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Bret A. Sunnerville

Bret passed away Monday, May 10, 2021 at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo.

He was born June 1, 1964 in Plainwell, the son of Ernest and Jerrilyn (Pell) Sunnerville. Bret was raised on the family dairy farm where he loved to ride horses and had a special bond with every dog he ever owned. He graduated from Martin High School in 1982 and built his family home around the corner from the farm.

Bret was a lifelong learner and had attended Moody Bible Institute, Hope College and Calvin Seminary. He enjoyed reading, working out, gardening, teaching theology and loved to talk about politics and current events. He was intelligent, had a wonderful sense of humor and was full of fun. Most of all Bret was proud of his children, loved his family and his Lord. He was a member of St. Margaret Catholic Church in Otsego. On December 10, 1993 in Grand Rapids he married Paula Brunink who survives.

Also surviving are his children, Jack who is serving in the U.S. Navy stationed in Japan, Sam and Chloe both of Martin; his parents; siblings, Laura (Jose) Martinez of East Leroy and Sue (Tracy) McConnell of Lawrence along with several nieces and nephews.

Friends may visit with Bret’s family from 2-4 and 6-8 PM, Thursday, May 20, 2021 at the Winkel Funeral Home, Otsego.

A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 11:00 A.M., Friday, May 21, 2021 at St. Margaret Catholic Church with Rev. Fr. Simon Manjooran officiating.

Burial will follow at St. Margaret Catholic Cemetery in Otsego.

Contributions in memory of Bret may be made to the

Wounded Warriors Project.

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Condolence Messages

Tom and Paula Holmes

May 11, 2021 at 5:10 pm

Paula and family we are so sorry to here about Bret. We listen to one of his talks during Lent. He was very good. Hugs and prayers for you during this difficult time


Charlotte, John And Amy Tetzlaff

May 11, 2021 at 5:50 pm

Paula, Jack, Sam, Chloe,

So very sorry to hear of Brett’s passing. When he taught classes on the last things, he always indicated getting last blessings was important to him. We remember when you joined the Church. Brett’s story was so much like Scott Hahn’s. He will be missed by many. One can only think that his work on Earth was done and God wanted him home.

You are in our prayers.


Rick/Dolores Frampton

May 11, 2021 at 6:08 pm

⚘our deepest condolences Paula and family. It is shocking for such a young good man leaving this life early. But he was a faithful servant and God wants him home to concentrate in praying for all and praising God. A star is born and added in the sky. May he rest in peace. Prayers to all of you. We also lost a brother in law Donald Morehouse of Plainwell to Covid. They must be saying hi now. God bless.


Marilyn J Deruiter

May 11, 2021 at 7:08 pm

Paula, our prayers are with you and the family at this difficult time in your lives. Bret will be missed!! Love you.


James Family

May 11, 2021 at 7:21 pm

Eternal rest grant unto Bret, oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Praying for your family.


Drew Anderson

May 11, 2021 at 7:22 pm

I was so sad to hear about Bret’s passing. I’ve known him since our days at Moody Bible Institute and he’s one of the few people I stayed in contact with since that time. I’ve enjoyed an annual get together with Bret and a few other guys from Moody. Those reunions won’t be the same without him now. But I have fond memories of having a morning cup of coffee with him during those times. We would talk and he was always interesting and engaging and super-smart. I’ll really miss him.


Steve & Ann Pegg

May 11, 2021 at 7:33 pm

No one can prepare you for the loss of Bret; it’s like a hard wind knocking you over and you can’t get back up. But take comfort in knowing that he is now resting in the arms of our Lord. Our condolences to you; Paula, Jack, Chloe, and Sam, may our friendship and prayers ease you through this difficult time .


John Fenner

May 11, 2021 at 7:59 pm

So sorry to hear of Bret’s passing. Bret was my first best friend. Bret and I were able to alter history and create a world where Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were able hunt and explore together, as we spent many hours tramping through the woods with toy rifles. I believe we also once spotted Bigfoot in the clearing in front of the woods. While I haven’t seen Bret in nearly four decades, my memories of our childhood and the friendship of our families are fond flashbacks to a much simpler time. My warmest thoughts are with all his friends and family.



May 11, 2021 at 8:14 pm

Andre family is sending their condolences and prayers


Dick & Sharalyn Downing

May 11, 2021 at 9:16 pm

Ernie & Jerrilyn

Sorry to hear about Bret. No words can even say how sorry I am.

