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Breault remembered as a guide through Somerset's growing years

Barry Breault was well-known as the long-time owner of Ben's Bar at 235 Highway 35/64 in Somerset. However, he also made his mark in Somerset government, having been involved with the Somerset Village Board for more than 14 years.

According to Pam Donohoe, Somerset village clerk, Breault served on the board from April 1, 1985-June 15, 1999. He also served two years on the board previously from 1982-1984.

Breault, 58, died at his home Wednesday, Feb. 3, surrounded by family.

In summarizing his legacy of service, his contemporaries agree he was dedicated to doing what was best for growing Somerset.

Rich Kohler served two two-year terms on the board with Breault. He said he had known of Breault "forever" as their parents were long-time friends, but he didn't really get to know him until he served on the board together.

"I really appreciated his common sense," Kohler said. "Business owners tend to lean toward their own business, but he could see beyond that to the future. He realized that you aren't going to keep a town the same.

"Barry was a lot less biased than you would think; I liked and respected him a whole lot more after serving with him."

Tom Forrest, Siren resident who previously lived in Somerset, also spent four years on the village board from 1984-88. It was during that time he met Breault and saw in him a man who was passionate about his community.

"During that time, Somerset was growing a lot - not a boom like in the early 1990s, but more of a starting growth," Forrest said.

Forrest said the village's growing pains were constant, such as the Somerset School District moving to its current home and citing problems with so many people "floating" on the river. Forrest said Breault wanted to be involved to help guide things.

"Barry was very active and he wanted to see Somerset grow the right way," he concluded, "that's probably why he stayed so long."

Brad Nemec, currently athletic director with Somerset School District as well as municipal court judge for the Village of Somerset, had been friends with Breault for 25 years.

He said the tax increment financing districts were a pet project of Breault's - a mark of his desire to grow Somerset.

"Barry looked out for the better of Somerset - not just him," Nemec said, referring to Breault's ownership of Ben's Bar and other family members' connections with Float-Rite.

"There used to be some family conflicts because he did what he thought was right, not necessarily what was popular," he said. "He had a heart of gold and he really tried to represent the community as a whole and help the growth. He gave a lot of good insight."