Former Whitby mayor leaves ‘enduring legacy’
‘Irreplaceable’ family man and municipal leader dies after battle with Alzheimer’s
Flags at Town of Whitby facilities are flying at half mast following the death of former mayor Marcel Brunelle.
Brunelle spent 24 years on council, including nine as mayor. He died this past weekend at age 75, following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
“He was a great man; he did a lot of great things for this community and for us, as well,” said his son, Reese Brunelle.
“Community was important to him . . . that people worked together for common goals.”
Brunelle was a longtime Whitby resident and former Boy Scout leader who often expressed pride in his roles as husband, father to five sons and grandfather to more than 20 grandchildren.
“Marcel was one of the most outgoing people I’ve had the privilege to know,” Reese said. “He told the best stories, and always had time for a joke and a laugh. He was the pillar and heart of our family, always willing to help when any of us needed it.”
His family noticed he was exhibiting early signs of Alzheimer’s around the time he ran in the Whitby mayoral race during the 2010 municipal election.
“We noticed symptoms a long time ago — five or six years ago — and it got progressively worse,” said Reese, adding that his father was also dealing with other medical issues, but was determined to return to public office.
“He still wanted to run because he still felt he had something to give.”
Brunelle was first elected as centre ward councillor in 1982 and also served as a regional councillor from 1988 to 1997.
During his time as mayor, he was instrumental in the development of Landmark Cinemas Entertainment complex on Consumers Dr.; the renovation and expansion of the Centennial Building, completed in 2003; the acquisition of Cullen Gardens; the development of the McKinney Centre; and the creation of the award-winning Whitby Central Library, which opened in 2005. He was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003.
Local residents and politicians took to social media on Sunday to express their sadness over his death.
“I had the honour of serving on council with Marcel during his nine years as our mayor. He will be greatly missed by all of us and will be remembered for his tremendous contribution and service to the Town of Whitby and the Region of Durham,” wrote former Whitby mayor Pat Perkins.
Whitby Mayor Don Mitchell first worked with Brunelle on council in 1992 and described him as being very focused on works and infrastructure projects.
“He was a very big Whitby booster, abig Whitby supporter,” he said. “His years as mayor were good economic times and he presided over some major projects.”
In a statement sent out by the town on Jan. 8, Mitchell said Brunelle’s years of leadership as mayor “have left our town with an enduring legacy of vision and accomplishment.”
“There are certain kinds of people that are irreplaceable and he was one of them,” Reese said.