January 7, 2022

William Bruns leaves a legacy of service to the archdiocese

By Natalie Hoefer

Bill BrunsIf there were a book on the life of William “Bill” Bruns II, it would have included a long list of contributions to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and been grammatically correct, filled with trivia and completed ahead of schedule.

So say the friends and former co-workers of Bruns, 77, who died on Dec. 14, 2021.

One of his greatest legacies was serving as executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Communications from 1994-2006.

“I’ve spent my entire career in journalism and communications, and Bill was the best editor I ever worked with,” said Greg Otolski, current archdiocesan executive director of communications who took on the role when Bruns retired in 2006.

(Related reflection: Remembering Bill Bruns)

Prior to working for the archdiocese, Bruns spent 26 years working for Eli Lilly and Company’s corporate communications office in Indianapolis. He spent his last nine years there as editor for the office.

“He brought his communications expertise from his time at Eli Lilly and used it to greatly advance the archdiocese’s communication efforts,” said Otolski.

Bruns hired Otolski as editor of The Criterion in 1999.

“We continued to work together right up to his death,” said Otolski. “Until he went into the hospital, he continued to do monthly freelance editing for various archdiocesan writing projects,” including editing the archdiocesan directory.

He lauded Bruns for his “work behind the scenes helping shape [the late] Archbishop Daniel [M.] Buechlein’s communications with the people of the archdiocese,” and called him “a driving force behind the messaging that made several stewardship campaigns in the archdiocese such a success.”

Suzanne Yakimchick also worked with Bruns at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis while she served as archdiocesan chancellor from 1991-2008.

She described him as “unique, funny as can be and very knowledgeable about a wide range of things. He was extremely talented in his writing and editing and respected for his high standard of work.”

Yakimchick recalled a tradition of his when the two had a difficult topic to discuss.

“He would always toss some pieces of chocolate on my desk first,” she said. “We’d eat the chocolate to start a conversation to make it seem better.”

She admired him for his “deep faith and the ability to write about that. And he was dedicated to not just practicing but spreading the faith.”

Part of spreading that faith involved Bruns writing two books on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and another for Catholics recently welcomed into the full communion of the Church.

Before working as executive director of archdiocesan communications, he served as a member or director on more than 20 boards, committees and teams for the archdiocese, its agencies and his parish on topics ranging from Catholic education to catechesis to liturgy and more.

Bruns’ broad efforts for the archdiocese and beyond were enhanced by a

well-rounded education. He graduated cum laude with a degree in English from Xavier University in Cincinnati in 1966, earned his Master’s in Business Administration from Indiana University in 1967 and received a Master’s of Pastoral Theology through St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1987.

“He was deeply committed to the Church, and he was very well-read,” said retired Father James Farrell, a friend of Bruns for nearly 45 years. “His home library might be larger than the library of some small towns—and that’s after giving away many of his books.”

Otolski agreed.

“Because Bill was so well read, he was a great conversationalist,” he said. “There was nothing better than having a drink and dinner with Bill, especially if he made the meal. He loved a good cocktail and he enjoyed cooking for family and friends.”

Bruns’ online obituary mentions his “true passion for cooking—and enjoying—food [he was a natural born chef].” It also recalls his “loving and compassionate nature.”

“He was a great dad, very committed to his family,” said Father Farrell, a former pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis where Bruns and his wife Sallie were members for many years.

“He was committed to liturgy, too. He wouldn’t hold back saying if he didn’t like the music that was played at Mass!”

The online obituary also notes Bruns as a “fanatic for being on time,” saying he “considered anyone who arrived on time late, and any late arrival as unacceptable.”

Yakimchick agreed with a laugh.

“Good luck if you arrived late to a meeting and dared to ask to be caught up on what already happened!” she said.

She called Bruns “caring and funny.”

“His humor and ability to tease and to accept teasing was a lot of fun,” said Yakimchick. “I visited him many times when he was sick [during his final years], and he always kept his sense of humor.”

Bruns’ talent, skill, faith and personality had an impact on the archdiocese, his family and friends.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor when I came to the archdiocese, and he was an even better friend,” said Otolski. “I will miss him tremendously.”

Bruns is survived by his wife Sallie and their three children: son, William R. Bruns III; daughter, Monica Marie Stone; daughter, Elizabeth Ann Bruns; and two grandchildren. He was laid to rest on Dec. 20 during a private Mass and burial.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul or the Indianapolis Zoological Society. †

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