Shirley Brunner

October 21, 1925 ~ April 26, 2020 (age 94)


Shirley A. Brunner, 94, of Red Wing, died Sunday, April 26, 2020 at Regina Senior Living in Hastings. Shirley was born on October 21, 1925, to Oscar and Olive (Agern) Arntson in Red Wing, MN. She lived in the Irish Row of Houses as a child, and graduated from Red Wing Central High School in 1943. Following graduation, she worked at a variety of Red Wing companies including Durkee-Atwood, Red Wing Shoe, and Archer Daniels Midland. She spent two and a half years in Minneapolis in her 20's and worked at the Minneapolis YWCA while taking voice lessons at the Minneapolis College of Music and the MacPhail Center for Music. She returned to Red Wing and married Nilan Brunner in 1954. She worked for Teamsters Local 160 for almost 15 years. At age 62, Shirley started working at the Goodhue County Historical Society as a secretary-receptionist and tour guide until her retirement at age 79. Shirley's love of history and striking up a conversation with people made this the perfect job for her and gave her immense joy.
Shirley was a long-time member of United Lutheran Church. She started singing in the church choir in the 4th grade and continued through much of her adult life. She was a member of the Phebeans Circle for 50 years, a service group visiting nursing homes and the training school and presenting programs.
Singing and entertaining were Shirley's passion. She would say, "God gave me a voice to sing praises to His name" and sing she did - over 450 funerals, 60 weddings, and countless other special occasions. She was a part of several singing groups, including a trio with beloved church friends, Irene Bang and Betty Paulson, and was a member of the Red Wing Theater Guild Women's Chorus in the late 40's. A highlight for Shirley was performing in two shows at the TB Sheldon Auditorium - Naughty Marietta and New Moon, under the direction of Mary Gwen Owen Swanson.
Shirley served as RWHS Class of 1943 historian saving newspaper clippings related to her classmates - pictures related to sports, theatrics, and scholastics. She clipped military notices, wedding announcements, and everything else pertaining to her classmates. Over the years, she filled three large scrapbooks. With good friends and classmates Audrey Hage and Chic Galvin, she coordinated an annual class reunion, always dressing up and providing entertainment. Some of her more memorable characters were "Marilyn Oh-No", Dolly-I-Beg-Your Pardon", and "Minnie Shirl."
Family and friends meant everything to Shirley. Small children were drawn to her. Her warm smile and genuine interest in people made her well known in her beloved town of Red Wing. She could frequently be found sitting on a bench by TB Sheldon Auditorium, looking to strike up a conversation with a passerby to share her knowledge of and love for Red Wing.
Shirley died peacefully on Sunday, April 26, at the age of 94 and 6 months at Regina Senior Living in Hastings, MN, where she resided for nine months in the Pauline memory care unit. She is survived by two daughters, Kathy Brunner of Rochester, and Jean (TJ) Worrell of Minnetonka; beloved granddaughters Amanda Bach, Hannah (Sam) Vaagen, and Sophie Worrell; and dear great-grandson, Riley Lexvold. Preceding her in death was her husband, Nilan.
The family wants to extend special thanks to Jo and her team on the Pauline Unit at Regina Senior Living and to Annie and the caregivers at Intrepid Hospice, who provided extraordinary loving and compassionate care to Shirley.
In light of COVID-19, a private family service will be held followed by burial at Oakwood Cemetery. The family plans to host a reception at United Lutheran Church when circumstances allow. Memorials can be directed to Goodhue County Historical Society or United Lutheran Church. Online condolences may be left for the family at

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