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Kindhearted Bruno Burrell remembered for public service

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish is mourning the loss of former Chief Deputy Assessor Bruno Burrell Jr., who passed away from COVID-19 complications Friday evening.

Burrell took public office alongside former Assessor Whitney Joseph from 2005 through 2015 and always sought to make his community a better place. Those who knew him remember Burrell as a free-spirited soul who loved life and always had a friendly smile on his face.

Burrell was married to his wife, Regina, for 50 years. He was a doting family man who loved and took care of his children, grandchildren and great-granddaughter. His compassion knew no bounds and was often shared through small acts of kindness.

“He would take care of our neighbors, especially those that needed help,” Regina said. “He would bring in their trashcans, pick up things at the store and visit them to help with whatever they needed.”

Kind and personable, Burrell never met a stranger.

“He could hold a conversation with someone he never met and talk to them like he knew them for life,” Regina said. “He loved to have fun and make people smile. He loved to dance. He always had a joke, and when he would see somebody, he had a big smile right away.”

Burrell’s service started in his youth. He served in the U.S. Army from 1964 to 1967 and later gave back to the community through American Legion. As a board member of the Belle Terre Civic Association, he supported beautification efforts and quality of life events for LaPlace residents.

As deputy assessor, Burrell was deeply engrained in the St. John Parish community. In many ways, the parish was an extension of the family he loved so dearly. Burrell sponsored charitable events such as the Blessed to Be a Blessing backpack giveaway and spoke about ways to combat poverty in the parish.

“He was always concerned about helping others,” Regina said.

Monica Burrell Brown has a myriad of memories to keep her father’s spirit alive. She recalls riding on the back of her dad’s bike in a child seat as a little girl, her dad combing her hair, and rarely going to the doctor because her dad always had Vick’s Vapor Rub ready when she was sick. She remembers walking on the levee with him while waiting for the ferry, learning how to clean baseboards, and her dad driving to Baton Rouge to have lunch with her while she was in college. Brown received Valentine’s Day candy from her father every year, including this year. He was present for every major and minor life event.

On Father’s Day of this year, Brown send Burrell a Bitmoji of her holding a No. 1 Dad cup with a text that said, ““GM Da! Happy Father’s Day! What a beautiful day to celebrate your 49 years as a dad!”

With a string of joyful emojis, he responded, “Thanks for the reminder 49 years that went by filled with joy.”

Brown said her father encouraged all of his children and grandchildren to be independent thinkers. “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen was one of his favorite books based on Proverbs 23:7. As he led his family, Burrell encouraged them to serve others through his words and actions. Whether through house work, yard work or community projects, he took care of his friends and neighbors.

“He did not need a title to serve. He learned from his parents the value of family, work, and integrity,” Brown said. “He would tell us stories of growing up in Lucy and how everyone worked and looked out for one another;  how he tended to animals and worked on cars. It was a time when there was great respect for your elders and education was highly valued. While my dad instilled these values in us and worked for a better life for all, I knew our family came first!”

According to Brown, one of her dad’s greatest loves were his grandchildren. Brown and her husband moved back to Louisiana from West Virginia so their son and future children could grow up around their paternal and maternal grandparents.

“My dad spent numerous hours attending performances, sporting games, plays, concerts, piano recitals, award ceremonies, grandparents day events, playing games, talking and most importantly listening to my children,” Brown said.

She also remembers her parents cutting up the dance floor like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers any time music from the 60s or 70s was played at an event. His love for his wife was evident in his actions.

Bruno and Regina Burrell line dance at a River Region Chamber of Commerce gala in 2010.

Christine Browning, general manager of L’OBSERVATEUR, said, Burrell was a gentleman in every sense of the word.

“He was kind and extremely proud of his wife and family. His wife, Regina, was a sales rep for L’OBSERVATEUR for many years, and he was part of our extended family and attended company functions,” Browning said.

Burrell would often call the work line and say, “Tell Regina her loving husband called.”

Browning recalls Burrell was passionate about inspiring the youth.

“Bruno was also one to offer encouragement to young people, especially when he saw them doing something good, and would tell them to keep up the good work,” Browning said.

Burrell retired at the end of 2015, when Whitney Joseph opted not to seek re-election as St. John Parish Assessor. Regina retired as well, and the couple started a new chapter of their lives with plans to spend more time with grandchildren, travel and live life to its fullest.

On Saturday, St. John the Baptist Parish released the following statement in Burrell’s honor:

“Bruno was a true public servant who spent the majority of his life working tirelessly for the best interests of our community. His lively spirit touched the lives of many in St. John Parish and beyond and he will be sorely missed. Please join Parish President Jaclyn Hotard, Parish Council and staff in praying for his wife, children, family, friends and his lifelong dear friend former Assessor Whitney Joseph during this difficult time.”