James Gerard Brunker “Jerry” was a gregarious man, whose laughter filled others with joy. He could and would talk to anybody—all the while making each person he spoke to feel special. Generous in spirit, Jerry had a heart that was bigger than he was.
James Gerard, who later preferred to be called Jerry instead of Jim, was born in Madison, Wisconsin on April 25, 1952, during a hopeful period that followed the end of WWII. The civil rights movement became a dramatic force in America, jobs were plentiful in a lively economy, and growing families launched the baby boom era. Television was bringing the world into homes across the nation, and rock ‘n roll music was being broadcast around the world.
Hailing from Irish parents, Jerry was the third of Joseph and Dolores (Lease) Brunker’s 13 children. They found enjoyment in being together as one big family and always had enough to form their own teams to play ball. Growing up in the rural community of East Bristol, Jerry was a “country boy,” and though money was tight, Jerry’s childhood was rich with fun. With his outgoing personality, he was always smiling, laughing and joking.
Unfortunately, sobering events in his teen years, turned some of Jerry’s joy to sorrow. His mother died when he was thirteen, and being very close to her, Jerry was deeply affected by his loss. Many times he was made to feel like an outsider because he was teased about his weight. During his high school years, he began using alcohol, a tragic choice that gradually worsened over time. He graduated from East Bristol High School, yet it wasn’t until Jerry sought help through Alcoholics Anonymous that he got the relief he needed. After 1985, he did not have another drink.
Jerry worked various jobs in Illinois and Wisconsin and was married several times. The relationships were broken by divorce, and his marriage to Lori ended with her death in 1991. One marriage produced a daughter, April, whom Jerry searched for but never met before she died at the age of 17. Once again, great sadness caused Jerry to feel like his life was falling apart.
In the midst of a deep depression, Jerry turned to his family and moved in with his brother John and his family in 1992. One of the conditions placed on Jerry was that he had to attend church with John. That marked the beginning of a transformation in Jerry’s life. He embraced the Truth of the Word of God and was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ on March 20, 1995 at Calvary Gospel Church in Madison, Wisconsin.
In 1996, Jerry began working as a custodian for the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Then a back injury in 1999 caused him to leave with disability retirement. In 2001, at the urging of a friend, Jerry moved to the Milwaukee area, and he attended Parkway Apostolic Church. He became active in small group ministry, called Home Friendship Group, and was able to reach out to his community. Jerry was eager to offer others what he had received, namely, the love of Jesus Christ.
In November of 2003, Jerry was distributing brochures on the cars of his neighbors that invited them to a small group meeting. One of the invitations was placed on the car of a lonely, depressed, divorced woman, who two weeks prior had prayed that God would send Christian friends into her life. Jacqueline Ruminski called the number on the brochure and accepted the invitation to the small group meeting. Jerry and Jackie talked for three hours, discussing the Word of God. By the end of the month, Jerry and Jackie shared Thanksgiving Dinner together, and their relationship grew rapidly.
In December 2003, Jerry invited Jackie for dinner to sample his cooking. Truth be told, he was “cooking up” something more. He told Jackie she would not be lonely anymore and he would take care of her. With that promise, he asked her to marry him.
Out of deep love for Jackie, Jerry asked his friend Bill Lamensdorf to help explain to her the way of salvation that had gripped him years before. In January 2004, after several hours of talking with Bill and Jerry, Jackie decided she wanted to be baptized and she received the filling of God’s Spirit that she so desired. It was amazing for Jerry as well as Jackie. Later, he commented to Bill that seeing Jackie receive from God what he himself had shared with her was one of the greatest days of his life.
Jerry and Jackie were married July 17, 2004 at Parkway Apostolic Church in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. They were truly united by God, who had answered both of their prayers. They were blessed in their life together.
With Jerry’s new-found job, he and Jackie often went to rummage or estate sales. He discovered he was a natural salesman, selling on eBay, wheeling and dealing or trading this for that—for example, a Corvette in pieces for a motor home.
Over time, Jerry developed additional health issues, and he sought gastric bypass surgery in 2009. In September of that same year, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Still, his death was unexpected when he passed away on Tuesday March 9, 2010 at his home in Greenfield, Wisconsin.
Jerry will be missed by his family and friends, even as they celebrate his life that is secure in Jesus Christ.
James Gerard Brunker entered his rest at the age of 57. He was the beloved husband of Jacqueline Brunker (nee Ruminski); stepfather of Frankie and Amanda; dear brother of John (Melissa) Brunker, Donald Brunker, Robert (Karen) Brunker, Joe (Gloria) Brunker, Kevin (Carrie) Brunker and Matt (Sarah) Brunker, Mary Oathout, Lisa (Don) Kind, Lorie (Leo) Schweiss, Martha (Tom) Fisher, Sue (Mike)Soldner, and fran Lease ; and further survived by 30 nieces and nephews, 23 great-nieces and great-nephews other relatives and friends. Family and friends will gather on Tuesday March 16, 2010 at Parkway Apostolic Church-Chapel, 10940 S. Nicholson Road Oak Creek, WI 53154 from 5:00 PM until time of the Memorial Service at 7:00 PM. Suminski Family Funeral Homes, Niemann/ Suminski (414-744-5156). Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to leave a memory or photo for the family or to sign the online guest book.
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