CMSGT James Robert (Jim or Bob) Brunson passed through death into eternal life on Nov. 15, 2017, just a couple of weeks short of his 96th birthday on Dec. 3.
He lived a full life that included experiencing the Great Depression, Texas farm life, rescue and recovery service during WWII, a 29 year career in the United States Air Force in communications and security service, a loving family, wonderful friends and travels around the world.
Jim was born in 1921 in Mineral Wells, Texas, but also lived in Canyon and Bronte. He attended Bronte High School and played football, the French horn in the band, and performed in One Act and the Senior plays. He went on to McMurray College on a football scholarship but his education was interrupted by WWII.
During the war, he served in the China-Burma-India Theater and "flew the hump" with one of the crews that dropped supplies and performed rescue missions over China. Of the 100 planes in his squadron involved in these missions, by the end of the war, his was one of only 16 that survived the treacherous flights of the heavy cargo aircraft over the Himalayan Mountains. So many failed to clear the Hump that the flight path was dubbed the "Aluminium Highway."
After WWII, Jim (Bob) was stationed in Alaska where he was also involved in rescue missions such as the infamous "Clobbered Turkey" incident. Here, he began his duties in communications which led to his long-time involvement in amateur radio and his affiliation with the Military Auxiliary Radio System (M.A.R.S.). It was in Alaska that he met and married Norma Allison Short in 1948.
During his military career, he and Norma and their three daughters, Bobbie, Darlene and Patti, traveled the world while stationed at Air Force Bases in Arizona, Texas, Puerto Rico, Japan and England. Although daughter Terry lived with her mother in California, she often visited and spent an entire year with the family in Misawa, Japan.
Sgt. Brunson reveled in communications professionally and in his private pursuits. As a member of M.A.R.S., he relayed messages overseas before the advent of computers, email or texting, and he participated in field day training that equipped him to help save lives during crisis. While stationed in Puerto Rico, he helped set up a radio network that allowed children at Ramey Air Force Base to speak with Santa Clause. One of his proudest accomplishments was earning his private pilot’s license. While stationed in Washington. D.C., he actually flew above and along Pennsylvania Avenue, a feat he certainly could not have accomplished today!
Jim (Bob) retired from the Air Force as Chief Master Sergeant in 1969, having been decorated in war, awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and named Outstanding Non-commissioned Officer of the Year at Chicksands Security AFB in England.
He and Norma were married 37 years before her death in 1985. In 1988, he married Wanza Lou Chase, and at his death, Jim and Wanza had been married almost 30 years. They enjoyed many good years of travel and family. In 2010, Jim and Wanza moved from their Robin Lane home in New Braunfels to McKenna Village (now Rio Terra) Independent Living. When Jim's health required greater attention, he moved into assisted living there in Rio Terra where he received much loving care from the staff as well as caregivers with Hope Hospice. His family is eternally grateful for these "kind, compassionate angels on earth." Until the end, Jim enjoyed visits with his family, especially his young great-grandchildren, watching football and golf, and eating pizza, being in touch with friends, keeping up with current events and listening to good music. A special visit with his grandson Darren blessed Jim’s life just weeks before his death.
James Brunson is preceded in death by his parents Joshua Otis Brunson and Dora Marie Goodbar, his brother and sister, Norman and Darlene, and by his nephew Bill Brunson. Also, Betty Winters, his first wife and mother of his eldest daughter, and wife Norma Allison Short. His daughter Darlene Elizabeth Brunson also preceded her father in death. In addition to Wanza, his wife of nearly 30 years, he is survived by three daughters, Terry P. McLaughlin and husband Richard of Mosley, Virginia; Barbara (Bobbie) J. Maddox and husband Marvel of Seguin, Texas; and Patricia Ann Bulgerin and husband Randal, also of Seguin. His grandchildren include Darren Robert Bruns and sister Lisa Bruns, both of Sacramento, California; Michelle Leigh (Maddox) Smith and husband Chris of Austin, Texas; and Jennifer Ann Bulgerin of Portland, Oregon. Great grandchildren are Kasey Green, Sarah Elizabeth Smith, Samuel James Smith, Hannah Rose Maddox Smith and Miriam Leigh Smith. In addition, “Uncle Bob” is survived by loving nephews Troy Brunson and wife Linda; Eric Van DeLaughter and wife Pat, Richard DeLaughter, and Donald DeLaughter and wife Harriett, as well as niece Norma Gene Hessley. He is also survived by countless friends.
Those who wish to honor him with a donation may do so by making a contribution to a church or charity that supports veterans, active military, or end-of-life care.A memorial service will be held at Rio Terra Senior Living, 2294 E. Common Street, New Braunfels, Texas on Thursday, Nov. 30 at 10 a.m. with Hope Hospice Chaplain Peter Olsen officiating. After the memorial service, the family will travel to Ft. Sam Houston for internment with full military honors.