George R. Brunk II, 90, widely-known evangelist, church leader and former dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, died Apr. 21, 2002, at his home in Park Village at the age of 90.
Dr. Brunk served more than 65 years in pastoral ministry and was active in churchwide crusades, writing and Bible conference work. He was born Nov. 18, 1911, in Denbigh, Va., and was a son of the late George R. and Katie W. Brunk.
Brunk taught at Eastern Mennonite College (now University), 1949-78, and at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, where he was professor of practical theology. He served as seminary dean, 1967-76, and was later named dean emeritus.
He was ordained to the ministry in 1934 at Warwick River Mennonite Church, Newport News, Va., and also founded the Warwick River Christian School there.
Brunk was a graduate of Denbigh High School and earned a Th.B. degree from Eastern Mennonite University and a B.A. from the College of William and Mary. He received the B.D., Th.M. and Th.D. degrees from Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Va.
Brunk held 100 evangelistic tent crusades with his wife and family across North America, 1951-1981, 25 of them in Canada, and spoke in many churches and conference settings during his ministry. He was founder and first pastor of Calvary Mennonite Fellowship in Harrisonburg and founder of the Fellowship of Concerned Mennonites. He was also former editor of the magazine Sword and Trumpet, founded by his father.
The first crusade was held the summer of 1951. People flocked to a large tent along Rt. 72 north of Lancaster, Pa., to hear evangelistic messages by Brunk, then 40 years old, and to sing hymns and gospel songs led by his brother, Lawrence Brunk. An estimated 15,000 people attended the final night of that first tent crusade that lasted seven weeks.
From there, the campaign moved to the Franconia area of eastern Pennsylvania, also attracting large crowds and registering many decisions and recommitments to Christ.
Over the next 30 years, the Brunk Evangelistic Association, based in Harrisonburg, held more than 100 tent crusades across the United States and Canada.
Former associates and supporters of the campaigns held a celebration Nov. 17-18, 2001, on the EMU campus to mark the 50th anniversary of the Brunk Revivals and to reflect on “what God was pleased to do” through this outreach. Brunk gave a sermon which coincided with his 90th birthday.
Former EMU President Myron S. Augsburger, a widely-traveled evangelist himself, said the Mennonite Church “experienced a new thrust of revival and has been changed forever” by the crusade effort.
On Sept. 20, 1933, Brunk married Margaret Suter, who preceeded him in death in 1999. His survivors are his children, Gerald R. and Shirley Nafziger Brunk; George R. III and Erma Hess Brunk; Paul W. and Joyce Erb Brunk, all of Harrisonburg; Conrad G. and Christina Gerster Brunk of Victoria, B.C.; and Barbara and Joseph A. Gascho of Hummelstown, Pa.; two sisters, Katie F. Shank and Ruth B. Stoltzfus of Harrisonburg, and one brother, Lawrence B. Brunk of Salem, Ohio.
From his first marriage he leaves 11 grandchildren, three step- grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and five step-great- grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter-in-law, Janet High Brunk, and a step-great-grandson.
On May 12, 2001, he married Rhoda W. Neer, who survives. Also surviving are step-children Lynn and Margaret Neer and Paul and Angie Neer, both of Johnstown, Pa., and Rose N. and Carl Berkey of Harrisonburg and Elizabeth N. and Dan Rhodes of Bridgewater, Va. From this marriage he leaves 10 step-grandchildren and one step-great-grandson. Preceding him in death are on stepson and his wife, David and Anita Neer, and their daughter.
“Brother George served effectively as a teacher and revival preacher for many years and later as our seminary dean,” said Ervin R. Stutzman, current EMS dean and moderator of Mennonite Church USA. “The Mennonite Church has benefited greatly from his life and ministry,” he added.
George Brunk had several severe accidents in which he almost lost his life. The first of these was in an airplane crash in 1975. The latest accident he had with a panel truck while riding his bicycle on July 15, 1998.
A memorial service was held Apr. 25 in Lehman Auditorium at Eastern Mennonite University with pastors Paul Emerson and Walter Beachy officiating. Interment will be in Weavers Mennonite Church cemetery west of Harrisonburg.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Mennonite Central Committee Relief Fund, P.O. Box 500, Akron, Pa., or the George R. Brunk II Memorial Scholarship Fund, Calvary Mennonite Fellowship, 7490 Mt. Clinton Pike, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.