About Bob Brunk

My major pursuits in college, History, Art and Music were a good indication of the directions  my life would take, with many other restless excursions along the way. In 1963, I graduated from Goshen College (Mennonite), then survived a year at Princeton Theological Seminary as a Rockefeller Fellow, followed by a year in Hagerstown Maryland as a social worker in a Welfare agency, and finally two years at the University of Michigan resulting in an MSW in Community Organization. My academic travels ended when I moved with my wife Jan to North Carolina. We were active in the Civil Rights movement and in protests against the war in Vietnam. I worked in the War on Poverty, assisting residents in segregated Public Housing, but after helping organize a successful rent strike by tenants protesting deplorable living conditions, my services were no longer needed in that OEO agency. I then taught Sociology and Anthropology at UNC-Asheville for four years, after which it was again decided that I was a troublemaker, and not a good fit for that institution. I was not distressed by this, as I had long dreamed of living on a remote tract of mountain land.

We moved to a deserted farm with our two small children, as had many other back-to-the land families of that era. The road to our property was steep and rough, but with chains on all four wheels of our Land Cruiser, we made it up to our place most of the time. We built a house, created a water system, built dry stack stone walls, and managed a shifting menagerie of animals, some with personality disorders. The Wilsons down the road helped me find woodworking equipment, and Jan made cookies for all our neighbors every Christmas. We cut and split fire wood to heat our house and survived fifteen cold winters on our secluded mountain refuge. We learned to sing Southern Appalachian shaped-note music, and Jan gradually grew to like the place.

I supported this endeavor by making furniture and puzzles in the old farmhouse on our property. I hauled logs to the saw mill, learned to make dove-tail joints, and sold my wares at craft fairs and juried exhibitions. Our small children, Ingrid and Andrew, sold potholders they had woven on small looms. In 1972 The Smithsonian Institution purchased a wooden cradle I had made, for which I obtained a Design Patent. I served six years on the North Carolina Arts Council, and six years as President of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild. I began going to auctions to buy furniture to aid in my study of handmade joinery techniques and design elements. That led to buying and selling antiques for several years, then in 1983 I became a licensed auctioneer and created Brunk Auctions. It has grown for thirty nine years, and is now directed by my son Andrew and his wife Lauren. (brunkauctions.com.)

For five years I sang with the Vivace Quartet, four of us who enjoyed unaccompanied late Renaissance vocal works, and performed at the Biltmore House, several churches and other venues.

I began writing nonfiction essays in 2010, many describing our family’s adventures on our mountain property. After thirty years of evaluating and selling antiques, I retired, and my writing shifted to the many remarkable experiences I had witnessed in the auction and appraisal business, people and events rich with possibilities for good story telling.

In recent years I have enjoyed, usually in the winter, exploring distant landscapes, stone walls, and ruins in the North Atlantic: Newfoundland, the Lofoten Islands, the Outer Hebrides, and the Shetland Islands. My college majors, history, art, and music still inform my curiosity in these remote settings, just as they had in the auction and appraisal business.


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