our dad was born in Pound Ridge, and so a lot of that history was passed on to Carl from our father. Living in Pound Ridge was just a comfortable fit for Carl. He was not a person who easily made decisions at any time in his life.”

Carl Breuninger attended the one-room schoolhouse in the Pound Ridge hamlet for his first six years of elementary schooling, said William Breuninger, adding, “We didn’t have kindergarten at the time, and that one-room schoolhouse is currently the Pound Ridge Library. Then Carl transitioned to Pound Ridge Elementary School, which ran through eighth grade at the time, before graduating from Katonah High School in 1945.” After high school Mr. Breuninger attended the Roosevelt Aviation School, his brother said, earning licenses in aircraft and airplane engine maintenance. “He never worked in that capacity, but the mechanical experience was helpful for him because he was always working with tractors, bulldozers” and other heavy equipment, William Breuninger said.

“There were not a lot of activities for young people to be involved in in Pound Ridge when the population was 900, but scouting was available and Carl got into that,” William Breuninger said. “I followed him two years later, and we were both awarded the Eagle Scout badge. That was just the start of it for Carl, who earned the Pound Ridge troop’s first Eagle Scout badge and later served for decades in troop and council leadership.”

Carl Breuninger “served between October 1950 and October 1952 in the U.S. Army, doing his compulsory service during the Korean Conflict,” William Breuninger said. “He was assigned surveying work. Then he had a mega-decade career as a bulldozer contractor and worked with our younger brother Ron, who had a loader/forklift combination backhoe, and my dad, who owned a Caterpillar diesel bulldozer.”

William Breuninger said his brother was “perfectly suited” for his work as Pound Ridge cemeteries commissioner, a compliment also paid this week by town supervisor Gary Warshauer.

“I’m not unique in saying this, but Carl loved to talk and tell stories,” Mr. Warshauer said, chuckling. “Carl always had a story to tell about the town, and he certainly knew every gravestone, tree, rock and shrub in the cemetery. He would check the cemetery every day, paying particular attention to the older gravestones.”

Having lived through the Depression, Mr. Breuninger “spent money very wisely and was very frugal when he would come to us asking for something to be done at the cemetery,” Mr. Warshauer said. “Now, when it comes to Carl’s own funeral, we have to make the arrangements, and we’re somewhat at a loss as to what to do. I can still hear him saying to me at one point, ‘Gary, don’t mess up the cemetery when I’m gone. We have regulations.’”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete, with William Breuninger and other family members indicating that a service will be held in Pound Ridge sometime in 2013. According to Carl Breuninger’s wishes, his remains were cremated.

In addition to his brother William, Mr. Breuninger is survived by his other brother, Ronald, also of Washington state, and a number of other family members.

Steve Eidman, Pound Ridge Fire Department chief, was among those who cared for his fellow department member when he was found ill in the cemetery. Carl Breuninger, who joined the Pound Ridge Volunteer Fire Department in 1947, was a member of the department for 65 years. Mr. Eidam said it was “extremely unlikely, if not impossible” for the department to ever have another 65-year member.

“Carl was guaranteed to be one of my top responders every year,” Mr. Eidam said. “I always wished I had 20 of him. Firefighting was in his blood; his father was a founding member of the department back in 1933, so Carl was raised around the fire service.”

Mr. Eidam said Mr. Breuninger’s active firefighting days ended at least 25 years ago, but he remained a valued member of the department through his involvement with the fire police. “Fire police is one of the support functions so important to what we do, both at a fire scene and at accidents,” Mr. Eidam said. “Traffic patrol is a major priority and helps us do what we do safely, and members of the fire police are sworn peace officers as well. They’ve got the experience to know what’s going on around them, and Carl’s service was invaluable.”

“We were Carl’s family here in the end,” Mr. Eidam said of the firefighters. “We were always asking him questions about how things used to be. Any time we wanted to know something about what things were like years ago, Carl was our go-to guy. He used to come down all the time and use the television, take food home to feed the raccoons. Carl was a big Nascar fan, and he would watch the Speed channel here all the time.”

Mr. Eidam said fire department members “loved being Carl’s family, and we tried to do our best taking care of him while he was in the hospital,” visiting him daily and holding his hand.

