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Former council president was woman of many trades

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Sonya Vernau, 79, former Brentwood council president and civic leader, died Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

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By Brian Bowling

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 8:30 p.m.

Sonya Klein Vernau volunteered her time with so many organizations that listing them all would be impossible, her friends and family said.

With a mind for details, a love of people and knack for organizing, she was a natural leader who was always planning ahead, said her daughter, Sondra Fisher of Williamsport.

“She was pretty amazing,” she said. “That's a good word for my mother, amazing.”

Sonya Klein Vernau of Bethel Park died on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013. She was 79.

She grew up in Carrick, and Carrick High School in 2011 named her one of its distinguished alumni.

She graduated from Chatham College in 1956 with a degree in nursing and worked as a registered nurse for Allegheny General Hospital from 1956 until about 1970, Fisher said.

When she got married, she and her husband moved to Brentwood and lived there until 2002, when they moved to Bethel Park. She was a lifelong member of Birmingham United Church of Christ

Voters elected Mrs. Vernau to three terms on the Brentwood Council from 1986 to 1994. She served as president for four of those years.

“She was a really nice person,” said Mary Lou Garase, administrative assistant of the borough. “She was always very helpful to everyone.”

Fisher said her mother took an active interest in her and her two brothers' activities when they were growing up and loved helping at any community event in which she could keep in touch with people.

She didn't like to eat alone and didn't like to cook, so when her children moved out and started calling home, “you would always get the voice message because she was always out to dinner with friends,” Fisher said.

“She was an organizer,” said Jane Haney, 85, a former Brentwood resident now living in State College. “She could organize anything from a party to a wonderful trip.”

Mrs. Vernau used her nursing skills later in life to help Brentwood provide free immunization shots for children.

“Sonya arranged that,” said Lorraine Russ, 82, of Brentwood, another registered nurse.

Mrs. Vernau was the one who kept the crowd informed and generally kept things running, she said.

“She was like a head nurse,” Russ said, laughing.

In addition to her daughter, Sondra, Mrs. Vernau is survived by her sister, Mari Alyce Zatman of San Francisco; her son, Bill Vernau of Columbia, S.C.; and seven grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Walter M. Vernau, her son, Jeffrey Vernau, and her brother, Albert William Klein.

Friends will be received from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to noon Thursday in John F. Slater Funeral Home, 4201 Brownsville Road, Brentwood. Funeral services will be held there at noon Thursday.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Total Trib Media. Contact him at 412-325-4301 or




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