William J. (Bill) Brunner, CP, 84, a 57-year veteran of the prosthetics profession, died on March 29 in Houston. He retired from Muilenburg Prosthetics and Orthotics in 2003 after 47 years with the company.
A member of the Navy’s Seabees during World War II, Brunner lost his leg in 1945 trying to save a fellow sailor who had fallen overboard. He slipped on a chain and fell, his leg getting caught between pontoon causeways used to unload equipment, he told O&P Business News during an interview in 2002. Surgeons on a nearby troopship amputated his leg below the knee. In 1992, almost 48 years after losing his leg for his country, Brunner received the Purple Heart medal for his injury.
Soon after being discharged from the Navy, he became interested in prosthetics and the Department of Veterans Affairs set him up as an apprentice at Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics in New Orleans — the first person to receive a prosthetic education under the G.I. Bill of Rights, his wife of 62 years, Celeste Walker Brunner, PhD, said, according to the company’s newsletter, Muilenburg Prosthetics and Orthotics Review.
Brunner received his ABC certification in 1952 and continued his education at the University of California, Los Angeles under the instruction of Al Muilenburg, CPO. After graduating, Brunner left his position with Hanger and went to work with Muilenburg in Houston.
Throughout his time in the prosthetics profession, he kept up with technology as it progressed from rudimentary devices fashioned out of wood, canvas and leather to high-tech devices made of plastics.
Known at Muilenburg as a no-nonsense communicator, Brunner was famous for several repeatable sayings — dubbed Brunnerisms, which a colleague compiled and featured in the company’s newsletter in 2003 — including “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and “That arm is about as round as a bar of octagon soap.”
“Bill’s expertise as a prosthetist and craftsman were truly unmatched,” the company said in a release. “Hundreds of children and adults have benefitted from Bill’s half-century of work in the prosthetic field and he will be greatly missed.”
For more information:
- Craig B. Bill Brunner: One Career Lost, Another Career Gained. O&P Business News. 2002;11(16): 45-48.