Schenectady WWII veteran reaches century mark
SCHENECTADY COUNTY Eugene Brunelle has always been a busy guy.
He’s spent time as a mechanic, machinist, heavy duty equipment operator, welder, bridge builder, road builder and home builder.
He’s slowed down a bit over the years, but even now, at age 100, he likes to tinker with mechanical things, read and do yard work.
In September, he celebrated a century of life with not just one birthday party, but two.
The first was hosted by the Hildebrand-Davis VFW Post 1895 in Rotterdam, where members honored Brunelle for his 26 years in the Army.
The second party was held at the Schenectady home of his daughter, Pat Krawczak, where 65 or 70 people gathered to wish Brunelle well.
A lifelong Schenectady resident, Brunelle married the late Genevieve Lukaszyn in 1937.
He worked as a machinist at General Electric until he was drafted, then served in the 361st Engineer Regiment Special Services Unit Headquarters Company during WWII.
He served in both the Asiatic and Pacific campaigns and earned several medals, along with a Thank You America Freedom Team Salute certificate of appreciation and lapel pin from the French Embassy, according to Krawczak.
He was discharged in 1946 and proceeded to join the 464th Engineer Combat Battalion Reserves.
Downplays his service
Although he was honored for his accomplishments while in the military, Brunelle, a retired master sergeant, isn’t one to go on about things like that.
“He downplays everything. I really don’t know too much,” said Krawczak.
Brunelle has a hard time hearing, so interviewing him on the phone wasn’t possible. His daughter relayed the details of his time in the service as best she could.
“He served in the reconstruction,” she said. “He was in the motor pool division and they built bridges and roads in France; they repaired things.”
During the war, he was a mechanic and heavy duty equipment operator, had an M1 rifle marksmanship qualification and did electric arc and settling welding.
After his time in the service, he returned to work at GE until his retirement in 1970.
Brunelle also built several houses, including his own, on the street where he still lives.
“We used to call him a Jack of all trades and a master of none, because there wasn’t anything that man couldn’t do,” Krawczak said. “He could do electrical, he could do plumbing, he could install furnaces, he could do carpentry. He was a self-made tradesman.”
Brunelle was also an avid outdoors man.
His granddaughter, Dawn Emken of Schenectady, recalled time spent at his camp on Cossayuna Lake in Argyle.
“He tried to teach me how to waterski when I was around 12. We discovered I was not very good at it,” she recounted. “When he was 70, I taught him how to downhill ski. He wasn’t very good at that either.”
Emken reminisced about fishing with her grandfather and going on camping trips with him.
“Now that I’m older, what do we do? We go camping, fishing and hiking and that’s what I did with my kids, too,” she said. “I guess it just trickles down from one generation to the next.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040 or email@example.com.