I remember you pushing Bret & I Tim down the dirt road to have coffee at each other’s house.

We would set the boys on blanket to play.

Praying for your family & sending love.


Sean Seaver

May 11, 2021 at 9:17 pm

So sorry for your families loss. It is hard to believe. Your family is in my prayers.


Joan lucas

May 11, 2021 at 9:44 pm

Paula n family, i am si saddened by your loss, may our Lord guide u thru this difficult time. Jo


Vicki Hermann

May 11, 2021 at 10:25 pm

To ALL Bret’s family – Dcn Dean and I are SO sorry for your loss. It is a real loss so a zillion people. We will pray for all of you often. Love and Peace Vicki and Dean


Lynn and Joseph Withers

May 11, 2021 at 10:32 pm

I am so sorry to hear of your loss.

Sending love to your family.


Steve and Becky Swope

May 11, 2021 at 10:46 pm

To the Sunnerville, Martinez, and McConnell family

We are so deeply saddened to hear of Bret’s passing, especially knowing the pain and heartache you all are feeling right now. Your family has always been especially dear to us; we love you all and we continue to pray for you all. I confess, I don’t understand why God allowed this. But we will cling with you to the hope Christ gives to all who put their faith in Him.

To a heartbroken sister who was grieving the loss of her brother Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Herein lies our sure Hope, even in our time of grief.

Your friends, Steve and Becky Swope


Judy Scherzer

May 12, 2021 at 8:26 am

Dear Ernie, Jerrilyn, Laura, Sue and your families: I am so sorry about your loss of Bret. I am remembering all of you in prayer. Words seem so inadequate. I’m asking the Lord to give you His peace and comfort.

And to Paula, Jack, Chloe, and Sam. Though I have never met you, I have been praying for you too. I do know what it’s like to lose a husband and a father. The Lord will carry you through this deep grief.

Isaiah 26:3-4 says “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD God is the eternal Rock.” There is much comfort in God’s Word.


Robert & Andy VandenBerg

May 12, 2021 at 8:45 am

Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire family. You have our deepest sympathy! Loved talking to Brett when I ran into him. Always so upbeat and full of life. The world lost a super husband, dad and son!


Max and Sandy Krause

May 12, 2021 at 10:27 am

We send our condolences to you Paula, Jack, Sam and Chloe in your loss of husband and father. We will keep you all and extended family in our prayers. We extend our love to all of you.

Aunt Sandy and Max. KrauseMax


Sharon and Tony

May 12, 2021 at 11:03 am

Our hearts go out to you Paula, Jack, Sam, Chloe, and Bret’s family as you manage the loss of Bret. Sending love and prayers to all of you❤️


Glady Cole

May 12, 2021 at 11:11 am

Paula and family I’m so sorry to hear about loss of your husband and father such a terrible tragedy difficult times that we are living in now with many heartbreaks may God bless your family and help you through this difficult time


Ron and Gail Lane

May 12, 2021 at 11:14 am

Dear Ernie, Jerrilyn, Paula and kids, Laura and Sue. We are so sorry for your loss. We are fervently praying for each of you. We know that only God can carry you through this time. And we pray you feel His arms of love wrapped tightly around each of you through the love and care of those around you.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1.


Sharon Brunink and Anthony Ricci

May 12, 2021 at 1:36 pm

Our hearts go out to Paula, Jack, Sam, Chloe and all of Bret’s relatives as you mourn his passing. He will be missed. Sending love and prayers to all of you.


Thomas Scheck

May 12, 2021 at 3:18 pm

I am completely stunned by the news of Bret’s death. We have the exact same birthdate. We were friends at Moody, then reconnected 20 years later when we both entered the Catholic Church. We stayed in close contact since then. He nearly died of grief along with me when I lost my own 22 year old son in 2017. I loved Bret deeply and trusted him as my closest friend. I can’t believe this news, but I view it as a promotion for him, to a place of purity and peace.

The long descent of wasted days

To these at last have led me down

Remember that I filled with praise

The swift and sorrow-laden days

That lead to an eternal town.

I challenged and I kept the Faith

The bleeding path alone I trod

It darkens. Stand about my wraith

And harbor me, almighty God.

H. Belloc

God bless the S unnervilles,

Thomas P. Scheck


Bob and Jo Chamberlin

May 12, 2021 at 8:03 pm

Ernie, Jerrilyn and family–please accept our deepest sympathy. Prayers for all of you.


