Junction City More than 2,000 people packed a Kansas school auditorium Monday to celebrate and mourn six members of a Junction City family who died when their private plane crashed in Florida.
The Rev. George Fitzsimons, bishop emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salina, celebrated the funeral Mass for businessman Ron Bramlage, 45, his wife, Rebecca, 43, and their children, Brandon, 15, Boston, 13, Beau, 11, and Roxanne, 8.
Officials of their parish, St. Francis Xavier, moved the service to Junction City Middle School anticipating a large turnout of family, friends and admirers — including many from Kansas State University, where the Bramlage Coliseum multipurpose arena is named for Ron Bramlage’s grandfather, Fred Bramlage.
“You always want to celebrate the lives of people who do such positive things as the entire Bramlage family has,” said Kansas State head football coach Bill Snyder, who was among the mourners.
Ron Bramlage, who owned Roadside Ventures LLC in Junction City, was piloting the 2006 single-engine Pilatus Pc-12/47 when it went down June 7 in a remote Florida swamp as the family headed home from a trip to the Bahamas. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which officials said left wreckage scattered over a wide area.
The deaths stunned people in Junction City, a town of about 23,000 where Rebecca Bramlage served on the school board and the Bramlages were known for their generous and cheerful support of public education and community activities.
“We think about the love they shared, the energizing presence that they always had,” the Rev. Al Brungardt, pastor of St. Francis Xavier, told the assembly Monday.
Brungardt shared a letter he received from Roxanne right after her first Communion last month.
“Dear Father Al,” the girl wrote, “I liked first Communion but the chips taste like cardboard. The wine was okay but not my favorite.”
Outside the school Monday, residents held up handmade signs reading “R.I.P Bramlage family” and “Signs of Community.” Kris Williston said she never met the Bramlages, but her son benefited from a scholarship they funded. She and her son wanted to come out and express their thanks, she said.
Ron and Rebecca Bramlage were Kansas State graduates and active members of its Alumni Association, President’s Club and other groups.
Ron Bramlage had ties to the Lawrence area, attending Lawrence High School in the mid-1980s. His stepfather, the late John Wertzberger, was an orthopedic surgeon at several area hospitals and worked for the Kansas University athletic department as a team physician. Wertzberger’s brother, Ken, still lives in Lawrence.