Brauers bid farewell: A legacy of love at St. Paul


After decades with St. Paul Lutheran School and Church, Robert and Kathy Brauer celebrated their retirement on May 19 after the church's worship service.

Bob, 66, and Kathy, 67, said the moment was bittersweet, as the people at St. Paul feel like a second family to them.

The couple, who started dating right after graduating high school and married after their junior year in undergraduate school, both knew they wanted to go into education. They graduated with bachelor’s degrees from Concordia College in 1979 and earned their master’s degrees in 1984.

Bob grew up surrounded by family members who were either educators or pastors, including his mother, father, aunts, uncles and four of his siblings. He said growing up in Lutheran education and seeing the impact it had on children’s lives helped him realize that it was his calling.

Kathy said she had thought about being a teacher since she was in first grade and enjoyed working with the younger children at church while she was in high school.

“I really liked working with kids, and I wanted to do something talking about Jesus, too,” she said. “So, those two fit together with this.”

Directly after graduating in 1979, the couple began teaching at First Trinity Lutheran Church in Bloomfield. Three years later, Kathy started staying home to care for their growing family. The family then moved again when Bob was called to Christ Lutheran Church in Juniata where he was a teacher and the principal for several years.

Bob said he and his wife will always remember the moment they first visited St. Paul. They had recently heard about the opportunity to begin teaching there, and they brought their kids to a Sunday worship service.

He said they immediately felt welcomed by the community and knew it was where they wanted to be.

“On the way home, I looked at Kathy and said, ‘Well, how do you feel?’ And, she said she walked into those doors in the church and it felt like home. I said, ‘I felt the same way,’” Bob said.

He said moving into the area felt like coming home, and that feeling has never gone away. They plan to never leave.

For the past 31 years, Bob has been the seventh and eighth-grade teacher, principal and basketball coach at St. Paul. He also coached softball when it was offered.

“He was a rare breed,” his former colleague Pastor Jon Dunbar said. “He put everything he had into that school, and there was no job he would not do. Plumbing, paperwork, helping in the cafeteria – he did so much behind the scenes that people didn’t see, but he did it out of love.”

Although he could do it all, Bob said his favorite part of his job was being in a classroom teaching students. He said he loves seeing the lightbulb go off in their minds when the information he is relaying to them clicks. He said he will always remember the feeling of seeing students graduate.

“You get to see the big smiles on their faces, they want to have a big hug and they want to have pictures taken with you,” he said. “It’s family. That’s what it is.”

About 13 years into Bob’s career in Utica, the couple’s children had grown and Kathy decided to return to teaching. She has been teaching the music program and seventh and eighth grade part-time for the past 18 years. 

Like Bob, Kathy said the best part of teaching is working with the students and watching them grow.

“Suddenly, they’re in eighth grade, and you remember them when they were in kindergarten or first and second grade,” Kathy said. “Very quickly, they get taller than you.”

Bob said he is proud to be able to say he believes the St. Paul school stacks up against any school in the country.

“The teachers that we have are extremely dedicated and loving and do a fantastic job of teaching the kids,” he said. “Ninety-six percent of our kids this year are on the hour, those that went to Centennial.” 

Dunbar served alongside the Brauers at St. Paul for 12 years before he was called to serve in New Jersey, and he said he could not have asked for better colleagues and friends. He said the Brauers were always a steady presence at the school, displayed great wisdom, showed constant support and demonstrated outstanding faith. 

“Bob would tell the kids every day that he loved them and that Jesus loved them and that the Lord gives them the strength to be their best. Every day, that’s how he ended his class time,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar said they were anchors of the school and church and were like parents to the students at St. Paul. They treated the people there as a second family.

“Bob could raise his voice and discipline when he needed to, but he was also out there pitching for the kickball game and laughing and running the bases with them,” Dunbar said. “He was just himself at all times, and I think he really loved those kids like he loved his own kids.”

On May 15, the school held its annual end-of-the-year picnic. As per tradition, the students take buckets and douse Bob with water and he tries to get them back. Kathy said the students made sure he got extra drenched this year.

The Brauers plan to spend their retirement, which officially begins on July 1, traveling and spending time with family. In addition to their five children, they now have 11 grandchildren and eight foster grandchildren.

They still intend to be part of the church community, and Bob said he may do some substitute teaching at Lutheran schools in the area and at Centennial.