Katherine Ann O’Connor Bruner
Katherine Ann O’Connor Bruner was born February 17, 1948 in Gardner, Kansas, and passed
on February 23, 2020 at KU Medical Center, following an automobile accident. Kathy grew up in
Overland Park, attended Bishop Miege High School, St. Mary College of Leavenworth, and
graduated from Wichita State University. Kathy leaves behind her husband of 50 years Dr.
Steven Bruner, daughters Jen Mier (David), Katie Soff (Jesse) and beloved grandchildren Anna
and Abby Mier and Kellen and Julian Soff. Her family and large extended family were some of
her greatest joys.
Kathy was an avid world traveler, accomplished gardener, community activist and Democratic
party supporter. She was a Girl Scout leader, ski trip chaperone, and excellent photographer
and an avid Jayhawk basketball fan. Kathy served on numerous boards including: Lawrence
Memorial Hospital Endowment, Friends of the Theatre, United Way, Red Cross, Douglas
County Medical Alliance, Rotary, and Hearts of Gold Medical Gala.
One of her proudest achievements was serving as co-chair of Clean Air Lawrence, which
resulted in an indoor smoking ban in Lawrence the first in the state, which then spread to many
other communities. She testified twice for the Kansas Legislature, finally persuading them to
pass a Statewide indoor smoking ban.
Kathy and Steve also wrote and co-produced the award-winning documentary of Lawrence
history “Lawrence Free State Fortress.” It ran for 20 years in the Arden Booth Theatre at the
Lawrence Visitor Center for which Kathy was major fund-raiser. The film was seen by every 4th
grade class during that period. Kathy was also instrumental in compiling the oral history of
Theatre Lawrence in celebration of their 40th Anniversary.
She was so proud of her Irish heritage and marched with the O’Connor family float in the KC St.
Patrick’s day parade for over 40 years. Even while in a wheelchair one year! She never knew a
stranger and definitely had the gift of gab.
Kathy leaves behind siblings Mary Dailey (Tom), Sherri Sobek (Jim), Bill O’Connor, Sheila
O’Connor (Gerry Sigmon), Ann Waters (Bill), Kelly Specht (Bob), Trish Orth (Jim), sister-in-law
Vickie Louvier, 20 nieces and nephews, and many great nieces and nephews. Kathy loved
family gatherings with her 75+ on both sides of the family.
The Visitation will be Friday, February 28th 6:00pm to 8:00pm, at Warren-McElwain Mortuary at 120 West 13th Street, Lawrence, Kansas.
The Funeral will be Saturday, February 29th 10:00am at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vermont Street, Lawrence.
Kathy’s wish to be an organ donor was fulfilled. Her other wish was for everyone to vote.
Donations in her honor may be made to Carl’s Cause, 10520 Barton Street, Overland Park, KS
66214, The Lawrence Rotary Club Foundation, or Theatre Lawrence and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.
Kathy and I went to high school together at Bishop Miege. Kathy always had a smile and joy in her heart. We had just recently bonded over politics, of which we agreed upon. It was nice to have her reach out to me. My thoughts and prayers are with Kathy and her family.
You and Kathy were an amazing team.
So honored to call you friends. I know how hard it is to lose a spouse and the love of your life. The best advice I can give is to take plenty of time to grieve and fill your heart with wonderful memories.
So sorry to hear of Kathy’s passing. Prayers and love to your family.
We are holding you in our hearts. You are in our thoughts and prayers here at WHS. SO sorry for this devastating loss.
What a woman! Her legacy will live on forever. RIP.
So sorry to hear of this terrible tragedy. I had just visited with Kathy at an event the night before. Our condolences.
Your family is in our thoughts & prayers. Kathy touched so many lives & made such a positive difference in our community. Cindy & Stephen Carttar
We are so sorry to hear about Kathy’s sudden passing. I know you and your family have lost a treasured member and indeed so too has the Lawrence community. I had the pleasure of working with Kathy on the Clean Air Lawrence committee and she was so knowledgeable and passionate about making our community a better and healthier place. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.
Aynsley Anderson Sosinski and Richard Sosinski
Letting you know how sorry we are for the loss of Kathy. So glad I got to know her and she will truly be missed by all. Hope the good memories will help you and your family through this very difficult time.
