Anibal A. Brisueno, 72, Marine veteran, neighborhood activist

February 07, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Anibal Ayala Brisueno, a decorated Marine Corps veteran and community activist who refused to surrender his Northwest Baltimore neighborhood to crime, indifferent property owners and trash-strewn alleys, died of complications from diabetes Tuesday at Genesis Eldercare Homewood Center. He was 72.

Born and raised in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Mr. Brisueno was one of 16 children. He was a pre-med student at the University of Puerto Rico for several years before enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1952.

He served four tours of duty in Vietnam, where he was a sharpshooter and chief of an aviation hydraulic testing unit. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1973 with the rank of master sergeant, and his decorations included the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm.

Mr. Brisueno earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Baltimore in 1976 and an associate's degree in computer science from the Community College of Baltimore in 1992. He was an Amtrak police officer for many years until retiring in 1992.

While in the military in 1965, he moved his family to their home in the 4900 block of Edgemere Ave. in the city's Pimlico section. Even though he had the means to do so, he refused to leave the deteriorating neighborhood where he had lived for more than 30 years and raised eight children.

Mr. Brisueno vigorously adopted the neighborhood's problems as his own.

A founder and president of the Hidden Circle Neighborhood Association, he had also been a member of the Park Heights Community Corporation and Northwest Community Corporation Zoning Board. He volunteered at the Southeast Community Organization, where he also served as a translator for the Hispanic community.

From a small home office that he set up in the corner of his dining room, he waged a relentless campaign against drug dealers and recalcitrant landlords. He traveled downtown and walked the hallways of City Hall banging on doors, buttonholing City Council members and department heads in an effort to find solutions to neighborhood problems.

He would spend afternoons and evenings marching house to house, handing out fliers he had printed on his computer, and urging residents to share in his battle and attend community meetings. It was not uncommon for him to be out on neighborhood streets at midnight tending to one problem or another.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Thomas Waxter remembered working closely with Mr. Brisueno when Judge Waxter represented the 5th District in the City Council.

"Everything that happened in his neighborhood he was interested in," Judge Waxter said. "What people don't understand is that people like Mr. Brisueno are more important than city government. Their involvement is their community. They solve problems. Help the police. And don't even get paid for it. He was a man who laid down the law in his neighborhood and would stand up to anybody."

Maria Brisueno-Burnett, a daughter who lives in Baltimore, recalled her father's fearlessness when confronting the drug dealers who gathered at Park Heights and Garrison Forest avenues.

"He stood up to them, and they respected him. He was never scared. He noted where they stashed their drugs, and then he'd call the police and turn them in. I'm sure he made lots of people in the drug business mad, but they never retaliated against him," she said.

"It was the same thing when he saw an abandoned or neglected house. He'd call up the Housing Authority and make them send a letter to the owner requiring them to fix it up. This was his life," she said.

Mr. Brisueno led the successful campaign that resulted in the 1998 demolition of the abandoned and drug-infested Denmore Apartments. He also helped get a playground, pool and playing fields built at a neighborhood recreation center.

"He was a wonderfully strong man of conviction. He was a tough and rare individual who worked at it with every breath he had," said Reginald Scriber, ombudsman for the city Department of Housing and Community Development.

"He was not intimated by anything or anybody. He had a sense of perseverance. When he asked you to do something, he expected it to be done. He never gave up, and his death is a great loss to the city," he said.

Mr. Brisueno was a communicant of St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church, 4502 Park Heights Ave., where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at noon tomorrow.

Survivors include his wife of 50 years, the former Mary Alice Green; sons Anthony Brisueno of Stafford, Va., and Ralph Brisueno, Ramsey Brisueno and Hannibal Brisueno, all of Baltimore; three other daughters, Wanda Butler of Newark, Del., and Joanne Brisueno-Carr and Phyllis Brisueno, both of Baltimore; four brothers, Raul Brisueno, Carmelo Brisueno, Santiago Rosario and Robert Bracero, all of Mayaguez; a sister, Teresa Bracero of Mayaguez; 15 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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