Rosann has given her permission for her husband's Memorial Service to be included here. It was a blessing for me to help plan, and then to preside, at Bruce's Celebration of Life.
Fremont Memorial Chapel, California
On behalf of Bruce’s wife Rosann, their daughter Jordan and son Zachary, Bruce’s mother Zonna and his three brothers—John, Keith, Ross and their families, welcome to this time of remembering and celebrating Bruce Andrew Sutherland.
My name is Dr. Tricia McMahon and I am honored to have been asked by the family to lead us in honoring and cherishing together Bruce’s presence in our lives. I did briefly meet Bruce several times over the past 12 years but I have only gotten to know him through the hearts and memories of his family and friends in planning today’s celebration of his life. What an incredible guy.
Creator/Source of Life, we turn our hearts to you and to one another in need of peace, grateful for the mystery of life, yet struggling with the deep mystery of death. Teach us to be patient with the transformation of Bruce into his new life, and the healing of our own hearts. Help each of us to be open to life anew.
(there will also be time for you to share memories of your own…)
Bruce was born to John and Zonna and raised in the St. Louis, Missouri area. He was the 3rd of 4 boys. Bruce’s sense of humor is attributed to his Mom as much as to anyone….in the photo journal you will see later I believe there’s a photo of Bruce sharing a tender moment with his Mom at her 85th birthday…with a spoon on his nose. Zonna is here today.
Bruce moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1971, worked at various jobs and met the love of his life—Rosann, in 1978. That fateful encounter occurred at a ‘self-awarenss training program’ but they realized later that they had actually lived across the street from each other in Palo Alto back in 1972.
In 1979 Bruce proposed, not only by getting down on one knee but doing so on Culper Street in Palo Alto. Bruce told Rosann to stop the car, he got out, ran around to her side of the car, got down and asked her to marry him. Rosann told Bruce he had to ask her Dad for her hand in marriage. Bruce met with Rosann’s father and said: “I want to get married,” to which Rosann’s Dad replied, “Why are you asking me; I’m already married?!” In the end both Rosann and Dad said an exuberant YES!
The evening of November 3, 1979 the Stanford Chapel was filled with candlelight as Bruce and Rosann professed their steadfast love for each other. Bruce’s brother Ross recalls:
“Their love was so intense….you could
see it…..at the rehearsal and
at the rehearsal dinner,
whether one foot or ten feet apart,
it never went away….never……”
Rosann says she thinks they both knew it on the first date….well, actually he stood her up for their ‘first’ date because he got lost….but of their first time together Rosann says, “I laughed so hard the entire evening that my side hurt----he was witty, charming…happy to express love, not afraid of being vulnerable…always saw the best in people, got pleasure from supporting people….he had a BIG HEART and KIND SOUL. He liked to do unexpected things to brighten someone’s day. I got lots of flowers and lots of special gifts, whether or not it was a ‘special occasion.”
I don’t know if Fleet week was considered ‘special occasion’ or not, but Rosann (at least once) got flowers and a card from the navymen thanking her for the good time!
Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s Bruce opened No Name Pizza in Fremont, and later co-owned 3 other locations as well. He also owned and operated Mission Pizza and Stupid Bruce’s pizza. Bruce left the restaurant business in 1993 and began working at Kohne’s Video which gave him an outlet for his love of movies. In recent years he stayed home to raise his two children.
For many years Bruce was active in the Fremont PTA and in softball—as a coach and as a player. He was an avid coffee drinker and was a regular…first at Starbucks and then Peet’s, where he made a bevy of close friends.
Bruce loved family above all else. He was a romantic in thought, word and deed. His other passions were films, theatre, books, art and interesting conversation. Bruce refused to take life too seriously, and all who knew him say he was funny. He was always the life of the party, and he had a great and distinctive laugh which he shared often and with volume. His infectious love of life was passed on to almost everyone he met.
The following song—from Life of Brian, was chosen by the family because it was a favorite of Bruce’s and speaks to Bruce’s philosophy of life…not that everything in life was easy or always fun or never sad, but even with that—to look on the bright side of life.
Always Look On the Bright Side of Life
Bruce’s daughter Jordan recalls how her Dad liked to call, tell a joke, and hang up! Then deny calling! Or to say, “You know I think you’re great,” then hang up. She says he liked cool dialogue such as: “I’m the kind of man who like to talk to a man who like to talk.”
Zachary and friends still hang out in the Club house in the backyard. Bruce wanted the kids to have a safe haven to have fun and he of course loved being part of it, sometimes!
Quite the storyteller/prankster…..Jordan cherishes how her Dad would come be with her when she had a bad dream…then proceed to tell her a story about aliens in the backyard….The stories always seemed new to Jordan back then even though Bruce was only changing the first letter of the names of everyone involved such as Borden instead of Jordan, Benae instead of Jenae….
He’d also sit up all night working on a project with the kids…okay nagging some but there to help too…Zachary—trip to Ohio with Dad and Justin to indulge Zachary’s passion for rollercoasters…..He loved that his children shared his interest in movies, theatre….
Abigail: “Bruce, more often than anything, wanted Rosann, Zachary and Jordan to live life and do what was in their hearts…”
He liked planning parties….surprise parties for Rosann whether she wanted it or not….For her 40th (or 45th) her birthday bowling party included a Program, Games, T-Shirts and Trophies!!