Your family is in our thoughts and prayers. May memories comfort you in the days ahead. – Jim & Donna Flory
Kathy loved being the oldest in our family, and the first to do many things like traveling the world over. Now you’re the first to go on this next journey. God’s speed, dear sister! Please give Mom & Dad and sweet Carl a kiss and hug for us! Until we meet again…
To the Bruner Family,
Kathy was a wonderful person. I feel the better for having known her over the years. Her energy and commitment to the Lawrence Community will shine brightly for a long time. Please, try to wrap yourself in the memories of all the good times she managed to selflessly give to others and comfort yourself in knowing that while her life was all too short, she made a difference. -Linda Keeler
What an incredible woman! A heart beyond description…..love of life contagious…..family precious. So grateful to have hugged her the day before she left us…..what a blessing! She is an angel to so many…..forever.
Kathy was a treasure to all who knew her, and made a great difference to many many lives and organizations. We will miss her. Steve and family you are all in our thoughts and prayers.
I am so sad for the loss of this incredible lady! She was such a joy and inspiration to have known!
Steve, Katie and Jen,
My heart grieves with sadness at the loss of your sweet wife and mother. She had the gift of making you feel so important when visiting about how my family was. She loved this community and Lawrence is better because of many things she lead. You always felt energized and happy after visiting with Kathy.We are so sorry. Prayers for comfort and support as you walk this most difficult time.
Dear Kathy. From a very young age, I felt a strong kinship with you. Like many of my cousins and extended family, I always knew you were enthusiastically cheering me on and were genuinely tickled with my accomplishments, no matter how big or small. You helped me in ways you never knew, and I’m heartbroken that you are gone so soon. If I can take any personal solace in your passing, it’s that I feel a stronger obligation to make an impact on others and my community in the ways you have done. You have left very big shoes to fill in our family and in the community. Sending all the love and support I can muster to Steve, Jenny, and Katie.
Steve, our hearts ache for you and your family here at Watkins Health Center. Kathy was always full of love and positive energy. We will all miss her beautiful smile.
No words can express how sad I am for your loss and the passing of this dynamic woman. She was a treasure to the whole community and made Lawrence a better place. I can only pray for your comfort in this terrible season. Please let us all know if there is anything we can do to help. Take care of yourselves.
Sorry to hear of Kathy’s passing. She was such a great conversationalist! She always talked about her family and the great adventures she and Steve took around the world. She will be missed. RIP Kathy
Dear Steve and daughters, we are crying buckets of tears for you. Can’t believe the lovely amaryllis bulb you brought by is still blooming reminding us of Kathy’s bright soul. All our love, Phil and Phoebe Godwin
Dear Dr. Bruner and Family: I loved Kathy so much; she was always a light with her warms smile and optimistic outlook. Please accept our heartfelt condolences.
Ellen Anthony Moore and Chris Moore (daughter and son-in-law, Jack and Judy W.)
One of the kindest women I have ever known. She made everyone feel important.
Doc, Girls, she holds endearing, deeply felt memories for me, as a young Mama, who walked through pregnancy and after you aided delivery, Doc, of my Heidi and Holly. She had a way of making folks feel important.
Big player in many important life times, in many Lawrence families. Cathy playing a lead roll in our family memories.
I am so sorry for your loss.
Talena Kerbel Bauck
So sorry to hear of Kathy’s passing. She always welcomed me with open arms when I went to her house with Sheila when we were students at KU. She will be in our prayers as well as the rest of c the family. Peace be with you.
Dear Steve, Jen, & Katie,
Kathy was a dear friend of ours, as you know you are also. We are still in disbelief. We talked or texted usually 1-2 x week. We shared so many happy times, giggled & laughed, celebrated & cried together. Yes, we will be here for you. Tell the kids to put their faces upward as they feel the wind on their cheeks….it is Grandma’s angel wings letting them & you know she is with you.
She possessed a zeal for life, family, travel, a heart to serve others, and was a champion for our community. To be in her presence was complete joy. Our deepest condolences and prayers for your dear family.
Walter and Tara Farrell
To Steve, Jen, and Katie,
Jack and I are still in disbelief. Kathy was such a force of nature. . .so full of life and love for this world. She made a difference in her community and in all the lives she touched. . .she will be sorely missed!
What an amazing lady, supporter for so many, always seen with a smile and a laugh. She will be so missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family at this time,
We met Kathy and Steve on our very first cruise, Viking, Romance on the Danube. I don’t think Kathy ever met a stranger, she was so delightful and always making you feel comfortable. We were traveling with another couple, Nancy and John Wood, who were also first time travelers, too. One day after Nancy and I had been shopping on shore, Kathy met us coming on board with a couple of beers to relax. We truly enjoyed her company and thoughtfulness.
