Love Of Community Puts Woman Of Year Above Rest

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Barbara Brenke, Payson's 2006 Woman of the Year, is an individual who puts in countless volunteer hours a year at Friends of the Library, Paws in the Park and the Tonto Natural Bridge.

She is president of the Payson Humane Society and Friends of the Payson Library.

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One of Barbara Brenke's favorite shelter dogs in 2004 was Maisey, a 3-year-old yellow Lab mix. Maisey was at the shelter for quite some time.

"If you had three of her, you would have an army," wrote humane society volunteers Gil and Dell Frederick in their nomination of Brenke.

Lisa Boyle, a member of the humane society board, described her co-worker as a "quiet humble soldier" who "never had intentions of being president (of the humane society), but when it fell in her lap she took it on like David taking on Goliath."

Since she was child Brenke has been an animal person, with a special love for dogs according to her husband of 10 years, Ron Stettler.

Brenke's commitment to the welfare of the Rim Country's domestic animal population is well documented.

Brenke is the woman who puts the policies and procedures in place to protect the shelter's animals:

  • When Giardia closed the shelter for the last couple of weeks in December, it was Brenke who, according to Boyle, was responsible for making the right decisions in a timely manner to protect animals and people.
  • In March of 2005 the shelter closed escrow on two acres of land immediately behind their present shelter. Now Brenke and the humane society board members are hard at work raising local funds and grant monies for the 10,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to cost nearly $2 million to build.
  • The low-cost spay and neuter clinics that prevent unwanted litters from more than 100 Rim Country pets.

"Her heart goes out to each cat and dog in the shelter. She knows all their names," said fellow volunteer Suzanne Chaillie.

"If it hadn't been for Barbara in 2005, I think we could have lost Payson Humane Society," Boyle said. "She has been a pillar of the society and a pillar in the community."

She guides the dedicated volunteers who put on the annual chili supper to raise funds for the shelter.

Brenke retired from a career as a marketing manager at Highlights Magazine for Children.

When she and her husband moved to the Rim Country from Ohio in 2002, they lived in Oxbow Estates.

When neighbors Kathy and Paul Morgan walked their yellow Labrador in the evenings, the Lab would always head straight to Barbara's yard, and the couples got to know each other.

"If it wasn't that year, it was the next that Barbara and I went to the Payson Humane Society chili supper together to see what it was all about," Kathy Morgan said. "That was Barbara's start in the humane society."

Brenke and Stettler rescued their two dogs, Cassidy and Sundance, from the shelter.

"In my mind, they were going to be outside dogs, they're going to run," Stettler said fondly of the puppies he chose and Brenke named. "We have two fenced acres. I had a nice kennel for them in the garage ... they sleep inside."

An avid bird watcher and hiker, Brenke enjoys the Tonto Natural Bridge. She volunteers one day a week at the gift shop there.

She is also the secretary of the Friends of the Library.

Brenke handles all her volunteer activities with modesty and patience, according to former president of the humane society board Larry Stubbs and his wife, Carol, who is the shelter's legal adviser.

Morgan recalls a time when Brenke lamented that she didn't know anyone in town.

"Now she probably knows everybody and everyone knows her through her volunteer involvement," Morgan said. "She really loves getting out and doing things for the good of the community."

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