When most people met Tom Brunson for the first time, it was like reconnecting with an old
friend. He never knew a stranger. Often wearing a black leather fedora with a long braid down
his back and a smile on his face, Tom easily engaged in conversation and great storytelling
everywhere he went.
Tom Brunson passed away on August 25, 2023, at the
age of 74. He is greatly missed, but leaves a legacy as
captivating as his own storytelling… full of life, love for
family and lifelong friendships.
Born and raised in Tampa, Fla., Tom was the fourth of
six children raised by his father Walter Brunson, a
Trailways bus driver, and mother Esther Ruth Brunson,
a homemaker, artist and poet. He graduated in 1968
from Brandon High School, where he was a member of
the National Honor Society and the varsity baseball
team. Following graduation, he worked as a machinist
in Tampa’s Ybor City and for a short time in North
Carolina, before returning to Tampa to rejoin his first
wife, Dottie, and their son, Ed.
In the early-1970s, Tom moved to Gainesville, where he soon settled into a little enclave of
friends in Jonesville and there met the love of his life, Debbie Savage, who he forever called
“the most beautiful in the room.”
Tom and Debbie, who spent her career as a teacher and fundraising researcher at the
University of Florida, were married in 1979. They went on to have daughters, Marianne and
Suzanne, and a son, Marshall, all living in Gainesville.
A quick study, Tom mastered whatever activity interested him. He loved motorcycles, owned
several Harleys, and frequently rebuilt them, including a Triumph in the living room of an early
house he and Debbie shared. He spent 20 years as an auto mechanic until the mid-1990s, when
he was hired to assist with building a house. He never looked back, opening and running Tom
Brunson Home Improvements for the next two decades.
Tom built the family home on acreage in Alachua with the help of a framing crew, friends and
family. Their craftsmanship is seen in many features, including custom doors and cabinetry,
flooring and trim milled from the cherry trees off the family property.
Called the King of Fun by a good friend, playing was high on Tom’s list of how to spend time. He
enjoyed volleyball, frisbee, darts, the annual multi-family Easter camping trip to the springs
and, of course, Gator sports. But it was his dog and his music that went everywhere with him.
He especially loved singer songwriters with a good story to tell. The soundtrack of his home and
truck were continuously filled with artists of all genres, but especially balladeers and master
lyricists such as Marty Robbins, Leonard Cohen, John Haitt, Rodney Crowell, John Prine, the
Highwaymen, and Tom Waits.
Tom was a homebody at heart who found joy in his local village. From his favorite cashier at
Publix to the “woodman” on Newberry Road where he bought firewood, and every watering
hole in between, his gift of gab will be missed. However, when pulled out of the woods, Tom
loved his adventures with friends and family, particularly visiting Sam's historic home in Miami’s
North Beach, Rick's farm in Costa Rica, and family trips to visit Suz in Telluride, CO and Marshall
in Arizona which fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit the Grand Canyon.
Given his life's joys and adversities, Tom's friends and family are confident he is on a Harley
somewhere…knowing he enjoyed one hell of a ride in this world.
Tom is survived by his wife of 48 years, Debbie Savage; sons Ed (Donna) and Marshall (Anne)
Brunson of Gainesville; daughters Marianne (Chris) Cuevas and Suzanne Brunson of Gainesville;
and seven grandchildren: Will, Scratch, Leo, Amalia, Kai, Shyla and Sophia, all of Gainesville; his
first wife, Dottie Brunson; siblings Sandra Vaughn (Enigma, GA) and Steve Brunson (St.
Petersburg); and loyal friend of 14 years Karanga, a black lab mix, and many, many friends. He is
predeceased by his parents and brothers Larry, Robert and William Brunson.
Join us for music, storytelling and a potluck dinner as we celebrate Tom’s life on Sunday
November 19 at 2 PM at the family home. Please bring a folding/camping chair. Call or text 352-
317-6244 for directions.