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Ruthie Brunsman and Karen Braun

Ruthie Brunsman and Karen Braun

Ruthie Brunsman remembers fellow volunteer Karen Braun as a friend to laugh with, one of the few people in her 51 years whom she met and instantly “clicked with,” and the face she always looked forward to seeing when she walked into our House.

So when Karen passed away of liver cancer on Dec. 26, 2009, Ruthie knew she wanted to do something special to remember her friend. In February 2011, she found that something special - she adopted a room in Karen’s memory.

Ruthie’s friendship with Karen is one she’ll never forget. She says, “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.”

Ruthie met Karen when she started volunteering at our House in September 2008. The two instantly became close, talking and exchanging stories while they worked around our House, cleaning rooms, preparing meals and giving tours.

“It was easy for me to be myself around her,” Ruthie recalls. “The time flew when we were together.”

For Ruthie, the highlight of her day was talking with this “modern-day hippie” who was always wearing flannel shirts and bringing in homegrown fruits and vegetables for anyone who wanted them. She quickly learned that Karen had started volunteering at our House because she had beaten colon cancer and that recently, the cancer had returned, this time in her liver. But Karen never wanted to talk about any of that. Karen wanted to tell Ruthie about how all four of her children had been born at home and how her husband had delivered them himself.

Ruthie and Karen became so close that at one of the volunteer brunches at the Cincinnati Museum Center, Karen left to meet her husband at a Xavier University basketball game, but returned with her husband after the game, just so she could introduce him to Ruthie.

In late 2009, Karen’s prognosis became bleaker and bleaker, and she was running out of alternative treatment options. Karen was sent to hospice just after Thanksgiving and she passed away a month later. Devastated that she’d never again be able to see her friend’s smiling face, Ruthie decided that the best service she could do to Karen’s memory would be to name a room for her at the place that brought them together.

Now, room six in our House is named for Karen Braun, which feels perfect to Ruthie, who says she can still see Karen leaning against the wall outside the room, holding an apple. At the time, Ruthie asked Karen where she got the apple, and Karen replied simply that she brought it from home. The next time the two were scheduled to volunteer together, Karen brought an apple for Ruthie.

 “For me, having a room named after Karen is a constant reminder that she’s here, that her memory lives on in the House,” Ruthie says.