Senior remembered for generosity

Story by Carolyn Tiry

Spontaneity was senior Jada Brunk’s modus operandi. “One of my first memories of her,” said senior Shelley Grosch, close friend to Brunk, “is her just getting up from doing her homework in the living room and going out to the porch and just dancing.”

Senior Kelli Basa, another of Brunk’s sorority sisters, added, “It didn’t matter if it was 15 below, she didn’t care, she just did what she wanted.”

Brunk, 22, of La Crescent, Minn., died Monday, July 18 of cardiac arrest while visiting friends in Minneapolis. She was an organizational communication and sociology double major and an active member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority.

Grosch was Brunk’s “little sister” within the sorority, which meant that Brunk acted as Grosch’s mentor for life in Eau Claire and at the university.

“She became my best friend,” Grosch said. “I like to feel like she’s not gone, like she’s still my big sister and my best friend. She’s my guardian angel now, and we can still have a relationship with each other even though she’s gone.”

Brunk was also known for her sense of humor and carefree attitude.

“She was by far the funniest person you’d ever meet,” said Basa, who used a character from the television show Friends as a comparison. “She was
our Phoebe.”

Brunk studied abroad for a semester in Lismore, Australia during her sophomore year and spent her entire junior year at the University of Minnesota through the National Student Exchange program.

“She always wanted to go on adventures and try new things,” Grosch said. “She knew that life was more than just school and work.” Basa added that Brunk could talk for hours about her experiences traveling, whether it was her semester in Australia or a day trip to the Twin Cities.
After graduating from UW-Eau Claire, Brunk planned to obtain her master’s degree in higher education from UW-La Crosse.

Grosch and Basa said the sorority started a scholarship fund in Brunk’s name for current and future members who want to study abroad.

“She always wanted to genuinely help people,” Basa said, referring to the reason behind funding the scholarship. “We think that that’s one of the things that everyone will always remember about Jada.”

Members of Alpha Xi Delta also planted a cherry tree several weeks ago in the front yard of the sorority house in Brunk’s honor. Basa said they chose that type of tree because the spring blossoms reminded them of Brunk and her favorite color: pink.

In a July 29 statement to the university, Brunk’s parents, Sharie and Russell Brunk, said, “She loved being a student at UW-Eau Claire, and we are very thankful for all the assistance she received over the years from faculty and staff … Jada touched the hearts of many, was a wonderful daughter and will be greatly missed.”