A Waverly family with deep roots in the community is grappling with unbearable grief at the news that the oldest of their beloved sons met an untimely and tragic death.
John Brunkhorst, a renowned doctor in town, now in retirement, and his wife, Edna, a frequent contributor to Waverly Newspapers opinion page, lost their son, Geoffrey Blaine Brunkhorst on April 8.
He was 58 and worked as a security consultant for World Wide Technology out of the St. Louis Division, according to his obituary.
His estranged ex-wife, Bradi Baker, 60, is charged with first-degree murder, according to media reports.
Born on May 10, 1960, Geoffrey was baptized and confirmed at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Waverly, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Visitation will take place from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, at Kaiser Corson Funeral Home in Waverly.
Geoffrey is the brother of Bob Brunkhorst, Waverly’s former mayor and state legislator.
He graduated from Waverly Shell Rock High School in 1978, where he played football, basketball and track.
In 1982, he earned a degree in computer science from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. He and his late wife, Erin Ann Delaney, were married on June 2, 1984, at St. John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville, Minnesota. They raised two sons and a daughter. Erin passed away in 2008.
Geoffrey loved his family, the outdoors and enjoyed cooking. He was a Boy Scout counselor at Camp Ingawanis. He loved to cook and was especially good at making sourdough bread. He was an avid outdoorsman, and participated in RAGBRAI, an annual bike tour sponsored by the Des Moines Register.
His football coach, Denny Button, who will be an honorary pallbearer at the funeral, said he was crushed to learn of Geoffrey’s untimely death.
Coach Button said he would always fondly remember his former lineman, who also earned an all-state honor in 1977, the same year that the Go-Hawks made their first appearance in the state football playoffs.
He recalled the last time he spoke to Geoffrey, during the 40th class reunion in 2018, which the coach made sure he attended, despite a jet lag from an overseas trip he and his wife had just made.
“We had such a great time reminiscing and talking,” he said, fighting back tears. “At first it was a lot of his classmates and I and then it was just Geoff and I, and we walked to the parking lot talking. I will forever be grateful for this time we had together.”
Button said Geoffrey was “very congenial” and a “quiet leader.”
“He liked to have a lot of fun with his friends, he could be serious and yet, he could say something that could be pretty humorous as well,” Button said. “He had a really good personality, he would respond to coaching, he would listen, he would communicate well as an athlete. That senior class was full of wonderful students, a perfect place for Geoffrey to be with that outstanding group. He had character to burn, he was a big boy on his way to becoming a fine, fine man.”
Father David Ambrosy, who will be officiating the mass on Wednesday, said the congregation’s thoughts are with the family during these trying times.
“St. Mary’s parish extends its prayers and sympathies to Geoff Brunkhorst’s family,” he told Waverly Newspapers.
Dave Arns, one of Brunkhorst’s former teammates, recalled his friend’s successes on the basketball court, in the discus circle as well as on the gridiron.
Arns, who currently teaches math at W-SR, called Brunkhorst a “true student-athlete.”
“He was in the higher-level courses in high school,” Arns said. “He was just a good student as well.”
One of Arns’ fondest memories of Geoffrey was when a group of friends traveled to Pasadena, California, to cheer on the Iowa Hawkeyes at their first Rose Bowl appearance in three decades.
Traveling in Geoffrey’s station wagon, they managed to drive safely through a winter storm and treacherous icy conditions between Flagstaff, Arizona, to home, but their luck changed when approaching the Brunkhorst residence in Waverly.
“We’ve driven that whole way, and our only accident was two blocks from his house the next morning,” Arns said.
Memories like this one are all friends and family have left to cling to as the the family copes with the tragedy.
“We are grieving and would appreciate the privacy,” Bob Brunkhorst, Geoffrey's brother, said.
Button, the football coach, said those who knew Geoffrey understand the deep sense of loss.
“He will be remembered by so many,” Button said, “ … and by the family he was born into. That’s just unfathomable what happened to your family member.”
In lieu of flowers memorials may be directed to the Winnebago Council — Boy Scouts of America or the Go-Hawk Scholarship Fund. Online condolences for Geoff’s family by be left at www.kaisercorson.com. Kaiser-Corson Funeral Home in Waverly is assisting the family.