Trent Bruner

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Howard Leroy Bruner: My Dad, My Tribute Print E-mail
It is with deep sadness that our family announces the death of my father, Howard Leroy Bruner (November 1, 1932 - May 12, 2014, age 81) which happened at the Shellbrook Hospital in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, Canada. He passed away due to prostate and lung cancer. But the good news for us is that he is not suffering anymore and we know with certainty that he is in a better place. There are many pleasant memories I have of my father outside of music, but I will focus on my musical memories of him in this article.

When I think back to my beginnings in music, my father was one of my first musical influences. He used to play guitar and sing for the one room school house dances at Silver Cliff School, east of Canwood, Saskatchewan. When I was five years old and in kindergarten, he played guitar and recorded me singing with him ”Here We Go ’Round The Mulberry Bush” in C Major.  We did this in the living room on reel-to-reel tape.  He built my mother, Gerda Bruner, a square bass instrument for her Grade Four music class and it worked quite well.  An English fellow named Mr. Train (one of Gerda’s teaching colleagues) saw it in the corner of Mom’s classroom and said “My word…a square cello.”  He then grabbed hold of it and proceeded to pluck the music scales up and down the strings.

When I was 10 years old, I got a small parlour guitar as a birthday gift from Mom and Dad and I tried to find a guitar chord or two in front of the mirror in their bedroom.  This was similar to Dad in that my Grandpa, Aurillian (Rid) Bruner bought him a small parlour guitar as well for $7.00 CDN at an auction in Canwood when he was young. Howard was the first person to show me how to tune a guitar. I never forgot when I tuned the high E string into an F note over time. He was the one who made sure I got the E string back to its original pitch. He was extremely fussy about tuning an instrument correctly.  “Good enough” was not a term he liked. It was either good or it was not. He felt this way about everything he did. I have carried that memory with me to the present day. It has also helped me to tune many other guitars, fiddles and the odd piano over the years.

He followed and supported the music I played and composed and enjoyed it all. He recognized musical abilities in both Ward (my younger brother) and me and was supportive of us in whatever we did. For many years, he and Mom would travel within and outside Saskatchewan to support various music endeavours, whether they were guitar classes in music camps and university choirs for me or with various fiddlers at contests, dances, fiddle camps and other performances where I accompanied. He also delighted in the musical talents of my stepchildren, Silje and Hogne Midtbø Vevle (also known as the fiddle duo “Ambos”) who play hardanger fiddle, standard fiddle and some piano, and our two daughters, Hannah Moira and Ingrid Sofie Midtbø Bruner, who play hardanger fiddle.  

At one time, Howard had a fiddle that he got from the old Eaton’s Catalogue before he and my mother got married in 1961. He got to the point where he was able to learn “Maple Sugar,” but then no longer played the fiddle. Silje and Hogne had these memories of Howard (also known by my Norwegian family as “Howie”) after his passing and their recollection of what happened to the fiddle from the old Eaton’s Catalogue:

“Whenever we came to Canwood to visit with Howard and Gerda, we always felt welcome. It was not hard to see that it meant a lot for Howard to have his grandchildren around, as we remember him sitting in his armchair with a big smile on his face, watching Hannah and Ingrid play in the living room. Howie was always curious about what was going on in our lives, and especially on how the fiddling was going. He used to have a fiddle himself, which was given to Hogne several years ago (2008). This fiddle has travelled across the Atlantic, and has frequently been played in Norway up to this day. This fiddle will always bring back the memory of this great old man living in Canwood, with a big smile, good sense of humour, and a warm and kind personality. We will never forget his "Howie style-comments" and surprising punch lines. We are thankful for getting to know Howard, and we will always carry with us the memory of him.”

Howard's funeral was held on Monday, May 19th, at 2:00 P.M. CST at the Canwood Elks Hall in Canwood, Saskatchewan, Canada with Pastor Brian Maitland presiding and approximately 300 people in attendance. Burial took place at the Canwood North Cemetery, with a lunch that followed in the Elks Hall. We in the Bruner family are thankful for all the tributes, expressions of sympathy, cards, thoughts and prayers for us before and after Howard’s passing, and thank everyone who come to Howard’s farewell.  Rest in peace, Dad. We love you and we will miss you greatly.