By Sensei Larry Jackson c. February, 2002
A short story about Sensei Bronson. About a year ago she asked me to help her accomplish a task. She wanted to become a third degree black belt in the Order of Isshin-Ryu before her death. This is the same rank she had before entering the OI. She also wished to have a second degree black belt at her dojo in Florida and another black belt in Michigan, in order to secure the future of the dojos in her absence. She stated that they came before her.
So we embarked on a journey. For approximately the last year, she and Rod, her husband, would come to my location and I would teach what I could to assist in her goal. All this time, I believed she knew her time was short. I told her that when we were done with her students, that all the training would be devoted to her.
And so it was, Sunday after Sunday they would be at my house to train. And at the June Shiai, her students were promoted. When she got back from the June Shiai, she was at my house the following Sunday. After training a few Sundays, I thought that we would have a good chance to be ready and peak at the February Shiai.
At this same time she also had the help of Sensei Tyree. She would visit him up north and he would travel down south every couple months. In November, she arranged for Master Cooling to visit her in January. Master Ewing and Sensei Tyree were to visit a week after that. I think she knew her chance for promotion in February was going to be the only one she got, and she wanted all the help she could get.
After the second major attack to her health, I could see her getting weaker. I contacted Master Cooling and requested, that at his visit, we promote her. I had kept him informed of her physical condition over the last year. Master Cooling asked me two questions. One, have I seen her perform the required kata, with the required skill, at some time in the training, and two, and more important, did I recognize her as a 3rd degree black belt now? My answer was ‘yes’ to both questions. Master Cooling replied, “It’s done”.
I had called and talked to her the evening Master Cooling was to arrive. She asked when I would be there, that she would have breakfast ready for us in the morning.
Master Cooling arrived at her house Tuesday evening at approximately 11:30 PM. They sat and talked, until she started falling asleep around 1 o’clock. She passed away during the night. It appears that she was trying to put on her obi, around her nightgown. I arrived the following morning and Master Cooling informed me of the bad news. I thought, “Five days too late…”, as we were going to promote her on Sunday, unbeknownst to her.
Karen Bronson was a warrior. I saw her fight pain and sickness while she trained in her art, knowing that death was not far away. And her students still came first. She showed more spirit for the OI than a lot of members that came up though the ranks. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. Karen Bronson will be missed, but her spirit will continue.”