Angie(Pell)& Mike Hodgkinson

May 13, 2021 at 7:56 am

Our prayers are with you all during this time of loss. Our yearly family gatherings on 4th of July will be difficult with out Bret being there….he was always there with his family. He cherished his family, not by what he said but by what he did. God is saying “Well done well done my good and faithful son. Welcome to the place where you belong.” Again my prayers are with you all!


Gary and Joan Melvin

May 13, 2021 at 8:41 am

Jerrilyn and Ernie

We send our sympathy, love and prayers to you at the loss of Bret. We have many good memories of raising our children at the same time in Martin. We understand the pain of the death of a son and please know we will keep you in our prayers for peace and comfort. Love Gary and Joan


Lance Tinder

May 13, 2021 at 10:02 am

Say a prayer, for peace to come to those who’ve known him. Be resolved and have faith. Peaceful rest in the presence of God, Bret


Dennis and Dawn Brown

May 13, 2021 at 10:19 am

Our hearts are broken for your entire family. We have no words that describe the emotions, love, and prayers in our home that are being poured out for all of you. Know that you are not alone in your grief. We love you.


Sharon A Brunink and Anthony Ricci

May 13, 2021 at 12:33 pm

Our hearts go out to Paula, Chloe, Sam, Jack and all of Bret’s relatives as you mourn Bret’s passing. He will be missed. Sending our love and prayers to all of you. Sharon and Tony


Terry VanLent

May 13, 2021 at 6:37 pm

We are so sorry for your loss. We are praying for your hearts to heal with your wonderful memories.


Mike Swope

May 14, 2021 at 12:00 am

Ernie, Jerrilyn, Laura, Sue, Paula and family, I am so sorry to hear about Bret. He was truly one of the nicest, smartest and most sincere human beings I have come across. I was glad to be able to catch up with him at my Dad’s funeral last year. We were remembering a time when we were both living in Chicago while he was at Moody and he came out and joined me and some friends and played a big game of tackle football in some deep snow. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.


Tim and Diane Walters

May 14, 2021 at 7:41 am

Ernie and Jerrilyn and family we are saddened to hear of Brets passing,we will keep you in are thoughts and prayers.God Bless.


Nancy Moran

May 15, 2021 at 11:17 am

So sorry for your loss of Bret, it is so hard. But the Lord will help you. God Bless you all.


Ann Bronkema

May 15, 2021 at 6:55 pm

Dear Ernie Jerrilyn

Our Prayers are with you during these difficult times.

Bob and Ann Bronkema


Jerry and Marilyn Fenner

May 16, 2021 at 12:36 pm

Ernie Jerrilyn and Family

Words are hard to come by at a time like this. We want to offer our deepest sympathy to your Family.

Marilyn and Jerry Fenner


Ruby Rogers

May 16, 2021 at 2:57 pm

Paula and family,

Im thinking and praying for you at this difficult time. May God give you peace and strength and his love surround you.



May 17, 2021 at 9:51 am

Dear Paula, Jack, Sam and Chloe,

My hearts is breaking for you as you go through this trial. May your faith give you strength each day as you grieve Bret’s loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you always. Love you all. Kay


Sylvia Davis

May 17, 2021 at 11:14 am

Jerrilyn and Ernie. Our deepest sympathy to you and your family. We undestand the loss of a son. Our prayers to you.

Dick and Sylvia Davis


Kristin Alkire

May 17, 2021 at 12:23 pm

I am so very sorry to hear of Bret’s passing. I didn’t know him well, but he always had a kind, genuine smile to share at mass on Sundays. I was also fortunate enough to have your children in my classroom at OHS, and their integrity and kindness speak volumes about Bret and all of your family. Many prayers to you all. Sincerely, Kristin Alkire


Rev Dan and Jolene Minor

May 17, 2021 at 12:37 pm

Dear Jerrilyn and Ernie and family

We were so saddened to read of your loss. May Brett’s memories and his walk with Christ bring you comfort.


Deacon Louis & Anne Zemlick Family

May 17, 2021 at 3:13 pm

So sorry for your family’s loss our prayers are with all of you, Brent will be greatly missed


Barb Hondorp

May 17, 2021 at 3:18 pm

My deepest sympathy to Paula and family. May hope and peace be yours in the days ahead.

