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1940 Ellen 2023

Ellen Bruner

April 9, 1940 — April 24, 2023

ELLEN (ELLIE) CAROLE BRUNER, a delightful person, loving wife and mother, devoted grandmother and dedicated civic leader, died at her home in Grant on April 24, 2023, at age 83, surrounded by her family.

Ellie was born in Newark, New Jersey on April 9, 1940, the daughter of Erwin and Anne Germann, and was raised at their home in Montclair, New Jersey. Following graduation from Montclair High School in 1958, Ellie entered Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she was a member of the internationally recognized Smith-Amherst Chamber Singers and graduated with a bachelor's degree in music in 1962. She then entered the University of Michigan Graduate School of Music and received her master's degree in music in 1963. Upon graduation, she accepted the position of Director of Music (K-12) at the Roycemore School in Evanston Illinois. Because of her excellent teaching skills, she was invited to present musical performances for children at Ravinia, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony.

Ellie's musical interest arose early in life. She devoted 12 years of her youth learning the classical masters on piano and studied at the renowned Julliard School in New York City. While earning her master's degree at Michigan, and for decades thereafter, Ellie often performed music as a solo vocalist, sometimes accompanied with her guitar. Her angelic, soaring soprano voice was especially suited to hymns and to folk music such as German folk songs which were a part of her heritage.

While at Michigan in 1962, Ellie met Philip Lane Bruner, a student at Michigan Law School, on a blind date. They married in Montclair, New Jersey on March 21, 1964, after which Phil completed law school, passed his bar exam and entered a three-year active-duty military commitment as an Air Force Judge Advocate stationed in Rome, New York. While "in the Air Force with Phil", Ellie taught school and enrolled in nearby Syracuse University where she went on to earn a Ph.D. in the Humanities with an emphasis in music. In 1967, Ellie and Phil moved to the Twin Cities, where Phil would practice law for 40 years and then become an arbitrator and mediator. They resided northeast of St. Paul for 56 years, the last 48 of them in the same house in Grant.

After marrying and becoming a mother, Ellie showered her love for music upon her three children who all learned to sing and play piano and other instruments. Ellie fed her soul with activities close to nature. Summers would find her kayaking on the St. Croix, canoeing in the Boundary Waters, biking here and in Europe, playing tennis, hiking in the Rockies or Swiss Alps, and sailing her sailboat on White Bear Lake. Winters would find her downhill skiing in Colorado and Utah, and cross-country skiing near home. Her son-in-law liked to call her the "Energizer Grammy".

The Arts, gardening, and volunteerism brought Ellie great joy. She committed decades to active civic leadership, such as serving as President of the The Schubert Club, The New Century Club, The St. Paul Garden Club, and the Wildwood Artist Series (which she led for 30 years in presenting musical performances in the Mahtomedi/White Bear Lake area). She also performed with musical groups such as the Bach Society, The Valley Chamber Chorale, the Madrigal Singers and others. Ellie was a leader in her church. For her lifetime of civic leadership, Ellie was honored in 2009 with the J. Stanley and Doris Hill Legacy Award presented jointly by the Century College Foundation, the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation and the Mahtomedi Area Educational Foundation.

Above all, Ellie was a wonderful mom, grandmother, and wife. She was always up for anything. Whether she was crawling around on the floor with grandchildren, exploring new hiking or biking trails, singing folk songs around a campfire or Christmas carols around a piano, creating a new garden, or showing off her best jackknife dive, she lived life to the fullest with an enthusiastic spirit that permeated everyone and everything around her.

She is survived by her husband Phil, by their three children and four grandchildren -- Rick Bruner of Los Angeles; Steve Bruner and daughter-in-law Leah Schmalzbauer and grandchildren Micah and Zola Bruner of Londonderry, Vermont; and, Carolyn Bruner Opps and son-in-law Benjamin Opps and grandchildren Maizy and Miller Opps of Austin, Texas - and by her brother Ralph Germann, of Honolulu, Hawaii.

The family at Ellie's request will hold private memorial services.. In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be sent to the Ellen C. Bruner Artist in Residency Fund at the Mahtomedi Area Educational Foundation (


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