Illinois Credit Union Hall of Fame
William H. Brietzke
When we think of people who impacted large numbers of credit unions in the state of Illinois and in our nation at large, we automatically remember William Brietzke. He was a human being with many missions all directed at spreading the credit union spirit.
Brietzke held the office of treasurer in the Nobel Street Depot Federal Credit Union and the Chicago Northwest Chapter. This happened quite by accident!
It seems that when Bill was coming off duty from his job as operator, a meeting to organize a new credit union was in progress. Eight of the nine needed directors had already been elected.
At this point "Spongenose" Andrews nominated "Skinny" Brietzke. Bill accepted the nomination reluctantly until the next annual meeting. This same pattern emerged at the organization meeting of the chapter, when he also became one of its first elected officials.
Brietzke served as an Illinois Credit Union League director from 1946 to 1950. He served on the executive committee of the Illinois Credit Union League during those final three years and chaired the 1950 annual meeting.
That same year, Joe DeRamus offered Bill a position at the Illinois Credit Union League as a field representative covering Chicago and its suburbs. Even though this meant a 25% reduction in income, his spouse encouraged him to accept it. She knew that credit unions were his passion. When Bill looked back, he said that: "This was the greatest move I ever made in my life."
Brietzke was well known for his impact at the state level. While employed by the league, he was responsible for helping to organize 370 credit unions beginning in 1950 and ending in 1973. On average he advised 15 new credit unions a year in the United States. He referred to the years of 1950 through 1956 as the Golden Era for organizing credit unions. These efforts were supported with national advertising in magazines and on the radio with Gabriel Heatter.
In 1955 Joe DeRamus left the league due to an illness. The league board elected Brietzke as managing director of the league, a position he held from 1956 to 1973. During those years, he increased the number of field representatives from three to twelve. Brietzke witnessed the signing of the Omnibus Bill by President Johnson amending the Federal Credit Union Act on December 13, 1967.
Brietzke had a global orientation long before it was fashionable. He sensed the importance of studying the credit union movement overseas. To accomplish this, Brietzke and other notables recommended the formation of the World Extension Department of CUNA in 1957, now known as the World Council of Credit Unions.
Their foresight gave credit unions an edge over other financial organizations in countries like Poland and Yugoslavia. This is why credit unions have a strong presence in these evolving countries and others.
Brietzke was largely responsible for initiating various publications at the Illinois Credit Union League. It was under his direction that the league authored and published manuals regarding every facet of credit union operations.
We honor this long-time pioneer in the Illinois Credit Union Hall of Fame. Brietzke will always be remembered as a compassionate human being with a winning smile. He had a sincere handshake and demonstrated a special fondness for the importance of the field.