River Hills -  Robert Brunner spent the night before his death doing what he loved.

He led a three-hour meeting of the River Hills Village Board.

Brunner, 89, died in the early morning hours on Thursday, Sept. 22. He had served on the River Hills Village Board for 28 years, the last 24 of which he served as village president. Brunner has been the face of River Hills for as long as most people can remember.

"Bob was one of those strong, quiet types," River Hills Village Manager Chris Lear said. "He was a great leader in the community and people looked up to him. He had an excellent mind for how government should work."

He has served on the North Shore Fire Department's Board of Directors since the consolidated department was formed in 1995. He was served on the  River Hills Foundation, the Milwaukee County Intergovernmental Cooperation Council and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Commission.

Brunner served one term as a Milwaukee County supervisor in the late 1970s. He served as cabinet secretary and special assistant to former Gov. Lee Dreyfus. He was a long-time director and former president of the Wisconsin Economic Development Association. He was appointed by Gov. Tommy Thompson to the Wisconsin Council on State and Local Relations.

Before entering the public sector, Brunner was an accomplished businessman, holding executive positions in the food industry for 18 years. River Hills Trustee Steve Anderson said Brunner's business acumen was helpful in his work with village issues.

"Bob was dedicated to doing whatever he could to make municipal government stronger and more efficient," Anderson said. "He kind of coaxed government into acting more like the businesses he was successful with."

Although he held many leadership positions, Brunner was not loud or forceful.

Anderson remembers Brunner as a quiet, soft-spoken gentleman who valued consensus in decision-making.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Brunner served in the US Navy for two years during World War II. He received his bachelor's degree from Rutgers University and his master's in business administration from Harvard University. He pursued graduate studies at New York University in auditing, taxation and financial management.

During his time in New York, he was working near Wall Street as a building trades analyst, monitoring the credit-worthiness of large construction companies for Dun & Bradstreet. At the age of 26, he became the president of a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dugan Brothers, a Long Island-based company that operated the country's eighth largest bakery. He then took at job at Thomas J. Lipton Co., where he was the general sales manager for the Good Humor ice cream products. The Brunners moved to Wisconsin when Brunner took a position as president of Holsum Foods in Waukesha.

Brunner was married for 50 year to his wife, Audrey, who died in 2014. They had three children: Christine Colby, Doug Brunner and Karen Robinson. They had six grandchildren. Audrey and Bob were members of the North Shore Congregational Church.

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