George Bremser, 87

Sun, 10/11/2015 - 6:30pm

George Bremser, Jr. died peacefully on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015 of congestive heart failure.

 A devoted father, a successful businessman, and a committed environmentalist, he impressed those who knew him with his graciousness, his vision, and his integrity. He is best known as the president of Etak, the pioneering automotive navigation system that anticipated GPS by years and established the first turn-by-turn road database.

 George Bremser Jr. was born on May 26, 1928, in Newark, New Jersey, the only child of George Bremser and Virginia Christian Bremser. He grew up in Verona, N.J., where his parents taught Sunday School at the local Congregational Church. In 1945, he graduated from Verona High School, where he was the varsity quarterback. He attended Yale University on a scholarship, the first from his high school to be so honored. At Yale, he was a member of the football team, as well as the Glee Club and the a cappella group, The Alley Cats.

After graduating from Yale in 1949, he enlisted in the Marines, where he was the honor graduate of his officer training class. He served in active duty in Lebanon.

Upon returning to civilian life, he quickly rose to leadership positions, including general manager of McCann-Erickson Advertising in Bogota, Colombia; president of General Foods International; and chairman and CEO of Texstar Corp. During his tenure at General Foods, he received an MBA from New York University School of Business. During his early career, he brought his family to Bogota, Colombia; Coral Gables, Florida; Ridgewood, New Jersey; and New Canaan, Conn., where they stayed for 20 years.

It was at Etak that he found the post that gave him the most satisfaction and enjoyment. George Bremser was the original CEO of Etak from shortly after its inception in 1983 until 1988, the year that News Corporation agreed to acquire all of Etak’s shares. He then concentrated on strategic partnerships and developments, guiding the company through subsequent acquisitions, first by Sony, then by TeleAtlas.

George was an ardent conservationist and environmentalist. He co-founded the Four C’s, a conservation society in New Canaan, Conn. He was a long-term supporter and member of the Save the Redwoods League, serving on its Board of Councilors from 1987 to 2009.

He was a generous contributor to charity, from arts to education to humanitarian causes to friends and family in need.

His lifelong love of travel, first kindled on a tour of Europe with the Yale Glee Club, was developed further by his early career in advertising, which brought him and his young family to Bogota, Colombia to live for three years, and later by his position as President of General Foods International, which sent him to Australia, Japan, and most frequently, Europe, especially London.

George was devoted to Block Island, Rhode Island, which he first discovered with his family in 1969 and loved for its natural beauty and endearing lack of formality; he subsequently purchased a house on Mansion Beach Road and devoted much time and energy to island conservation, as well as to cycling and walking, in bare feet whenever possible.

He was an indefatigable reader, whose tastes ranged from Shakespeare to Russell Baker. He instilled a love of literature, music, and conversation in his children and showed a passionate interest in their lives and careers. George Bremser is survived by his son Christian and wife Jennine Heller, of San Francisco; his daughter Priscilla and her husband Steve Maier, of Middlebury, Vermont; his daughter Martha and her husband Mark Hawkins-Dady, of London; and his daughter Sarah of Honolulu. His grandchildren are Eric Maier, in Burlington, Vermont; Brian Maier, in New Hampshire; Jeffrey Maier, in Panama; James Hawkins-Dady, in London; and Malia McCormick, in Honolulu. Mary Anne Poatsy, who was like a daughter to him, lives with her family in Salfordville, Penn. In the last years of his life he was blessed with the friendship and support of Pamela d’Sophia and Tonya Williams.

Contributions may be made in his name to the Save The Redwoods League.