Randall Brunk (1955-2014)

By Martin Morse Wooster: Randall Brunk, an active fan for over 35 years, died on September 23. He committed suicide after being depressed for many years.

Randy Brunk was born on September 9, 1955 in Hyattsville, Maryland. I first met him in 1978 when I was attending meetings of the University of Maryland Science Fiction Society. (One friend recalled that Randy was president of the club, but I can’t confirm this.) We immediately became friends because we were both libertarians and both liked many of the same television shows, particularly SCTV. When the DVDs of SCTV became available, Randy bought them all, and delighted in reminding me whenever I went to a soccer match that on the show Guy Caballero, evil owner of the SCTV network, thought the surest way to kill the station was to broadcast “four hours of football.”

After graduating from the University of Maryland in 1978 with a computer science degree, Randy Brunk went to work for Peoples Supply Company, a plumbing and home supply company in Bladensburg, Maryland. When his father, Perry, died, Randy became president and CFO of the firm, where he supervised 40 people. He left Peoples Supply in 2004 and went back to school, earning an accounting degree from Strayer University and ultimately passing his CPA exams. This was a proud achievement for him; being an accountant is hard work, since you have to pass eight exams full of arcane accounting knowledge. But Randy Brunk only worked intermittently after getting his CPA, due to the tight job market.

As a reader, Randy Brunk was one of Gene Wolfe’s biggest fans. Randy drifted in and out of fandom; he occasionally attended meetings of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, and hosted two of the club’s fall picnics at his house. But he always kept buying Wolfe, and was proud of his first editions of Wolfe’s novels. He also bought many of the North Atlantic Books editions of Theodore Sturgeon, vowing to finish the massive set someday when he had more time.

In the late 1980s, Randy married Elizabeth Firebaugh. When I first knew Randy, he was a secular humanist, but after his marriage he became a devout Catholic. They had three children, Emily, Katie, and David, all of whom survive him.

Randy Brunk was also a passionate sports fan. Nearly every time I saw him, he had the local sports talk radio station on in his car. He was devoted to the Washington Redskins and the Washington Nationals. We had a substantial difference of opinion on this, because while he supported the Nationals, I remained a Baltimore Orioles fan. We had endless banter about this, but went to two Nationals-Orioles games at Camden Yards together. The last time I heard from Randy was a week before his death, when he called me to congratulate me on the Orioles winning their division for the first time in 17 years.

Randy Brunk was a quiet, steady, reliable friend. I knew him for over 35 years, and he never shouted or became emotional. I wish, in hindsight, he had been more emotional; I knew very little about his inner life.  But he was a smart guy who was always fun to be with.

I wish I had a better story about him, but this one will have to do. Balticon has an amateur film festival on Sunday nights. One year the con featured a 100-minute space opera that was a Trek-oid pile of thud and blunder. The film was so bad that the con subsequently has imposed a 45-minute limit on films so that the crowd would not have to suffer through feature-length turkeys.

Randy Brunk sat next to me as we watched the thing. At the end, the credits rolled, concluding with “written and directed by James Norcross.” (I may have the name wrong.) I shouted, “Get a job, James Norcross!”

A voice came up from the front. “Why don’t you come up here and say it to my face like a man?”

The MC then announced that the lengthy post-film discussion with the cast and director had to be cancelled because one of the members had an emergency hangnail operation, or something.

The lights came up and Randy turned to me. “I’m not sure I want to see movies with you,” he said. “You’re dangerous.

Randy Brunk was one of my oldest and dearest friends in fandom and I miss him.