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Longtime residents enjoy seeing community grow: Brunswick at 50
Published: Monday, November 29, 2010, 9:18 AM
By 'Sam' Boyer, Sun News
One of a series on the early days and development of Brunswick and Brunswick Township, celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year.
View full sizeLen and Mary Bouman, married for 46 years, can trace their respective families' history in Brunswick back to the early 1950s.
When Mary Bouman moved to West 130th Street in Brunswick, Pine Hills golf course hadn’t been created and what is now Colony Park was just a farm. She actually lived in Brunswick a couple of times as a youngster. Her family was living in Valley City when her dad walked out. Her mother moved them to Pearl Road to a home owned by John Dinda in 1954. Mary was in the fourth grade.
Her mother had never worked and had never handled family finances. “She was a real June Cleaver. She never even paid the paper boy,” Mary said. “It was very hard to come from that to supporting a family.”
Her mom would become one of the most famous names in Brunswick in the 1950s and early 1960s. She was “Miss Jane” Berlo, the town’s kindergarten teacher before there was public kindergarten. Every young family knew Miss Jane. She went back to college and earned her bachelor’s degree and advanced degrees and taught special education for many years and retired; then went to Westfield Companies and retired. She died in 1990.
Len’s family, including four young boys, moved to the third house on Lakewood Ave. in 1952. It was built by Alwin Wolff. There was no Catholic school in Brunswick, so he went to St. Joseph’s in Strongsville (where they family also went to church) and then came to Brunswick High in the ninth grade. He remembers people hunting in the property surrounding the homes.
Although he didn’t go to school here, Len had lots of friends in the area and participated in Little League and swimming at Sleepy Hollow pool.
Both the elementary and high schools were in the center of town as they grew up. What is now Visintainer Middle School was the elementary school and Edwards was the high school. Some classes had to be held in the old town hall as people began moving in during the early boom.
Both Mary and Len remember Maude Edwards, principal of the high school, as a wonderful teacher. “If you got a bad grade on a report card, she wanted you to explain why,” Len said from personal experience. “The personal contact she had made a difference to a student. And I was far behind, coming from a parochial to public school.”
Brunswick High School Latin class is where Len first met Mary. They started talking in their sophomore year and never dated until their junior year. “I wasn’t allowed to get into a car with a boy until I was 16,” Mary said. ”He’d come over and help mom so he could be around.”
Len went to the Navy five days after graduating from high school. He was a corpsman and was luckily stateside during the Vietnam war. Mary went to college for a year and worked for a year.
The Boumans dated for five years and have been married for 46. The big day was her 20th birthday and Len never forgets it — it’s Valentine’s Day.
They have three children, Barb Bowers, Jill Cipullo and Kristen Owens. They have four grandchildren and their grandson reminds Len of himself. “I was a frisky little kid in elementary school — he’s the same way,” he said. They have one great-grandchild, as well. “We do babysit, but it pretty well takes both of us to do it.”
Len, who grew up in an all-boy family, ended up having all girls – three of them in high school at one time as well as a foreign exchange student from Panama. He was really outnumbered. “He was a registered Girl Scout for years,” Mary added.
After Len left the Navy, he worked for Union Commerce Bank and was an assistant manager but not making a lot of money for his growing family. Mary was pregnant with their second child. He heard that Brunswick was offering a test for police officers and the starting salary was $1,000 a year higher than what he was earning at the bank. His salary was $6,200 — “big money” for them at the time.
Clayton Crook was police chief and some of his fellow officers were Gerald Geringer, John Stukbauer, Richard Natterer and Joe Patera. They all served a long time together and watched the department grow along with the population. There were 10 police officers and they had to take 120 hours of special schooling (now it’s 600). The six men who started with him were among the first that had to be certified.
Len then joined the Coast Guard Reserves (an extra $125 a month) and would become a firearms instructor. He was called to active duty at age 46 for Operation Desert Storm. He had to take a furlough from the police department. In those six months, he re-qualified for GI benefits Mary and the kids were barely making it. “Tom Miller fought for compensation for those of us who were called up,” he remembered.
Mary also worked when she could. She worked for the school district starting in 1978. She had to take time of when her mother was ill and took a voluntary layoff when the district was in serious financial trouble. She returned for the second time, working for 17 years at the high school and retired in 2006 as secretary to the athletic director.
While she now does quilting, including handbags she and a friend sell at craft fairs, her health hasn’t been the best. She’s had two strokes and a heart attack.
Len is extremely active in the VFW and does cowboy re-enactments and still teaches firearms and works in Mayor’s Court.
They both like the fact that so many people who grew up here came back to raise their own families. The admit, they love reconnecting with old friends and classmates and continue to be two of the most recognizable residents of Brunswick.