Community, family mourn loss of ‘fearless’ Stephanie Roller Bruner
summit daily news
Nearly a week after her body was discovered in the Blue River near her home, Stephanie Roller Bruner’s family, friends and community are preparing to say good-bye to a woman they describe as spirited and energetic as they wait for answers about her death from authorities.
Roller Bruner, 41, had been missing three days when her body was found in the river in Silverthorne.
In the days since, the community has come together in support of Roller Bruner’s family, offering food, helping hands and some even their condos so visiting family members would have a place to stay. Online, there has been an outpouring of love and grief from those close to the wife and mother of three.
“So many people out here that have met her understand, she was kind of a free spirit,” Roller Bruner’s younger brother Aaron Roller said. “Always cheerful and bubbly and with a lot of energy. She was always the one pushing the limits, and it makes me proud, actually.”
A memorial service for Roller Bruner is set for Thursday evening at the Silverthorne Pavilion.
With the cause and manner of Roller Bruner’s death still undetermined, Aaron Roller said the family is trying to stay positive as they wait for information.
“We’re just staying on point for Thursday evening and hoping the mystery is solved here soon,” Aaron Roller said.
An autopsy was completed Monday, but with the investigation ongoing, it might be weeks before any information is released, according to a statement from Summit County Coroner Joanne Richardson.
Stephanie’s children, Ellie, 9, Jack, 6, and Lillie, 5, have handled the loss with amazing resilience, Aaron Roller said.
“They’re doing really great,” he said. “The word we’ve been using is ‘bullet-proof.” The three kids returned to school Tuesday.
Roller Bruner was born in Colorado, but raised in Minnesota. After high school she headed west, eventually getting a degree in social ecology from the University of California, Irvine.
“(She was) fearless and adventurous,” said Bill Nielsen, a friend of Roller Bruner’s since college. “She was interested in jumping out of airplanes and surfing and skiing.”
After graduating, Roller Bruner met her future husband, Dale Bruner, and the couple moved to Summit County approximately 15 years ago. They were married 11 years.
Bruner owns a photography business.
Roller Bruner disappeared at 10:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22 after she left her house to go for a walk, according to the Silverthorne Police Department. The temperature outside hovered near zero and Roller Bruner never came home that night. She was reported missing by her husband at 8:45 the following morning. Police and volunteers from the Summit County Rescue Group and other rescue organizations from across the state spent the next three days scouring the area near her residence in temperatures far below freezing. Finally at 12:30 p.m. Friday, a body, later identified as Roller Bruner’s, was found.
Roller Bruner worked as an engineering technician for Summit County up until she lost her job in a round of layoffs in October. A life-long dancer, she also taught ballroom, swing and wedding dancing at the Summit School of Dance in Frisco.
“Ballroom was one place that she put a lot of love, other than her children,” said Melanie Frey, a friend of Roller Bruner’s and owner of the studio where she taught.
In September she helped coach for Dancing with the Mountain Stars, a charity fundraising event that, Frey said, renewed Roller Bruner’s love of dancing and gave her strength to face hard times in the weeks ahead.
Roller Bruner was laid off from her job at the county Oct. 13. That day, she had a fight with her husband, the Denver Post reported.
Two days later Roller Bruner was granted a temporary restraining order against Dale Bruner. On Oct. 28 both Roller Bruner and Dale Bruner asked that the restraining order be revoked. On Nov. 1 Roller Bruner filed for divorce, which Aaron Roller said surprised him.
But Frey said dancing kept Roller Bruner’s spirits up through the challenges she faced.
“(Dancing with the Mountain Stars) brought something alive and new in her. Even in the wake of losing her job and thinking about divorce, she was so positive. She was almost excited to open this new door and start a new chapter in her life. She felt that she had made a connection with dance again that she had lost and that was going to help carry her.
“I keep hearing these things about (her losing her job) and people thinking she was really depressed. Yeah, she loved that job and yeah, she was sad to lose it, but it didn’t knock her down,” Frey said.
Thoughts and stories about Stephanie Roller Bruner can be shared at her memorial website at http://www.rememberstephanie.org.
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