Middleboro Rotary Club names Brunelle 'Person of the Year' (click "PersonoftheYear" for poster)

Friday, October 20, 2006
By Alice C. Elwell, Enterprise correspondent

MIDDLEBORO — She survived thyroid cancer and came out singing. After she buried her grandfather at Otis Air Force Base, she left to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Lorna Brunelle is unstoppable and maybe that's why the Rotary Club has chosen her as “Person of the Year.”

Brunelle believes in giving back. She even named her school in memory of Louisa Burt Wood Pratt, a lifelong Middleboro resident and musician.

Brunelle was one of the first to receive a Louisa Burt Wood Pratt scholarship, awarded by the Cabot Club to local students pursuing musical studies.

“I got a full ride scholarship,” Brunelle said, so when she opened the Burt Wood School of Performing Arts, it was named after her benefactor.

Brunelle has volunteered far and wide, from leading the senior choir at the Council on Aging to volunteering at Mass. Eye and Ear. She has organized a traveling road show with choir students to sing at several local nursing homes. She has provided music for the 100th anniversary of the library, organized a talent show near the playground for students, sung Christmas carols through downtown Middleboro, donated costumes, sets and props to the schools, served food on Thanksgiving at the Council on Aging to the homeless, held several Sept. 11 fundraisers and organized “Operation Shoe Box” for the troops.

“Out of every bad situation, there's always something good,” Brunelle said.

When leaving a solemn funeral for her grandfather, she saw a “volunteers needed” sign at Otis Air Force Base. Hurricane Katrina had just hit, and Brunelle and her mother, Wanda Howard, jumped on board the recovery efforts.

It was one of the lowest points in Brunelle's life, she had just come out of treatment for thyroid cancer and had buried her grandfather. But the victims of the hurricane taught Brunelle a lesson.

“People with nothing left to their name inspired me. They were all happy to be alive. They taught me never to take anything for granted,” she said.

The project closest to Brunelle's heart is the Children's Chernobyl Project. Russian children, who live in the contaminated region of Chernobyl, are brought to the United States for the summer.

Just by living here, within 30 days their radiation level is cut in half, Brunelle said. She places children in homes so they can get medical treatment during the summer.

For her volunteerism and professional excellence, the Rotary Club is honoring Brunelle on Oct. 27 at the Fireside Grille. Tickets are $30 a person and must be ordered by Tuesday. For reservations, call Dan Medeiros at 508-743-0901.

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