In memoriam: James Bruner
By Connie Lannan

In memoriam: James Bruner

Passionate rental advocate leaves lasting impressions

To James Bruner, founder of All American Event and Party Rental Center, Cincinnati, who died May 12, the rental business was more than an occupation. It was a way of living that centered around assisting others, being a strong advocate for the industry and helping solve his customers’ issues.

His son, Kevin, worked side by side with his father at the rental business for years before taking it over, rebranding it to Cincinnati Event Rental and then selling it to Prime Time Party & Event Rental in Dayton, where he now serves as sales representative. At his father’s funeral, he summed up James’ love for and commitment to the industry.

“He always told me that what he loved was when a person walked in the door to our business. He knew they were walking in with a need and that we were going to be the people who helped them get through whatever that need is. It could be as simple as a clogged toilet or as detailed as a wedding, but he loved the fact that they have a specific need that we are going to help take care of,” Kevin says.

Helping solve needs was a constant theme throughout James’ life. It is why he became so involved at the local, state and national levels of rental, serving on the board of the Greater Cincinnati Tool Rental Association (GCTRA) for many years, including as president in 1986. He was elected American Rental Association (ARA) Region Five director in 1990 and spent several years on the ARA of Ohio board, serving as president from 1996-1997; from 2001-2007; and then again from 2012-2014.

Tim Maloney Sr., CERP, president, Canton Chair Rental, Canton, Ohio, served with James for years on the ARA of Ohio board.

“We started the ARA of Ohio association to provide mostly lobbying on a state level and to do training the locals could not afford to do but the ARA of Ohio could do. Jim was passionate about all of that,” Maloney says.

During their tenure, the state board was very active. “Jim, Larry Hutson [president, American Rent-All, Toledo, Ohio] and I, in conjunction with the rest of the board and ARA, were able to pass the theft of services and conversion bills. Conversion was first — both have been very important to all of us in Ohio. Jim was a great collaborator and always very good at recognizing that we should not work alone. That is why he leveraged our relationship with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) with our lobbying efforts. He was a big proponent of ARA of Ohio being a sponsor of NFIB’s Small Business Day at the Capital since NFIB had all the contacts with state lawmakers. He also had NFIB help us start our workers’ comp rating program, which saved Ohio rental store members tens of thousands of dollars. It still does. Jim pushed to have the savings from that program be used to start ARA of Ohio scholarships, which we now have the ARA Foundation administer. He was big on education, teaming with the locals to offer training for everyone in the Ohio rental industry. Jim recognized the importance of ARA, ARA of Ohio and the locals working together. He was strong but in a very nice way. He had a knack for bringing people together and wasn’t afraid to try new things,” Maloney adds.

Hutson agrees. “The neat thing on the ARA of Ohio board was that Jim brought us all together, and when we had a meeting, we got a lot done. We got theft of services and conversion laws passed and the workers’ comp group started. We did a lot of safety things. We solved some problems that other stores were having. Rental members would contact us to see if we could help them. We, as a board, would go and help them,” he says.

Mike Whalen, owner, Schulhoff Tool Rental, Cincinnati, who now serves as ARA of Ohio secretary, worked with James on the ARA of Ohio board. “Jim was a very moving force in getting things done. He and Tim went to the Ohio Legislature and testified several times to get the theft of services bill approved and passed. There
was a story that when they were testifying for the theft of services bill, one of the questioners in the Senate started giving Jim a tough time. He became very passionate. That passion paid off. It passed,” he says.

Where did all that passion for the industry come from? Perhaps it was generated by the fact that he came from a rental family.

“Jim’s father, George, worked for Schulhoff Tool Rental,” says Charlie Neffle, chairman, All Occasions Event Rental, Cincinnati, who served as ARA president from 2001-2002. “Schulhoff hired a lot of firemen to work in his rental store. Jim’s father started that way. He then opened Cincy Tool Rental. Jim started in the restaurant business and then came back to the family equipment rental business.”

While a quiet man, he had a fierce sense of humor. “He always was very, very funny. It was a quiet funny. You had to make sure you were listening,” Kevin remembers.

James did suffer tragedy in his life. He and his wife, Linda, lost their daughter to cancer. They established “Ladybugs for Lisa” in her memory.

James, who died at age 73, is survived by his wife, Linda; son Kevin (Cindy); son-in-law, Eric Nusbaum; grandchildren, Maddie and Ella Nusbaum, and Owen, Amelia and Audrey Bruner; siblings, Bob Bruner, Don Bruner and Barb Leik. Memorials may be made to “Ladybugs for Lisa” at 5/3 Bank.

Connie Lannan

Connie LannanConnie Lannan

Connie Lannan is special projects editor for Rental Management. She helps plan, coordinate, write and edit ARA’s quarterly regional newsletters, In Your Region. She also researches, writes and edits news and feature articles for Rental Management, Rental Pulse, supplements, special reports and other special projects. Outside of work, she loves to bake for others, go for walks with her husband and volunteer for her church and causes she believes in.

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