Obituary of Wilma Brownback
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Wilma Lorraine Grunert Brownback died peacefully at home on February 16, 2023. Born in Ithaca, New York, on April 6, 1931, to her loving parents Helen Case and Frederick Karl Grunert, Wilma’s wonderfully long life is a story with many chapters.
As a girl, she and her family resided in Ithaca, Phelps, and Syracuse. After graduating from Nottingham High School in 1949, she attended William Smith College in Geneva New York, graduating with a BA in psychology.
As a young college grad, she embarked on her first career adventure, traveling cross-country by train to market home products for Procter and Gamble. Eventually she settled in Philadelphia and enjoyed city life with roommates that became lifelong friends. While working at an advertising agency, she met and married Russell J. Brownback Jr. The newlyweds moved to suburban Malvern, PA, and later welcomed Lydia Anne and Russell J. III.
In 1974 Wilma relocated with her children to Cazenovia, NY, where she navigated the challenges of single motherhood. In the late 1970s she worked at Morrisville College as a tutor for special-needs students, and in the early 1980s she began working at Ridge Associates in Cazenovia, where she was an editor for the rest of her career. She thrived during her nineteen years at Ridge, immersed in the company’s warm and collegial culture and forming friendships that lasted for the rest of her life.
After retirement, Wilma was active at Eastern Hills Bible Church in Manlius and enjoyed the company of dozens of dear friends and her cherished family. She particularly loved doting on her four precious grandsons.
Wilma deeply loved Cazenovia and her home on Lincklaen Street, where she lived for 43 years. She was passionate about genealogy and was an authority on her family’s Cazenovia lineage, which dates back to 1803. As the unofficial family historian, she was the go-to for long-forgotten details about everything.
Most of all, Wilma will be remembered for her humble kindness and gift of encouragement. Everyone she encountered left her presence feeling just a little bit better about life and about themselves. Her gentle strength served as an example to her children and grandchildren and significantly shaped the lives they live today. Her memory will be cherished forever by all who knew her.
Wilma was preceded in death by her parents; two brothers, Jerauld Grunert and Frederick Grunert of Cazenovia. She is survived by her children Lydia Brownback and Russ (Lisa) Brownback; four grandsons, Jamie, Sam, Drew, and Max Brownback; two sisters, Shirley Beckeman of Jamesville and Susan Ross of Hilton Head, SC; and beloved nieces, nephews, and friends.
Private graveside services will be held in Evergreen Cemetery in Cazenovia. Contributions in Wilma’s memory may be made to CazCares, 101 Nelson St., Cazenovia, NY 13035. Condolences for the family may be left at www.michaelebrownfuneralservices.com