I am so sorry for your loss. My daughter and I had the pleasure to meet Kathy in 2011 at Theatre Lawrence, and since that day, she showed us so much kindness. Kathy immediately became a cheerleader for every goal and plan we shared with her. Her unyielding encouragement and support will forever be remembered by my family.
We pray that your family is able to find peace, and forever cherish your memories with her.
Dear Steve, We just got the message that Kathy has passed this life on to the next. Our hearts are hurting for you and your family. I know it’s small consolation now; but the wonderful memories the two of you have made will help see you through this. We will be praying for you all as you gather on Friday. You both are so precious to us. Janet and Dudley Crow
Dear Steve and family,
Karl and I just heard this sad, sad news. We have never forgotten how those many years ago you and Kathy welcomed me into the practice with open arms. And we did have some fun times, didn’t we? I will be donating all the time I am able to the Democrats and thinking of Kathy.
Sheila & Kelly May your happy memories help thru this sad time. Sending prayers & hugs . Our deepest sympathy.
Deepest condolences to you and your family, Dr. Bruner.
Steve,I am so very sorry for this heartbreaking loss.We all have lost an earth angel in Kathy’s passing.I truly am saddened beyond words.
We are so sad for you and your family, and will always remember your wife as a happy and fun loving woman with an infectious laugh and smile. We are praying for you and your family to find comfort in your memories with her.
Kathy’s untimely death has left us stunned and so very sad. We send our deepest condolences to you, your girls, and your extended family. We cannot imagine your grief. We hold you close in our hearts.
John and Rita McGrew
Steve, Katie, and Jen, what a shocking loss for you and for everyoone in Lawrence who knew Kathy. Judy and I are deeply sorry and send you our heartfelt sympathy. Kathy was a bright light in any room. I always looked forward to seeing her at theatre performances, or anywhere else. All of Lawrence mourns with you. God bless you and be with Kathy’s spirit.
Steve and Bruner Family,
This is an immeasurable loss for you and for our community. I always enjoyed seeing Kathy at the theatre, for she was infinitely kind and encouraging. She gave of herself to anyone she met, and we are all the better for passing through her orbit. Please accept my deepest sympathies on your loss.
My deepest sympathies for you and your family, Dr Bruner. Kathy will be dearly missed by so many. She was always fun to be around. Hold on to your sweet memories with her.
What a tragic loss for you and the whole Bruner family. I can’t imagine what a hole Kathy’s death will leave in your lives. However, knowing Kathy, she would want very much for you to rejoice in 50+ years of wonderful memories and make the most of every day as if she were still walking beside you. Our deepest condolences.
Steve and family,
We were shocked and saddened to learn of Kathy’s passing. Our thoughts are with you at this terrible time. We will miss her bright smile, her wit and her enthusiasm for life.
Steve, My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this very sad and painful time. May the many happy and loving memories you have ease the pain of your loss.
My thoughts are with you and your family. Kathy touched so many lives. I ran into Kathy a while back on Mass Street, after years of not seeing each other, and it was like no time had passed. She was so nice and genuinely interested in hearing all about what was going on. I loved that part of her.
Dear Steve, Jen and Katie, your wife and mom was someone truly special. Our deepest condolences to you. I hope that my parents Jim and Polly are greeting Kathy in heaven the way that you greeted and were friends to them in your neighborhood. I know you are in shock, as we are, and I want you to know you are in our thoughts, as Kathy always will be. Love, Jane (Reed) and Joseph Wilson
John and I had the pleasure of visiting with Kathy a couple years ago at Bob and Kelly’s house. Such a lovely lady and so easy to visit with. We visited as if we’d known each other all our lives! Rest In Peace, Kathy.
Dear Dr. Bruner and family,
I was so sorry to hear about your terrible loss. Kathy and I went to Miege together and really got to know each other senior year. She was full of fun and always smiling. You are in our prayers. Marcia Haver Kirke
I first knew Kathy as one of the kindest customers I served at a dry cleaners drive-thru, many years ago. More recently I had the pleasure of delighting in her presence at events for Community Village Lawrence. Her bright light will shine on in all of the hearts that she touched. My deepest condolences to her family, I am so sorry for your loss.
Dear Steve and family,
Please accept my sincere and heartfelt condolences on this immeasurable loss. Wherever Kathy went, and whatever she did, she made things better. The whole community benefited from her skills, talents, compassion and kindness. She was a truly special person.