In an interview with Pound Ridge town historian Steve O’Brien, Mr. Breuninger recalled the early days of the fire department, which was initially headquartered in back of what was then Schelling’s Market, now Samuel Parker’s. “Originally 75 percent of the alerts came by phone,” Mr. Breuninger said. “That wasn’t so effective as a lot of men would be working out on their properties. Or you’d see a fire. There were a lot less trees back then and you could see long distances.”

Mr. Breuninger told Mr. O’Brien that his most memorable experience with the fire department happened when he was 5 or 6 years old, and “they delivered the first fire truck. I was with my father and some other guys, and I think it was spring or summer of 1934.”

A fire department memorial with photos of Mr. Breuninger may be found at poundridgefire.com.

Both Mr. Warshauer and town attorney James Sullivan, a longtime neighbor of Mr. Breuninger, called him a community icon. “There are few like him in the world, and we’ve certainly lost someone who was uniquely a Pound Ridger,” Mr. Warshauer said. “He lived truly as he appreciated the land, appreciated the simpler things of life and was a volunteer true and true.

“The thing about Carl is that he’s always been there,” Mr. Warshauer continued. “It’s hard to describe someone like that other than that he was so involved in the things he did. He did those activities 100 percent and they were important to him, and because they were important to him, they were important to the community. I actually expect to still see him around town.”

“During the last conversation Carl and I had we stood out on Route 172 together,” Mr. Sullivan said. “It was after the storm, and he and I chatted for about 20 minutes. I told him that unlike most years, we wouldn’t be home for Thanksgiving, which he usually came to our house for, but I promised him an apple pie. Then, of course, inside of a week he had the stroke. I went to see him at the hospital three or four times, but he never really gained any level of consciousness.”

Mr. Sullivan and his wife Jody bought their house from Mr. Breuninger’s father and his mother, who was raised there. “So for Carl, our property was always ‘Grandpa’s property,’” Mr. Sullivan said. “In the last 10 or 12 years of Carl’s life, after his mother passed on, he would come up for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July. Our kids were older then and would pick Carl’s brain about the history of this or that, what Pound Ridge was like in the 1940s. Carl could talk about this for hours, and the older our kids got, the more they got hooked into him and appreciated the treasure of what this guy had in his head. He wasn’t just this old man who dressed in hand-me-down clothes but a really engaging guy. If you took the time — and sometimes it wasn’t easy — you would learn a lot from Carl.”

Mr. Sullivan continued reminiscing about Mr. Breuninger. “The idea of joking about Carl stopping in the middle of the road to grab a twig, yeah, that’s what he did, and it’s that kind of personality that’s going to be missed in this town,” he said. “Carl was one of a handful of folks left who are links to Pound Ridge before it became the home of the rich and famous, when it was a simple farming community. Carl’s dad was a tough old American of German heritage, one of the first guys to serve on the zoning board. Those guys created the zoning we still have in town, not newcomers like me or you, but the old ‘woodchucks,’ as they were known. Looking back, what they did is the saving grace for our town, why it’s the way it is, and Carl continued that tradition of service.”

In October 2003, Mr. Breuninger conducted an extensive interview with Pound Ridger Bonni Brodnick for her book, “Pound Ridge Past: Remembrances of Our Townsfolk.”

“In the 1930s it wasn’t unusual to see a horse and buggy go by,” he said. “Most all the side roads were sand and gravel, and didn’t get much attention right away because there wasn’t much traffic. There were also more hills visible than there are today. In some of the old pictures that go back to the 1920s and 1930s, you can look a great distance, and just see meadows, stone wall fences, and an occasional tree. Today, if you go back to the same location where the pictures were taken, you can’t see anything but trees.”

Mr. Breuninger told Ms. Brodnick that he “never had any real desire to leave Pound Ridge — not a strong yes or a strong no — when I was young and growing up. Many times I went away to school or camp, but I was always glad to come back. Every time you’re away, you make comparisons to where you grew up, and the longer you grew up somewhere, the more it’s your home. It’s hard to say someplace else would be so much better than Pound Ridge.”


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December 7, 2012

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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Carl Breuninger, quintessential Pound Ridger, dies at 84