Ron Bramlage, a prominent Junction City businessman who was killed in a plane crash on Thursday along with his wife and their four young children, had ties to the Lawrence area, attending Lawrence High School in the mid-1980s.
Bramlage was the stepson of John Wertzberger, a former Kansas University football player who became an orthopedic surgeon at several area hospitals and worked for the KU athletics department as a team physician. Wertzberger was married to Bramlage’s mother, Patricia, from 1984 until his death in 2006.
Ken Wertzberger, a Lawrence resident and physician who was John Wertzberger’s brother, would see Bramlage and his family each year around Christmas and Thanksgiving.
“They were just really nice people,” he said. “Even though he was successful, it didn’t go to his head. It’s a big loss.”
Jim Beltch was Ron’s wrestling coach when Ron attended Lawrence High School in the early 1980s. He kept up with the family through the years while serving as a referee in matches involving Bramlage’s children. He remembered him as a quiet and polite kid who turned into a good man whose family was always the most important thing in his life.
“He was one of the most genuine people I know and a great father,” Beltch said.
The single-turboprop, fixed-wing plane broke apart and went down about 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the Tiger Creek Preserve, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. The 4,900-acre preserve is about 50 miles southwest of Orlando. Deputies reached the area by helicopters, and it was clear no one survived, the sheriff’s office said.
Bramlage, a 45-year-old businessman in Junction City who owned Roadside Ventures LLC, was piloting the 2006 Pilatus Pc-12/47. His wife, Rebecca, 43, and the couple’s children — Brandon, 15, Boston, 13, Beau, 11, and Roxanne, 8 — were killed, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said. The family was returning home to Junction City from the Bahamas.
Ron was the grandson of the late Fred Bramlage, a 1935 graduate of Kansas State and a Junction City businessman. Fred Bramlage was the lead contributor to the construction of Bramlage Coliseum, an arena that opened in 1988 and is home to the Kansas State men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The Rev. Al Brungardt, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Junction City, where the family attended weekly Mass, said Friday he has been getting several calls asking for guidance.
“We have to pray to the Holy Spirit will get us through this,” he said. “Give me strength and wisdom that I don’t have.”