Few people will dispute that Mike “Bruny” Brunhoefer was a Parker Viking to his core.
Brunhoefer spent his teen years at the newly constructed Parker High School, graduating in 1973. When it came time to pick a career, he stuck to his roots, returning to the school as a longtime coach and maintenance worker.
He spent nearly 30 years with the Parker girls basketball program. He also coached softball and football.
Brunhoefer died June 5 at age 63 after a battle with cancer, but his impact on Janesville can still be felt, co-workers say.
Former girls basketball head coach Tom Klawitter asked Brunhoefer to join his staff after seeing him work at the scorer’s table.
“When I became the head coach, one of the first things I wanted to do was get Mike on my staff,” Klawitter said. “I immediately went to him because he is so amazing with kids. He loved working with the girls, and that’s what made him such a good coach.”
Brunhoefer looked out for all players, Klawitter said, and he worked closely with the girls who weren’t in the starting lineup.
“He took care of the underdogs on the team, and he was always there to help and bring up the kids that weren’t stars at the time. He was their advocate and always found reasons for those kids to get an opportunity,” Klawitter said.
Brunhoefer was the ideal assistant coach, Klawitter and former Athletic Director Steve Schroeder said.
“He was a very loyal assistant coach. He always had my back, and he had the girls’ backs, too,” Klawitter said. “It’s just one of those things that is hard to really even put into words, but he really cared about them.”
Schroeder saw the compassion, too.
“Bruny melded very well both with the girls and the coaching staff,” he said. “I think the biggest thing was that he was an excellent liaison between Klawitter and the players. He honestly would have coached for free because he loved the kids so much.”
He was just as committed to his work as a custodian and maintenance worker.
When an athletic field needed to be prepared at the last minute or something needed doing, Brunhoefer was the one people called.
“I knew he was somebody that I could go to when I needed something done right,” Schroeder said.
He recalled when a junior varsity baseball game couldn’t begin because the field needed work.
“I called Bruny, and he drove straight to the field and dragged the infield and sprayed the baselines,” Schroeder said. “He didn’t complain. He truly wanted that game to take place for those kids.”
One of Brunhoefer’s biggest projects at Parker was the light show that dramatized the player introductions before basketball games.
Schroeder said Brunhoefer worked diligently to make Parker’s intros different from those at other schools. Parker was one of the first area schools to have a pregame production, and the assistant coach spent hours every game day to ensure that everything was ready.
After coaching at Parker, Brunhoefer coached girls basketball at numerous other schools, including Milton, where he worked with Craig head coach Kerry Storbakken.
“The guy has a huge heart, and his passion just rubs off on others. Sometimes as a head coach you have to make decisions that the kids don’t agree with, but Bruny could always cheer them up and make them happy. They adored him,” Storbakken said.
Klawitter also remembers Brunhoefer as a selfless man.
“He didn’t want any thanks or praise. He was such a giving guy, and he never wanted anything in return. He just wanted to help other people,” Klawitter said. “He was a humble man, and he gave a lot of people many laughs and good times.”
That make-a-difference attitude will continue to be felt by the people whose lives he touched, Schroeder said.
“We lost a true Parker Viking,” he said. “Bruny was diehard Parker, and he wanted to make the kids successful both in basketball and after basketball. We miss him already. He was a Viking through and through, and it showed in everything that he did.”