Vernon Hills mourns death of longtime recreation supervisor

Updated 4/7/2018 5:47 PM
  • Joseph "Joe" Bruntmyer, former recreation supervisor for the Vernon Hills Park District for 13 years, died Wednesday, April 4.

    Joseph "Joe" Bruntmyer, former recreation supervisor for the Vernon Hills Park District for 13 years, died Wednesday, April 4.

During his 13 years as recreation supervisor for the Vernon Hills Park District, Joe Bruntmyer was known for a passion for sports and a big heart.

And though the 42-year-old Round Lake resident left about two years ago for a bigger job as recreation superintendent with the Morton Grove Park District, he was still a presence in the town where he left an impression on hundreds of coaches, parents and players of youth and adult sports.

His death Wednesday from cancer continues to ripple through the Vernon Hills sports and recreation community. An open house celebration of his life is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 9, at the Sullivan Community Center, 635 Aspen Drive, Vernon Hills.

"He definitely touched a lot of people over his time," said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the Vernon Hills Park District. "The world lost a good guy."

As recently as March 17, Bruntmyer was helping with youth basketball leagues on a part-time basis, said Tom Ritter, superintendent of recreation for the Vernon Hills Park District, who hired Bruntmyer in 2003.

"Even though he ran the leagues, he was just one of the guys," Ritter said Saturday.

"Big heart, always there for you. He's just a teddy bear," Ritter added. "It's nice to have people like him in the world -- not a pretentious person, didn't judge."

Bruntmyer grew up in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, just north of Minneapolis. While he loved all sports, he had a favorite, Ritter said.

"Hockey was his thing. He always went over to (Glacier Ice Arena) and played hockey with the guys," Ritter said.

Bruntmyer was living the single life of a young guy involved with sports for a living when he met his wife, Heather, who worked with the The Special Recreation Association of Central Lake County, according to Ritter.

The couple have three kids under the age of 5.

"Joe and I became quick friends because of his overwhelming commitment of fairness in community league sports programs," said Tim Nockels, a program leader with the special recreation association.

"One of our first conversations I will hold dear in my heart echoes in my mind: 'Every kid should have an opportunity to learn and play any sport at their own pace,'" Nockels said Bruntmyer told him.

"Morton Grove and Vernon Hills have lost a true gem," he added.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 10, at First Presbyterian Church, 219 West Maple Ave., Libertyville. Interment is private. A guest book is available at Peterson-Bassi Chapels, Chicago.

Instead of flowers, memorials can be made to the Joe Bruntmyer Memorial Fund.

Ritter said plans are being made to help the family for the long term.

"We want to do something more sustaining," he said of Heather and her children. "She's got a lot of love, that's for sure."

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