My first memory of Bruce is when I was studying for the diaconate program at Barlin Acres in West Boylston. He was the maintenance man. He was a hulk of a man with red hair and a broad easy smile. As time went by, I had more and more occasion to work with him on various project for my fledgling ministry. Bruce would always say yes whenever I asked for his help.
After his ordination to the diaconate, I would spend time with him whenever we went to the annual diaconate retreat. I liked to sit next to him because he had a beautiful singing voice which I loved to listen to. He also was a great hugger. Whenever it comes time for the sign of peace or some other opportunity to hug, Bruce would put those big lumberjack arms around me, pick me up off the floor and then shake me like I was a rag doll, laughing all the while.
Our paths continued to cross every once and a while, and the conversation would just pick up where it left off as if it were ten seconds ago that we stopped talking. Then late last year, I got a call from a mutual friend telling me that Bruce was very sick. I immediately called him, but I reached Pauline his wife, and she told me Bruce had stage four colon cancer. This just about knocked me off my feet. Big strong Bruce, sick, it just didn’t compute. I told Pauline how sorry I was for Bruce, her and the family and if there was anything I could do to help to let me know.
I called Bruce a few days later and was able to speak with him for a few minutes. He still had that song in his voice, but I could tell he wasn’t feeling very well. I told him I was praying for him and his family and I was available if they needed anything. We said good-bye, both of us knowing this would be the last time we would speak. It surely is tough to say good-bye!