Gladys Bruner Petrilla


Alas, our sunny, loyal, loving and wise Mom has passed away. Gladys Bruner Petrilla, born Gladys Schoenhaut in 1928 to Jewish parents in the Bronx. Growing up with Mary, her German nanny, during the depression and World War II, Gladys became bilingual in German and English which gave her a unique perspective on politics. She was a feminist and spoke directly but with kindness. Although a petite 4’-11”, she was not intimidated by anyone. During graduate school, loving her feisty spirit, her friends called her Mighty Mouse. As a clinical psychologist who worked in prisons, schools, and practiced for 45 years, she continued seeing private patients until she was 75. She was proud of running a counseling group for murderers in Yardville Reformatory. Following her divorce in 1973

she worked days and nights to support her children. When the time was right, she started dating again. She met our stepfather, Anthony Petrilla, soon afterwards. She said later, “Those 18 years I spent with Tony were the best companionship in my life”

We learned deep lessons of social justice from her. Mom worked for the local Juvenile Justice Committee to develop alternatives to prison sentencing. In her private practice she would assist women who were being emotionally abused and helped them have the courage to obtain a just divorce. She resided at Rossmoor Senior Living Community for 22 years where she held many volunteer positions including president of the Synagogue Sisterhood as well as president of the congregation. She was also a member of the Interfaith Council and shared great friendships with many of the members and clergy. Mom was loyal to her friends and kept lasting friendships her whole life.

Mom loved to travel to Europe, visiting her nanny’s family in Bavaria and her Irish Aunt in London. In her retirement years she visited Tunisia, Turkey, Spain, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and went on an Alaskan Cruise. Mom loved modern art and was not afraid of color. She encouraged her children in music and art and was a patron of the arts herself attending classical music concerts for decades at Mccarter Theater in Princeton as well as Opera in NYC. She loved to discuss current events and supported liberal causes and read the NY Times daily and watched public television, following congressional politics throughout her eighties.

Though we have been blessed to have her with us into her 90s, this week we lost a wonderful, loving mother and a grandmother who doted on her grandchildren. Gladys Bruner Petrilla leaves behind her children: Jacob Bruner, Martin Bruner and Carol Swinchoski, as well as her stepchildren Catherine Steo, Mary Petrilla, and Lauren Thornton, as well as her grandchildren: David Bruner, Cristina Steo, Anya Swinchoski and Benjamin Swinchoski. As is said in the Jewish tradition, when a soul passes from this world, all their accumulated good deeds shine forth as a light in the world. Although we feel that awesome and awful sense of finality, we are left with peacefulness, love, and gratitude for sharing her loving presence.

Arrangements are under the care of Orender Family Home for Funerals, Manasquan, NJ. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the New Jersey Youth Symphony in our mother’s honor at Mom enjoyed watching and listening to Anya and Benjamin play many beautiful concerts with this organization over the past eight years. To send condolences to the family please visit