Name: Russ Bruhnke
Occupation: Electrical engineer
Where we found him: Evangel United Methodist Church
You work at Evangel? No, I do not. I work at the Clinic. I’m an electrical engineer. I lead teams and design medical devices for use in research or clinical practice. I was interim youth director for two years at Evangel.
You were on a mission trip when I called. I was on the senior high mission trip down in West Virginia. We were building wheelchair ramps for people who were homebound. My group built a ramp for a woman who wasn’t able to leave her house for two years because she was on a walker.
Where are you from? Born and raised in Michigan—the Ishpeming/Marquette area.
How did you wind up in Rochester? I first started out working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, designing nuclear reactors for aircraft carriers and submarines, for the military. We decided Pittsburgh was too big, too far from home. I started putting letters out for employment and sent one to IBM and got hired quickly.
Was it hard to leave the military? We were anxious to get closer to family. Interesting story: When I left the military, when I came to work for IBM, I couldn’t leave the U.S. for five years because of the information I knew. I had one of the most, if not the most, top-secret clearances in the U.S. The info I knew would be detrimental to our troops [if it got out].
Had you been to Rochester before you moved here? Nope. We moved in 1984.
First impression? We were from the Midwest, and I thought, OK, it’s a little more farmy than what we grew up in, but it’s still very much the Midwest. It was closer to home—only seven hours from parents as opposed to 14. At that time, we had one son and he could go see grandma.
How many kids do you have? Three boys—33, 30, and 14.
Your older sons were deep into their teens when you had the third! My wife and I took them out to dinner to Red Lobster when we found out we were pregnant. We told them, “You’re going to have a baby in the house.” And our oldest son goes, “How?! Why?!” I said, “Well, you know how this happens! Let’s let this be a lesson. You’re not always in control!”
How was starting over? It was a different ballgame. With our first two, we were young, destitute, and scraping by. We didn’t have two nickels to rub together . … But this time around, my wife could decorate a nursery, we could afford to do some things. And had we not had Nick, my youngest, I’m not sure I would’ve done as much, youth-wise, as I’ve done these last 10 to 12 years. When we found out we were pregnant again, it made me stay in shape—I coached baseball, soccer, [led] Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts.
Greatest adventure? When I was working for IBM, I was told I had to go to Italy to install a manufacturing line all by myself. Coming back, the flight was canceled. So here I am in the middle of the airport in Rome. I don’t speak the language, and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get back to the U.S. This was soon after the bombings in the Rome airport, so there were police, military with machine guns all around. They had a machine gun on a turret, about 12 feet high, when you walked in the airport—and they pointed it at every mob who walked in.
That’s scary. When I finally got to my layover in Italy, I said to the flight rep: “Get me home!”
What are you most proud of? My family. I’m very proud of the way they’ve grown up to be good citizens, good brothers, a good dad. That’s probably the biggest thing both my wife and I are quite proud of.
Name a do-over moment? I’ve thought about that. The one thing I may have done differently is taken a job in Texas vs. Pittsburgh, because I like the warm weather better. But I’m still not sure. This all turned out probably better than I would have ever anticipated. The things I’m doing now, I never, ever would’ve planned to do if I would’ve ended up somewhere else. Like youth group—I lead the youth group at Evangel—and that was the furthest thing from my mind.
High school highlight? At my age, I still have high school track records. I ran the 200 meters and the 800 relay.
Do you still run? Yeah. I do. I can still beat a throw from shortstop to first in softball. I coached soccer in Stewartville, and the kids all want to race Coach down the field to see if they can beat him.
Can they? The older ones, yes. The younger ones? No. I still have a fair amount of speed.