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Carl Frederick Brunjes

June 15, 1935 April 13, 2022
Carl Frederick Brunjes
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Obituary for Carl Frederick Brunjes

Dr. Carl F. Brunjes, June 15, 1935 — April 13, 2022

Carl Frederick Brunjes of Spokane, Washington was born on June 15, 1935 and brought home to a two-story white-clapboard house in Hartsdale, New York, north of New York City. His German parents had arrived in America separately by boat in the 1920s between the world wars.

By the age of 13, Carl had earned his Eagle Scout recognition and numerous Boy Scout badges. Because he admired his neighbor, who arrived home one day in a spiffy uniform from an Indiana boarding school, he applied to the same school, Culver Military Academy. That required a solo train ride to Manhattan and a critical interview with a grant committee that eventually awarded him an Eagle Scout scholarship. At Culver, Carl excelled in music as a sax player in the band. By his senior year, he was a band leader, and fellow students praised his friendliness and leadership skills. He graduated in 1953.

Carl next attended Yale University, also on scholarship. He sold toothpaste and neckties door-to-door for spending money, and by graduation in 1957 had earned degrees in both English and Pre-Med. That led him back to New York City, to Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he graduated in 1961. Columbia had a partnership with Mary Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York, and Carl held a rotating internship there for a year before attending Harvard University’s orthopedic residency program, from which he graduated in 1967.

He met his future first wife, Grace Potter Anderson, at Massachusetts General, where she was a head nurse. While living in Boston, they gave birth to three of four daughters, Laura Virginia Brunjes, Susan Brunjes and Mary “Molly” Potter Brunjes. Susan Brunjes died within a year from an illness related to Down syndrome.

From Harvard, in 1967 Carl entered the United States Air Force, and with Grace and two daughters, drove across America in a VW Bug to serve at Fairchild Airforce Base near Spokane, Washington. They fell in love with Spokane, and in 1969 Carl became a founding partner of what is now known as Northwest Orthopedic Specialists. As they raised a family (fourth child Jennifer Alicia Brunjes arrived), Carl and Grace engaged in Spokane’s vibrant community. They supported the Spokane Symphony, Wampum fundraising events and the growing Spokane arts scene. Carl was a member of the Spokane County Medical Society for more than 60 years.

Carl was endlessly intrigued with the world. His interests included classic cars, bronze sculptures, art, and skiing. He continued his music interests by hosting Yale traveling performance groups and Spokane Symphony special guests at his house. He quickly discovered Lake Pend Oreille. He and Grace bought a contemporary home on Kootenai Bay that was the center of the family’s friendships and adventures for many years. He loved to sail and water ski and buy local art at public markets. He loved to fix the dock and tinker on the house along with his local friend and jack-of-all-trades, Gil Bolson.

Grace and Carl divorced in 1985, and in 2005, Carl met and soon married Marilyn Northern, who also loved Lake Pend Oreille. Marilyn owned a condominium in Sandpoint, and together they enjoyed many happy getaways there. The couple traveled the world, spending winters in Maui, Hawaii, and other special vacations in Colorado, Arizona, Australia and Seattle.

Carl died peacefully from pneumonia at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, the same hospital where he’d operated as a surgeon for decades and just across the street from the first office where he’d practiced with his orthopedic clinic. The last words he heard before passing were from his doctor, who remarked that the many lives Carl had improved and the many surgeries he’d performed had made him an “institution”.

Carl is survived by: wife Marilyn Northern of Spokane; daughters Laura Brunjes Read (Douglas) of Tahoe City, California; Molly Brunjes DeWalt (Martin) of Spokane and Jennifer Alicia Brunjes of Vancouver, Washington; grandson Spenser Martin DeWalt (Christina) of Spokane; grandson Blake Anderson DeWalt of Spokane; four great grandchildren, Jennifer, Ethan, Emery, and Stella DeWalt in Spokane; former wife Grace Anderson Watt (Robert Denny, Jr.) of Spokane; and sisters Joan Morgan and Linda Nicely.

A private celebration of life is being held at Lake Pend Oreille in June. In lieu of flowers, the Brunjes family requests donations be made to the Spokane Symphony or KSPS (PBS).

To plant a tree in memory of Carl Frederick Brunjes, visit the Tribute Store.

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