I am so very sorry for your loss. May LOVE and cherished memories surround you now and always.
Steve and yourwhole family,
I have no words … and am so sad to have learned of your loss… our loss. Cathy was a gift to us all. I have so many memories of her, and you, in our lives over the years. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Dear O’Connor family, I am sending you all love and prayers. Kathy always made me laugh, telling a funny story or joke and made me feel part of your family. May your memories sustain you.
We are stunned and cannot find words to express how sad we are. Kathy’s smile and love will remain in our memories always. She was the kindest person, opening her heart and arms to everyone. Our neighborhood was complete because of this dazzling woman. She was the heart of the house our children – and we – felt welcomed and cherished in. We all – Carl, Steig, Dirk, Anni, Hans and I – will never forget the happiness there, in the house down the street.
The entire Tacha family is devastated to hear this sad news. That smile! She always greeted us with questions of care and concern about the family and always had a positive outlook on everything. She made the entire Lawrence community a better place. We grieve with you and will always remember her many kindnesses and generous spirit.
Dear Steve & Family, We are so sad to learn of Kathy’s passing and our hearts are broken for you and your family. Kathy’s energy and attitude were an inspiration and her presence in the Watkins family will be truly missed.
Dear Steve, I loved Kathy’s smile. She was such a welcoming and kind person. She was an inspiration to all especially in all her volunteer activities. It is hard to lose your spouse as I know but as you grieve you will have such happy memories. Prayers for you and your family.
She was a sweet soul. She will be missed.
My heartfelt sympathies to the entire Bruner/O’Connor family for your great loss. As a fellow producer and documentarian, I thank Kathy and Steve for their beautiful work and everlasting gift of “Lawrence Free State Fortress” to our community.
From a fellow Irish girl:
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
Dear Steve, Katie and Jen, I first became acquainted with your amazing wife and mother at Brown’s Shoe Store! She was getting shoes for a vacation and asked my opinion on which of the two pairs she should pick. We started laughing, inventing outrageous scenarios for wearing the shoes, and I think she bought both pairs. Such unexpected, random fun was one of her signature traitsI I also worked with her for Theatre Lawrence, and served as her engineer in the compilation of the theatre’s history vignettes. Every time I saw Kathy, she was engaging, positive, totally supportive of her numerous projects, and a delight to work with!! In the studio, she made her interview subjects feel relaxed and conversational, a gift she definitely carried into other parts of her life and career. I last saw her at the Finnigan and Lynch concert in support of the Community Village Project this past July, at which she was her usual ebullient self. I will always remember her laughter, her love for her family, and how much I enjoyed her joyful commitment to her causes! I am so sorry for your tragic loss!! My prayers are with you all!
Kathy treated me like a little brother and her enthusiasm, joy, and slightly impish style belied her discipline and intensity to order and the highest of causes. She was engaging and smart working for causes that mattered to the most. Her legacy of smoke-free buildings, public health, theater, and contagiously, love for her kids and grandkids, resonated with many and she was valuable and important. My heart, love, and prayers are with you, your extended family, and your friends mourning the loss of an extraordinary soul.
Steve, Jenny, and Katie:
Rogene and I were stunned and deeply saddened to hear of Kathy’s death. We remember with fondness of the many meaningful encounters we had with her. Please know we are thinking of you as you engage with your grief.
Jeff and Rogene Anderson
Steve, Katie and Jen:
Ken, Aimee and I were stunned to hear of the accident and Kathy’s passing. I had just seen her at the LMH Endowment Annual meeting Thursday evening,, and – with a twinkle in her eye – she told me she had our costumes for our annual Mardi Grau lunch and parade viewing. She grinned when she told me the costumes were boas! Our first meeting was at Lawrence Family Practice over 40 years ago; we were both pregnant, and I delivered Aimee in November (thank you, Dr. Steve) and Katie was born in February. We had lots of lunches and visits for decades. She frequently called me to say she was out and about and would I like to meet her for lunch. I will so miss her popping into A-S-K’s office. She was always smiling and had that twinkle in her eye. She was filled with passion about so many things which are reflected in her life. Ken and I send our heartfelt condolences and prayers for all of you during this sad, tragic time of grieving. My you find consolation in your many memories of your wonderful wife and mother.
Much love, Sheila and Ken Martinez
We want to express our deepest condolences to you and your family. We held Kathy in the highest regard, and we are deeply sorry for your loss.
