Donald George Brenner was born in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio, on 1 October, 1912. He was the son of and art engraver, George Henry Brenner, and his wife, Grace Ada Mieding. He graduated from Chaney High School (Youngstown) in 1930. He had a role in the Senior Class Play and was Circulation Editor for The Westerner the school’s newspaper.
After finishing high school, Donald’s first job was with the Youngstown Arc Engraving Company, which engraved plates for the city’s newspaper, Youngstown Vindicator. His first pay envelop (4 August1929) held $14.40. (Don’s father was a life-time employee of the Arc Engraving Company.) Don later drove a truck for a barber and beauty supply company before going to work in the electro-plating shop at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube. At the time, Sheet and Tube was the 5th largest steel mill in the United States.
On 10 March 1939, Donald and Bessie Garnet Deeter were united in marriage. On 16 September, 1940, the couple’s first child, Barthel Lee Brenner (that’s me, now masquerading as GeneaPopPop). By that time, Don and Garnet were living at 125 E. Ravenwood (Youngstown), the house originally owned by Don’s maternal grandfather, Edward Herman Mieding, now owned by Aunt Clara Mieding. Subsequently, two other children were born into this family — Janis Lynne (3 August 1945) and Gary Donald (30 January 1947). Donald’s work in the steel mill (a vital industry for the war effort) kept him at home while so many other young men went off to war.
While working in the mill, Don and a friend, Carl Shoemaker, opened a small custom electro-plating shop in the garage of Don and Garnet’s home. Later (March 22, 1948), Don and Carl signed a cognovit note as they borrow $1000 from Don’s mother. With those funds Don and Carl opened an electro-plating shop in a six car garage on the northside of Youngstown. Subsequently, Don partnered with John Edwards and Henry Herl to establish Lake City Plating Company in Ashtabula, Ohio. Lake City Plating was thought to be the largest independent electro-plating business between Cleveland, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York.
Of course, the new business meant that the family had to more about 55 miles north, from Youngstown to the Ashtabula area. The first residence was a rented house about halfway between Ashtabula and Conneaut (about 15 miles apart), the two easternmost cities along Lake Erie in Ohio. Two and a half years later, the family moved to a home on West 35th Street in Ashtabula and then to 4003 Fargo Drive in Ashtabula Township. Donald was the production manager of Lake City Plating and its chemist and the chief of maintenance. Because of the multiple roles Don played in this struggling new company, we was on-call 24/7. It was not unusual for the phone to ring during supper with a call for Don to return to the shop. As a working partner in this fledgling business, Don had to plow his earnings back into the business. This necessitated Garnet’s working to provide an income for family survival. Our family was not wealthy by any means, but we weren’t poverty stricken either. There was always food on the table (even if sometimes it was only bean soup – yeecchh!) Don had a table rule for the family — everyone had to eat at least one bite of everything that was served. This resulted in many, many times when Dad and youngest son, Gary, sat at the table for an hour or more after the others had finished, waiting for Gary to take his one bite of peas. We children did not learn until we were adults that Mom disagreed with Dad’s rule, but would not challenge him in front of the children. (Keep a united front!) Instead, she regularly served foods that she knew Don did not like. I never remember his ‘turning up his nose’ at anything that was served. In silence, he followed his own rule and moreso, as he always ate a full portion of everything that was served.
When Don retired from Lake City Plating, he and Garnet moved back to Youngstown and later to North Port, Florida. Don had been a heavy smoker through his life (2 packs of Camels per day). In April, 1990, he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. On 20 June 1990, attended by his wife, Garnet, and his daughter, Janis, Donald George Brenner died quietly at his home, 8551 Sydney Drive, North Port, Sarasota, Florida. His body was cremated and eventually his ashes were inurned at Community Presbyterian Church, Englewood, Florida.
In Part 2, I will share some personal remembrances of my Dad, Donald George Brenner.