Romans 15:13, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy spirit.

With sympathy and prayers,

Barb Hondorp, Grand Rapids, MI


Lori Salmon Weems

May 17, 2021 at 5:24 pm

Ernie, Jerrlyn, Laura and Sue, so very sorry to hear of Bret’s passing. Sending prayers to you and your family’s and keeping you all in my thoughts.


Ginny (Buckmaster) Rutlidge

May 18, 2021 at 6:48 am

I am so sorry to see this My condolences to the family. They are such a wonderful family


Deacon Brian & Margaret Kaluzny

May 18, 2021 at 8:05 am

We were so blessed to have Bret teach several of our classes during formation for the Diaconate. We’re very sorry for your loss. You can count on our prayers.


Brian Douthitt

May 18, 2021 at 9:09 am

To the Sunnerville family from one of Bret’s former JCI colleagues,

May God comfort you in this time of loss.


Debbi Predum

May 18, 2021 at 10:51 am

Dear family of Bret,

I am so sorry for your loss. I did not know Bret, however, Jerrilyn and Ernie are wonderful and loving friends of mine. I pray for you all to be comforted and to have God’s peace in your hearts. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

You are all in my prayers.


Ed and Malinda Frybarger

May 19, 2021 at 12:55 am

Prayers for you all as you mourn the loss of Bret … he blessed a lot of people by joyfully sharing his faith in Christ.

Ed and Malinda Frybarger


Gail Elenbaas Harper

May 19, 2021 at 8:52 am

Bret was one of the best! I worked with home at JCI for many years. We often talked about farms and dogs but, the conversations always turned to his kids, he was so proud of you all and spoke of you every chance he got.

I am terribly sorry to hear of his passing, and your loss. He was truly one of the good ones and will always be remembered with a smile. Sleep well my friend.


Pat (Barney) Westphal

May 19, 2021 at 7:58 pm

Dear Jerrilyn and Ernie,

Karla called to let me know you had lost your son. I can’t imagine a sadder thing to happen. I’m so sorry. I don’t think I every got to meet Bret, but he sounds like a wonderful human being, which of course he would be with the two of you as parents.




Nancy E Zyzelewski

May 20, 2021 at 11:48 am

We are praying for you Paul, Jack, Sam and Chloe. May you feel the presence of the Lord during this most difficult time. The peace and love of our Lord comfort you all in the days ahead.

Mark and Nancy Zyzelewski


Robin K Postma

May 20, 2021 at 5:28 pm

Dear Paula,

I remember when you met him. Our roommate and Wedgwood days were always so so fun.

Your Wedding, your baby shower. What beautiful people you are. Thank you for friendship. Why do I remember when Bret fell off the roof, and broke both arms. Your crazy Boxer.

Hugs to you. You are loved. So so sorry.


Robin K Postma


Becky Reits

May 21, 2021 at 9:37 am

I am so saddened to learn of Bret’s death, but I am privileged to be counted among the many whose lives Bret touched with his love of Scripture and his gift in sharing it. May he rest in God’s eternal peace.


Cliff Locke

May 31, 2021 at 6:01 pm

Last Christmas out of the blue I sent Bret and his family a Christmas card. And much to my surprise, I got an email back from Bret. He and I had not talked in many, many years. But we picked up right where we left off. Emailing back and forth and reminiscing about walking through waist high snow to go sledding. Horseback riding, swimming at Pine Lake and so many other awesome memories. We discussed getting together this summer and me meeting his family.

I was so happy that he and I were able to reconnect, if even for a short time. He was one of my oldest friends and will always hold a special place in my heart…

We were all blessed to have him in our lives. My condolences to his family..


Deacon Don and Theresa Bouchard

May 31, 2021 at 9:23 pm

So sorry for your loss. Brett was an amazing man and I could always count on an enjoyable and relevant conversation whenever we would get together.

He so loved his family.

May he Rest In Peace


Linda & Matt Derby

July 16, 2021 at 7:23 pm

Dear Paula, Jack, Sam & Chloe, Matt and I were so touched by Bret’s teaching of sacred scripture in the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan. He really moved us from head to heart in Sacred Scripture. He will be truly missed and please know of our deep prayers for you, Paula, Bret’s dear wife and for his dear children who meant so very much to him, Jack, Sam, and Chloe. His life and teaching touched so many with Christ’s life and love. Love and Prayers, Linda & Matt Derby


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