Joe Bransby, 99; embodied ideals of YMCA he led

From 1962 to 1980, Joe Bransby led the metro YMCA through a period of keep-up-with-Atlanta growth and social challenge. Through it all, he was an effective advocate for the Y’s tenets of physical fitness and spiritual enrichment.

“Joe was a cherished mentor, a visionary leader and a wonderful friend,” said Ed Munster, the metro Atlanta Y’s current president and CEO. “Joe’s dedication, energy and business acumen enabled us to expand vital services like youth programs and to move into Atlanta’s growing suburbs.”

Fred Bradley, a former YMCA president and CEO here, now retired and living in Eatonton, said Bransby took the metro Atlanta Y through the difficult period of desegregation and handled it very sensitively and successfully. The Metro YMCA was officially desegregated in 1966.

“He also felt strongly about the YMCA’s Christian influence and mobilized the lay leadership of the organization to that mission,” Bradley added.

Two distinguishing features of the Metro Atlanta YMCA bear his name. The Bransby Christian Leadership Award, the group’s highest honor for volunteers, is given annually for exemplary individual service. And the Bransby Outdoor YMCA Center in Lithonia continues to be a summertime destination for thousands of young day campers.

Joseph Carson Bransby, 99, of Atlanta died Monday at Budd Terrace nursing facility of heart failure. A celebration of his life took place Saturday at Decatur Presbyterian Church. A.S. Turner & Sons was in charge of arrangements.

Bransby was born in New York but grew up in the Midwest. He graduated from Parsons College in Iowa and took his first job with the YMCA in St. Paul, Minn. Later he led YMCAs in Davenport, Iowa, and Long Beach, Calif., before he was recruited in 1962 to lead the Y here.

“Dad understood the importance of fitness early in his life,” said his son, Michael Bransby of Johns Creek. “He played football and wrestled competitively in college. After moving to Atlanta, he ran regularly. In his late 80s he still took long walks and in his 90s more modest walks.”

Bransby wrote a novel, “Westward Wings the Hawk,” based on his extensive research of native American history and culture. It was the story of the coming together of European settlers and a tribe in Iowa and was published in 2000.

Steve Hennessey of Atlanta, a local Rotary Club past president, remembered Bransby as “a nearly 50-year Rotary member with a nearly perfect attendance record.

“Joe was popular with other members,” he said, “for his warm, outgoing personality and for his longtime custom of leading the group in singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ each spring to mark the opening of the Major League baseball season.”

His wife of 72 years, Louise Fricke Bransby, died in 2012. Survivors in addition to his son include two daughters, Judi Unwin of Atlanta and Janis Belardinelli of Fort Madison, Iowa; another son, Kit Bransby of Lakewood, Calif., five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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