Joe and I are so sorry for your loss. I will remember all the times I saw Kathy at various basketball games and other functions; she always had a smile on her face and a friendly word. We know Lawrence has lost a great asset and will be missed by many.
My heart just breaks hearing of Kathys passing. She was always smiling and kind to me. She inspired me to do more gardening. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this very difficult time.
I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said. Joyce and I will dearly miss you and wish we would have gotten together more with you and Steve. It was always great to see you at our family events. Your enthusiasm and great smile were your signature. And our children, especially Brian, loved you as well. I can’t image a St. Patrick’s Parade without you. It won’t be the same. Thank you for always being there and arranging for the fantastic Kelly Green O’Connor Sweatshirts for the parade. We will miss you so much. Love you Kiddo.
I’m so sorry for you and your family’s loss. I loved talking with Kathy every time I seen her. Kathy always had a smile on her face and was always had a positive outlook on things. Kathy will truly be missed by everyone. My prayers to you and your family at this difficult time.
We are all so sad to have heard this terrible news. Kathy was always so kind. Please accept our sincere condolences as we pray for healing for you and everyone who loved Kathy.
Dr Bruner, Jen, Katie and family,
We send our love to all of you during this very difficult time. Your wife/mother will live in your hearts forever. Kathy was a kind person who would always stop and ask how we were doing and would give updates on all of you!
Extending our deepest sympathy and condolences to your family.
Kelly and Dianne Gonser
Dear Steve and Family,
Mindee and I were so saddened to hear the tragic news about Kathy. She brightened up the room and made us laugh every time we saw her. We know how much she meant to her family, her neighbors and to the Lawrence community. She was an extraordinary person and our deepest condolences go out to you and your family.
I was already looking forward to spring days when I would see you, Steve, and Kathy walking past my home on one of your many jaunts through the neighborhood. I so looked forward to saying hello and chatting a few minutes! Her ready smile and hello will be missed! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wonderful family.
Dear Steve, Katie and Jen,
Kathy was an infectiously cheerful, lively person. We were stunned by her sudden passing. She will be fondly remembered by many.
Joy and Bob Lominska
Getting to know you better in the last 5 or 6 years has brought our family such warmth & joy. You have a gift of making everyone feel important & cared for. Your zest for life & going places is contagious! I loved our facebook messages about traveling. Our hearts hurt with your sudden passing… All our love & support to Steve, Jeni & Katie.
You will be missed SO much by everyone who knew you.
Your smile and delightful personality brought joy to so many. Jim will miss seeing you at the store. You were always so happy. Prayers for comfort and healing.
So incredibly sorry for your loss.
Seems like just yesterday we were all in a medical school or post-medical school gathering and most recently talking about going as a group to Europe. Kathy always had such energy and was such a vital part of all of that. What a life team you were. Our prayers are with you.
We are so sorry for the loss. Your family has been our in our thoughts.
We are so pained to hear of Kathy’s passing. She never knew a stranger and gave love like confetti to all around her. She will truly be missed by many far and near. You have our heart felt condolences.
Alonzo and Rhonda Beardshear
To The Bruner Family:
Kathy was an inspiration to so many and never met a stranger. I am thankful I had an opportunity to speak with her the night before her accident. As a volunteer at LMH, I will cherish the memories I have of Kathy where I first met her many years ago in the LMH Gift Shop. Dr. Bruner, she was a great customer. My condolences to you and your family.
Marcia and Brad West:
Dear Steve, Jen and Katie,
It is with the greatest sadness we heard about Kathy. Our hearts go out to you. We are beyond sorry for your loss.
Kathy, always smiling and joyous about life…such a thoughtful, inspiring person.
Years ago, when I was going through cancer, she came by the house to visit me. Her smile and thoughtfulness meant so much to me.
Girl Scouts and a myriad of other interests in her life benefited from her forward thinking and support. We remember with great fondness the Lawrence Free State Fortress documentary.
Kathy, such an amazing, endearing person, a bright light. She made such a difference in people’s lives.
Thinking of you in this difficult time.
Marcia and Brad West and family
Steve and family: We were so sorry to learn of Kathy’s accident and passing. Life is precious and she certainly made the most of her time on earth. Her energy and compassion were an immensely positive force in our community. We’ll miss her.
I am so saddened by this news. Just saw this beautiful lady and hugged her and we laughed and visited at the Friends of the Theatre fundraiser. She was such a lovely soul. My heartfelt condolences to all the family and friends who loved her. She was a light in this world that will be sorely missed.