Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oscar (52 Ancestors - #8)

This week I knew I’d like to write about Oscar or Martha (Dauwer) Bruynell. I was sorting through all the information I have on my husband’s grandfather when I came across the most detailed obituary I’ve ever read. It was a wonderful story and tribute to Oscar. My husband’s late uncle, Robert N. Bruynell, previous Town Clerk of Braintree, had penned this obit upon Oscar’s death back in 1989. I’ve re-ordered the obituary’s facts, added a few additional dates and a few more facts, but total credit for this story goes to Uncle Bob who so obviously loved his dad Oscar.

Grandpa Oscar in 1971

Oscar William Bruynell was born on July 9th, 1905 in Chelsea, Massachusetts as Oscar William Bruyneel. He was the son of Belgian immigrants Casmir Bruyneel and Emelie A. VanCouwenberghe. Casmir was a cigar maker and Emelie worked for a time as a chocolate dipper in a candy factory. Casmir and Emelie went their separate ways when Oscar was but five. After Casmir left, Emelie left Chelsea and Oscar grew up in South Boston and stayed there until he moved to Braintree, Massachusetts in 1969.

In his younger days, Oscar, was an active athlete and was especially good at track. He ran track in high school. His cousin John Stephan, who was a few years younger than Oscar, said Oscar was sometimes required to babysit for him. The two of them liked the open streetcars operated by the Boston Elevated Railway and made several trips to Lake Street in Newton to board the open cars for Norumbega Park.

Oscar graduated from Boston High School of Commerce and worked as an electrician at the Fore River Ship Yard in Quincy, MA and at an aircraft plant in Baltimore. During WWII he also did electrical work for the Mobeco Sign Company of Watertown. Because of his earlier training he was able to take care of minor electrical chores around his home. One of his memorable earlier jobs was installing sound systems in movie theatres when “talkies” came in! Oscar worked as a collector at the MBTA Red Line stations for several years retiring in 1970, before the Red Line was extended to the South Shore.

He loved to putter in his kitchen according to his son Bob. Oscar was an excellent cook. In fact, he and John Stephan, at one time, operated boarding houses on Cape Cod for civilian workers at Fort Devens. They provided their meals and packed them a lunch to take on the job each day.

Oscar married the love of his life, Martha Dauwer, on a cold fall day, November 15, 1924. It was at this time that Oscar legally changed his name from Bruyneel to Bruynell. Together they had five children, Bob, Kenneth, William, Shirley and Marjorie. William died in 1928 as a baby. Sadly, Martha died shortly thereafter leaving Oscar widowed when their oldest was 7 years old. After these two losses, Oscar’s main concern for the rest of his life was to keep his family as close together, despite the fact that they were all sent to live with different relatives so Oscar could make a living. Thankfully Oscar’s grandmother, Wilhelmina (Feller) VanCouwenberghe helped keep his family together.

Wilhemina and Grandpa
Obviously there were rough times for the family during the Great Depression when Oscar was on Welfare and had to line up to receive milk and other good distributed by the U.S. Government. Thankfully there were even more good times and the benefit of a close family. Oscar often took his youngsters fishing at Head House Pier and on their way home they would stop for french fries or soda at Kelly’s Landing or Joe’s Spa or maybe drop in at Stahl’s, a South Boston icecream and candy shoppe. Oscar’s hobby really was watching his children grow up. He often said how proud he was that all four grew up without causing problems.

Oscar spent a lot of time around boats and fishing with his cousin John. Once he retired he enjoyed deep sea fishing and sometimes went out of Boston or Plymouth on boats which provided gear needed to go after flounder or other fish.

Oscar never remarried after Martha’s death, but he found a nice friend in Annie Pitts. He and Annie would often attend family events together. They were a very sweet couple and Oscar always had a smile on his face when they were together!

Grandpa Oscar and Agnes Moloney
Also after his retirement he enjoyed going to the races at Raynham/Taunton Dog Track with his daughter, Marjorie (Conroy) who was a librarian at Tuft’s Library in Weymouth. Saturday night brought him poker games which were a regular favorite feature of his later life when he and a half a dozen of his friends formed an informal club and rotated the game amongst their homes.

Oscar enjoyed occasional visits to Fenway Park and one of these games inclulded Carl Yastrzemski’s next-to-last game. Oscar, Leo and Bob said that was an emotional game for all of them. In later life he enjoyed watching the Red Sox on television if the game didn’ t start too late! He would say that the day games were fine but he would fall asleep during the late night contests! Oscar was also a fan of television quiz shows.

Sunday morning often saw him appearing at his son Bob’s house with the newspaper to visit the grand children while sharing coffee and donuts.

Oscar was described as a quiet man who helped people when he could. He was a practical joker as well when he used to tell everybody that he had 14 grandchildren and 18 great grandchilldren with two more on the way!

Oscar William Bruynell, 83, of East Braintree, a retired electrician and retired MBTA collector died on June 21st, 1989 at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth.

Original Obituary written by Uncle Bob about his Father Oscar 

Note: If Oscar was alive today, I’d ask him more about the boarding house that he and his cousin John ran down the Cape. This was something I found interesting.

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