Carl Anthony "Chuck" Brunetto, former president and CEO of Anne Arundel Medical Center, died Saturday of respiratory failure at the hospital where he had worked for decades.
The longtime Eastport resident was 79.
Mr. Brunetto, the son of garment workers, was born and raised in Johnstown, N.Y., where he graduated in 1949 from Johnstown High School.
He earned a bachelor's degree in 1953 from St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., and completed pre-med studies at the University of Buffalo.
After serving as an Army medic during the Korean War, Mr. Brunetto decided to abandon his medical career and earned a master's degree in business in 1958 from Emory University in Atlanta.
He completed a residency in hospital administration at Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital in New York before coming in 1959 to Anne Arundel General Hospital, now Anne Arundel Medical Center, as assistant administrator. The hospital was then located in downtown Annapolis at Franklin and Cathedral streets.
In "A Half Century of Caring — a History of Anne Arundel Medical Center, 1902-2002," Mr. Brunetto recalled his early days at the hospital.
"In 1959, hospital administration was a wide open field; I could have gone anywhere. I decided to work here for a few years under Lyman Whittaker, but I fell in love with the area and never left," Mr. Brunetto wrote.
"The hospital was relatively small when I came. The facilities were not in the best shape; there was no air conditioning in patient rooms. We desegregated restrooms and dining rooms and integrated other employees. It was culture shock at first."
The early years of Mr. Brunetto's tenure coincided with the expansion of the hospital, the acquisition of state-of-the art equipment, and the development of a top-flight staff of physicians and medical experts.
"The residents of Anne Arundel County developed confidence in our doctors, and patients stayed here instead of going up to Baltimore," Mr. Brunetto wrote.
Other innovations during those years in the area of patient comfort, Mr. Brunetto wrote, included "air conditioning, electric beds, television, gourmet meals and many other patient comforts. … We provided more R.N. hours per patient than any hospital in the state."
When Mr. Whittaker resigned in 1979, Mr. Brunetto was named his successor as hospital administrator, and Martin L. "Chip" Doordan was named his assistant.
"We began working together in 1972," said Mr. Doordan, who succeeded Mr. Brunetto and is currently CEO of Anne Arundel Health System.
"When I came here, Chuck was assistant administrator and had been working here since the 1950s. I had two mentors in my career, Mr. Whittaker and Chuck," he said. "Chuck was my boss, but we also became close friends."
Mr. Brunetto was named CEO in 1988 of Anne Arundel General Health Care System, now Anne Arundel Health System.
By the 1980s, the aging hospital had outgrown its 4.5-acre home in downtown Annapolis, and under Mr. Brunetto's administration, a new hospital began rising on a 100-acre medical park off U.S. 50 in Annapolis.
The new facility began opening for patients in the mid-1990s with the main hospital opening on the new campus in 2001, while its former downtown building was converted into condominiums.
Mr. Doordan described Mr. Brunetto as a "gentle man."
"He naturally didn't like conflict, and that's a compliment. He always tried to find ways to get people to work together," Mr. Doordan said.
"The other thing about Chuck was that he was a visionary, and he saw the potential of the organization. He bought the land for the medical park in the late 1980s," he said. "He enjoyed that part of the business, and he liked seeing buildings built."
Mr. Doordan said that Mr. Brunetto was "loved and respected by all."
"It was a pleasure working with and for him," he said.
Mr. Brunetto remained president and CEO of Anne Arundel Medical Center until 1994, when he was named president emeritus. He retired in 1996.
In 1994, the hospital's board, in recognition of Mr. Brunetto's long tenure and vision, named the campus where the hospital is located the Carl A. Brunetto Medical Park.
From 2001 to 2007, he was a board member for Annapolis Life Care at Ginger Cove.
Mr. Brunetto was an avid deep-sea fisherman and in 1985 caught the second-largest blue marlin that year off Ocean City.
Mr. Doordan recalled his friend phoning him in Fenwick Island, Del., where he was vacationing, to come to the dock and see his prize-winning fish.
"I piled the kids in the car, and by the time we got there, it had been cut up into pieces and the head, tail and fins were in a wheelbarrow. I think my son was a little disappointed. He was expecting to see this giant fish," Mr. Doordan recalled.
"He had the head stuffed, and for years, it hung in the cafeteria in the old hospital with a little sign underneath it. People eating there had to look at it," Mr. Doordan said, laughing. "When we moved, I told Chuck, 'That's staying right here and not coming out to the medical park.'"
Mr. Brunetto was also an avid boater and sailor, and enjoyed playing golf and shuffleboard, and traveling. He also liked entertaining family and friends.
He was a Ravens season ticket holder.
He attended the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and was a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club, Annapolitan Club and Italian Men's Business Club.
His wife of 35 years, the former Carolyn Carter, died last year.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. John Neumann Roman Catholic Church, 620 N. Bestgate Road, Annapolis.
Surviving are a son, Ronald B. Brunetto of Annapolis; two daughters, Susan V. Hardesty of Dunkirk, Calvert County, and Carrie B. Hughes of Annapolis; a sister, Grace C. Justen of Fort Prince, Fla.; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.