Born in Dallas, Texas on June 2, 1952, Dawn passed away on February 13, 2021 in San Antonio, where she lived with her husband, Dan, since 1981. The first of seven siblings born to Joy Groves and Fred Milton Bruner, she grew up leading her pack of brothers and sisters in Dallas on her beloved family farm.
At age 19, Dawn accompanied her father to the Supreme Court of the United States, where he served as part of the team arguing Roe v. Wade. Inspired by her father's dynamic career, and after graduating from Highland Park High School in 1970, she received her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Texas in Austin. She then attended and graduated from St Mary's University Law School in 1978 with her JD.
She began her career as an Assistant Attorney General of Texas and as a law clerk for Chief Justice William Sessions of the United States District Court, Western District of Texas, a friendship that lasted throughout her career until his death in 2020.
Dawn practiced law for over 40 years, becoming certified in labor and employment law in 2007. Her work was characterized by helping her clients strive for equal opportunity and fair employment practices in their workplaces, as well as for assisting company executives to negotiate strong employment contracts.
Her distinguished career included working as a young lawyer at Manitzas, Harris & Padgett, and as a partner at San Antonio law firms such as Jackson Walker, Matthews & Branscomb, the Gardner Law Firm, and Barton, East & Caldwell, and serving as Senior Corporate Counsel at Clear Channel Communications. In 2018 she became a named partner in the firm of Caldwell East & Finlayson.
Dawn excelled at leadership, serving for the past seven years on the board and executive committee of the San Antonio Bar Association, where she was elected to become president this fall. Highly regarded by her colleagues as an accomplished litigator, she was known for her outspoken but diplomatic leadership style and her remarkable ability to communicate ethical points of view. Over the past decade she was consistently recognized for her excellence in Best Lawyers in America and other peer reviews. As one of Dawn's longtime friends and colleagues put it, "She was the best of us."
Dawn inherited and lived her parents' spiritual values of optimism, humor and kindness. She and her family were lifelong members of Highland Park United Methodist Church, and she grew up singing the hymns her father loved. During services, Dawn would regularly sing hymns by memory with no hymnal. She regularly rose before the sun to sit with her coffee and listen to the birds. With a great spirit for adventure, she climbed the Guadalupe Mountains unprepared but without complaint, and kayaked the wild Pecos River in the middle of Texas summer. She loved fishing for trout in Colorado and riding horses any chance she got. A voracious reader and patron of the arts, she enjoyed her thirty year participation in deep discussions about literature with her beloved book club, and looked forward to her yearly trips to New York City and acquiring surprise theater tickets. An avid and eclectic collector of art, rocks, fossils and books, she was happiest visiting estate sales or digging deep into the bins on early Saturday mornings at Goodwill to satisfy her penchant for vintage clothes. Outside of the legal community she had an extensive network of personal friends with whom she maintained relationships for decades; loyal and funny, she was a good listener and a great friend. Dawn had a great love for animals, especially her dog Buddy, and all the other dogs that preceded him. Dawn loved her horse Jackie, who she would ride on Preston Rd. in Dallas and also on Lakeside Drive in Highland Park, where Jackie left hoofprints in the fresh concrete sidewalk where they can still be seen to this day.
Dawn battled metastatic breast cancer for 20 years without complaint and with incredible optimism, teaching us all lessons in tenacity, courage and the value of living in the moment. The family wishes to express their deepest appreciation to Dr. Lon Smith and his nurses, Bonnie and Jennifer, for many years of loving care; and to Dr. Rodney Carrey and his nurse, Peyton, for their care of Dawn in her final hours.
Dawn is preceded in death by her mother and father, Joy and Fred Bruner, and her brother, Jed Bruner. She is survived by her husband of 39 years, Dan W. Finlayson Jr., and their dog Buddy; her siblings Bob Bruner and wife Margie, David Bruner and wife Cindy, Kelley Bruner Coe and husband Rick, Joel Bruner and wife Michelle, and Shay Bruner Nicoud and husband Brian; her nieces and nephews RJ Coe and wife Chelsea, Robert Bruner and wife Lauren, Haley Coe Kinard and husband Michael, Matthew Bruner and wife Leslie, Chris Bruner, John Bruner and fiancée Meredith Cook, Annie Bruner, Charlotte Coe Young and husband Geoff, Madeline Bruner, Jackson Bruner, Emma Bruner, and Kit Nicoud; and her great nephews Sawyer Kinard and Wylie Kinard; her brothers-in-law Richard Finlayson and wife Becky, children Tatianna and Mitchell, Douglas Finlayson and wife Leanne, children Sarah H. Steves, Lida S. Plummer and husband Charles, Sam B. Steves III and wife Megan, grandchildren Sam B. Steves IV and Michael.
Services will be held in Dallas, TX on Saturday, March 27, 2021, for family only.
A memorial service will be held at a later date, to be announced in the near future.
For those who wish to honor Dawn's legacy, memorials may be made to ThriveWell Cancer Foundation or to the American Cancer Society.
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