Obituary of Carol Oberbrunner
Dr. Carol W. Oberbrunner, mother, wife, philosopher, Buddhist, and a travel, music, and food enthusiast, died on Friday, July 27th at the age of 86. All who interacted with her experienced her passion for life, learning, and ideas, along with her bottomless gratitude and deeply felt compassion for humanity.
While raising her three children, Gary Oberbrunner, LisaAnn Oberbrunner, and Karen Oberlin Hajdu, MSW, Carol was enrolled in a doctoral program at Syracuse University, ultimately earning her Ph.D. in philosophy. For more than twenty years, through 2022, Carol was a professor on the faculty of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. HWS and her philosophy department became a cherished centerpiece of her life.
In the words of HWS President Gearan in a publicly shared letter following her passing, Dr. Oberbrunner “provided consequential mentorship for many students, advising Honors projects leading students into topics such as the philosophy of human nature and theories of reality. Indeed, for her incredible work as an educator, she was recognized by her colleagues with the Faculty Teaching Award in 2009.” In the convocation speech she was honored to give that year Carol said, “There is no better way for us to cherish our own lives than to work on behalf of our human family.”
Carol was a devoted student of Tibetan Buddhist teacher Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche and a member of his spiritual community in Syracuse. She never missed weekly meetings for study and meditation, and she was beloved by fellow members for her joyful and enthusiastic participation.
With her beloved husband of 61 years, John W. Oberbrunner (1930-2022), Carol was passionately integrated into the Syracuse classical music community, and she and John enjoyed singing together in a variety of choral groups. For decades, one of the highlights of every holiday season was a singing party they hosted in their home on December 26th, which their extended family a looked forward to each year.
Carol is survived by her three children, four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and three step-great-grandchildren. Gary and Karen remember their loving, outspoken, honest, brave, and fierce yet kind mother with endless gratitude for all she gave them. Additionally, she is remembered for the love, friendship, and kindness she offered enthusiastically to all who knew her. Carol’s family extends their deepest gratitude to the innumerable people who showed her friendship and love over the years. They are certain she felt all of it.
A life celebration for Carol is planned for Saturday, September 16th at 1:00 p.m. at May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society at 3800 E. Genesee St. in Syracuse, and all are welcome.
As she said every day toward the end, “I lived a great life.”