Businessman's life guided by strong beliefs
Walter Brethauer was a man who could fix just about anything — a car, a major appliance, even a church.
Over the years, the Ross resident repaired ambulances abroad and BMWs at home, founded a local lumber company, and brought a North Side church back from the brink.
Walter J. Brethauer died in Concordia of Fox Chapel, Cheswick, on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, a day before his 93rd birthday.
Born in Troy Hill and a graduate of Perry High School, Mr. Brethauer was a conscientious objector during World War II who volunteered with the American Field Service. He served as an ambulance driver in North Africa, Italy and India, often repairing his vehicle in the middle of nowhere.
Longtime friend Sue Driver recalled how Mr. Brethauer and her late husband, friends since high school, unexpectedly reunited a few years later.
“Neither one knew the other had signed up with the American Field Service, where they both drove ambulances,” said Driver of Franklin Park. “Then they spotted each other one day on a street in Tripoli.”
With a bachelor's degree in forestry from Penn State, Mr. Brethauer returned from the war and worked as a timber estimator and sawmill manager in Alabama.
He and Martha Eayre, his wife of 67 years, married in Pittsburgh in 1946. The couple returned to the South for six years before coming back to this area for good in 1952.
Born into the Lutheran faith, Mr. Brethauer began attending Universalist churches later in life. He joined the Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church in the early 1950s, which proved to be a trying time for the North Side church.
“There were rumors at the time that communists were meeting there, which caused a real schism. A lot of people left, and the church struggled for awhile,” said daughter Jill Brethauer of Gibsonia.
“But he wound up getting more active there, then leading a lot of the services and doing the sermons,” she said. The church, founded in 1906, survived and still plays an active role in the community.
When he closed his company, Brethauer Lumber Co., in 1962, he took a position installing audio/video equipment in area schools and hospitals.
When the family car gave out in 1969, Mr. Brethauer acquired a BMW Model 2002. He became one of the first BMW club members in the United States and taught himself how to repair the German-made car.
“He was a quick learner and a great guy,” said Mr. Brethauer's daughter. “But he had strong beliefs and lived his life accordingly.”
Aside from his wife and daughter, Mr. Brethauer is survived by a son, Charles, and another daughter, Janet Conroy. He was preceded in death by a brother, Louis.
Memorial services are pending. Arrangements are entrusted to Schellhaas Funeral Home and Cremation Services Ltd., Bakerstown. Tributes may be paid at www.schellhaasfh.com. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to AFS Intercultural Programs (International), 71 West 23rd St., 6th Floor, New York, NY 10010 and Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church, 1110 Resaca Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Thomas Olson is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Home price gains slow for 6th-straight month
- Development plan helps Riverhounds Academy girls U15 team become national champs
- Liriano, Pirates beat Giants, inch closer to lead in NL Central
- Starkey: Would one big move kill Pirates’ future?
- Tech giants lead rush for profits in foreign countries
- Pirates inquire about Red Sox LHP Lester
- Steelers offensive linemen looking to build on strong 2013 finish
- Guido: Sujansky heads Plum Hall of Fame class of ’14
- Kittanning Elks turns into museum during Fort Armstrong fest
- McKeesport police arrest teen on gun charges
- Dying trees removed from Ford City park