Goodbye, Bruce

The twins Bruce and Ed Bishop suddenly appeared in our senior year as transfers from Pensacola, Florida. Like everyone else, my first question when I heard about them was, Bruce is a girl? Yep, she sure is.  So pretty and charming, no one even joked about it. Both she and her brother, Ed, were good-looking, experienced at changing schools, and unfazed about starting at a different high school for their senior year.  Bruce, especially, seemed to see it as a challenge and was everywhere in the school.

They seemed to disappear after graduation, but that was just me. Bruce’s whereabouts was in the information gathered for our tenth class reunion and retained by Nancy Musser (see posting of 8/13/2010) Bob Gallen knew where Bruce was and recently sent me the following obituary of her death from the Marin Independent Journal, where you can leave comments on their website.

Bruce B. Bacheller. Bruce Bacheller left this world and her beloved family and friends on Wednesday, November 19, 2014. She was born in Chesterfield, Virginia in 1936, the daughter of Navy Captain (Chaplain) Roy Bishop and Julia Perdue Bishop. She was a true “Navy Junior” as well as a soft southern beauty. Growing up in a Navy family, Bruce lived in many different places including, the Naval base on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa. On Sunday morning December 7, 1941, her father’s sermon was interrupted by notification of the Pearl Harbor attack. Bruce’s family and others immediately fled to the hills of Samoa for safety and were later evacuated. She graduated from Lansdowne High School in Pennsylvania. She attended Florida Southern College and graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in education. While on a Norfolk, Virginia city bus, Bruce met Joe Bacheller, then a Lieutenant JG in the U.S. Navy, who would become her wonderful husband of 55 years. They married in Belmont, Massachusetts where Bruce taught fourth and fifth grade. In 1960 the family adventured to Phoenix, AZ and in 1963 moved to Tiburon, CA where they have lived for 51 years. She loved her pets, Sassy, Charlotte, and Norman among many others. Most fourth of July holidays you would find her at the “Victorian” the family’s cottage in Sonoma, hosting family and friends. Bruce was an avid reader and loved poetry, and would occasionally, when we were lucky, recite some beautiful passages from memory: Longfellow, Shakespeare, and Milton among her favorites. Bruce was a member of the Westminster Presbyterian Church where she served as a deacon. She was a member of the Tiburon Peninsula Club and enjoyed playing tennis and going to the gym. She was also a member of the Driftwood Branch of the Marin Foundation. Bruce took great pride and joy in her wonderful family. She enjoyed a boatload of girlfriends who have been so supportive to her. Friends and family were amazed at her strength and courage as she struggled with terminal cancer. She is survived by her loving husband, her daughters Kimball Holt (Keith), Susan Bacheller (Yasar Özberkmen), daughter-in-law Margaret Bacheller, six grandchildren: Leigh, Stephen, Kevin, Ryan, Matteo, and Tristan, and two great grandchildren: Ryleigh Rose and Madison Jack. She is also survived by her brother, Edward Bishop (Marge), sister Nelson Moore (William) and sister-in-law Barbara Bacheller Ebert. Her son, Major Jack Bacheller USMC, predeceased her. A memorial service to celebrate Bruce’s Life will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 240 Tiburon Blvd., Tiburon, CA on Saturday, December 6, at 1:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Westminster Presbyterian Church, Hospice by the Bay, the Marin Humane Society, or your favorite charity.

-oOo-

Bruce BishopSo, she had a good life, exactly as I had expected.  I barely knew her, and surely she had no recollection of me. She was the pretty and charming new girl who everyone knew of by the first hour of her first day, and I was one of many. I would guess we talked less than a total of 15 minutes in our entire lives. I don’t remember any shared experiences.  I don’t think there were any.  Still, with only that, her example was an influence that shaped who I am today.

She is in the above masthead photo of our class trip, front row, sitting on the morning grass, tenth in from the left, in front of Fred Weinstein and Ed Hagopian. (Our school was way more diversified than I realized at the time. The only category we knew was Classmate.)  Janet Lane is next to her.  Both she and Janet were in the Senior Play and were reporters for the school newspaper.  They had similar personalities, both cheerful and outgoing, and I assume they are sitting together because they had become friends.  I had colorized the old, faded, black-and-white photo, so Bruce may have hated the color I picked for her dress.  I’ll take the blame for that, but blue looks good on her, and I suspect my choice was from a subconscious memory.

This is another example of a posting that leads to unexpected conclusions that even I did not expect at the beginning, and I am still sorting out how I feel. She was more important to me than I thought.  Of course I am saddened by her passing, but I an more saddened by the loss of her son which must have been devastating for her.

I knew nothing of her for the past 60-some years.  She had become abstract to me, a symbol of the hordes of pleasant people who have tangentially touched my life, then disappeared—people who I regret not learning more about, and from. But symbols exist beyond the reality they represent.  She will forever be the perky, 18-year-old I remember.

She has lost the battle against cancer.  No matter how good we are, how kind and thoughtful we are, how talented and capable we are, how positive our attitude is, we are only given one life, a life that moves relentlessly from beginning to end.  At her age, my age, our age—can it be?  late 70s!— and after such fulfillment, her life should be celebrated, as it will on December 6.

But emotions are not logical. I am sad that the possibility of our ever meeting again, however remote, is forever closed.  She will never walk into Longwood Gardens.  “Your name is Bruce?  I once knew a girl with that name. What was your maiden name?” I imagine myself asking.  “Bishop!  And you went to Lansdowne-Aldan High School?  Of course I remember you.  What have you been doing all these years?  Wow, great to see you.”

Goodbye, Bruce. Thanks for the memories . . . and the example of a good person.

RWalck@Verizon.net

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About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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One Response to Goodbye, Bruce

  1. Ed Hagopian says:

    Roger, I seem to recall, Bruce had an older sister named Nelson. Also, if memory serves me, I asked her about her first name, and she told me it was Mabel! Bruce suited her more than Mabel.

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