Bruce was curious til the day he died…about everything…
One week and one day after Bruce died, Rosann, Patty & Abigail were getting set to drive Jordan back to UC Santa Barbara, when Abigail decided she wanted to take a book for the long drive. She walked to the bookshelf in the Sutherland home and directly chose the very first book her eyes laid upon. The title: She’s Undone. Jordan was standing by.
Abigail opened the book and found an envelope with a note inside and showed it to Rosann. It said:
Rosann hadn’t seen that card in a long time.
In sharing about this story around the kitchen table last week, Jordan said: That card was meant to happen.
Indeed. Just as Bruce’s life and love were meant to happen, and I know we all give thanks to have been a part of that love; that life. How we live is a choice for each of us, moment by moment, and that choice effects everyone around us, especially the people we love.
Thank you Bruce for reminding all of us to choose life and love and gratefulness and humor.
Song: I Hope You Dance Sung by Patty & Abigail
One of Bruce’s favorite authors was John Gregory Dunn. About six months ago Bruce and Rosann were talking about a book written by John’s Dunn’s wife—Joan Didion. The book is entitled: A Year of Magical Thinking, where Joan describes how her life changed after John’s death, at home, from a massive coronary. Rosann was reading the book just these past months until Bruce borrowed it to loan to someone at Peet’s Coffee…They were even talking about making a family trip to New York to see the play when it opens…
It is so remarkable….Today we are celebrating Bruce’s lifetime of magical presence in our lives….a presence that spanned the sublime to the ridiculous and back again…..from writing love poems to his wife, to making 3 second phone calls to his daughter only to deny having ever placed the call, to making everyone on the softball team feel good about themselves and have fun no matter how skilled they were (or were not), to planning elaborate surprises for birthdays, any day, every day…. In his dying, as in his life, he as left incredible words of wisdom and inspiring experiences that are true gifts even in the midst of such heartache….he was an old soul who has enriched us all.
Jordan will now share a poem written by her Dad. It is a beautiful message of love that Bruce wrote as a wedding gift for dear friends, but then also wrote for Rosann saying: “This is at least as much for you because I had you in mind when I wrote it.”
Today the family offers it is a message for everyone; it is what love meant to Bruce and what Rosann and Bruce would want for their children, for everyone, to experience in life….
May you never walk in darkness…Shared by Jordan
Closing Prayer: We give thanks for the gift of Bruce in our lives. May our hearts be blessed as we embrace each new day. Rosann, you’ve told me how you still expect Bruce to walk in the door. How real that feeling is. My prayer is that, with time, you, and all who loved Bruce, will know his presence not only in the memories but in the abundance of love and thoughtfulness and creativity that he shared with you. Once given, that is never taken away. He is an incredible part of you now, and vice versa.
May this coming year, and each year thereafter, be filled with thoughts and awarenesses that feel magical, sacred, holy… as the essence and energy of Bruce continues to touch your life.
Eternal rest grant unto Bruce Sutherland,
And eternal peace unto Bruce’s family.
May abundant hope and love
fill our hearts. Amen.
The family thanks each of you
for your friendship with Bruce
and your on-going love and support.
Please stay for the luncheon to continue to share stories in celebration of Bruce’s life and love.
Film: Breaker Morant- “Live each day as if it were your last because one day you’re sure to be right.” Many of us know about ‘living each day to the full’ but Bruce really did it; it wasn’t just a nice philosophy.
Rosann: It’s my belief that Bruce was an older soul. I believe his purpose was to teach and help people see what is special about life. That’s what he brought to our relationship. He was more open to the love, the connection between people beyond material items.
I have Rosann’s permission to share the following poem written by Bruce for his wife:
As you are the water, I am the sand
As you are the earth, I am the grass
As you are the sun, I am the sunlight
You define my meaning, you make me whole.
Tuesday morning, May 22, a dozen red roses and a godiva chocolate bar were delivered to Rosann at her office. Her co-worker was instructed to tell Rosann they were from her ‘boyfriend.’ It was that same day, at 11pm after Rosann returned from a business dinner, that her sweetheart’s physical heart stopped. His physical heart, but not his love.
In March 2007 Bruce was diagnosed with Guillame Barre—a condition whereby his body was producing too many antibodies to fight infection and it effects the nervous system. Bruce was told it was a mild case with a 4-6 month recovery. It was difficult for him in that he couldn’t be with people, felt he didn’t have a purpose; he felt useless.
Rosann: I think the Guillame Barre brought home to Bruce his own mortality—his own and others…He told her he was happy it wasn’t as bad as it could have been (i.e. not paralyzed). “He worked hard at not being a worrier.”
At 10:30 or so on May 22, after Bruce had a quiet evening at home with his buddy Maxx, and Rosann had returned home from a dinner meeting, she and Bruce visited in the living room for about 30 minutes before retiring to bed. It was about then that Zachary got home too from his work.
Rosann proceeded to the bathroom to brush her teeth, Bruce asking questions about her day then realized to wait til she was done. After finishing her teeth, Rosann started to clean the sink too…and then Bruce’s toothbrush…when she heard gurgling in the other room. It was Bruce.