Thursday, September 28, 2023

Avenue of Heroes: Frank William ‘Bill’ Bruce

Written by: Sandi Lough (daughter)

Frank William “Bill” Bruce was born on New Year’s Eve 1927 in Denver. His father was killed in an automobile accident when he was 5 years old, and Bruce never spoke of his childhood or early adulthood. Like many young men during World War II, he felt a duty to serve his country and enlisted in the Navy as a high school senior. After graduation, he left for boot camp in 1945 and then on to Coronado, California.

Bruce was assigned to Naval Amphibious (Training) Base, Coronado, where the Navy established a major shore command, supporting warfare training and operations. He served in the pay grade of seaman second class, equivalent to today’s seaman apprentice, and was paid the princely sum of $54 a month. Honorably discharged in July 1946, his pride in serving in the Navy was reflected in the anchor tattoo he sported on his arm.

Bruce earned a pharmacist certificate through an internship program, one of the last to become a registered pharmacist without a formal degree. He worked for a private pharmacy before becoming a pharmaceutical sales representative for the Upjohn and Stapleton companies. In his final years, he returned to working for private pharmacies and Safeway grocery stores.

Bruce married Joyce Benner, adopting her son, Gregory “Steve” Stephen, and together they had a daughter, Sandra “Sandi” Kay. They divorced in 1966. In 1971, he married Carol Kaslow.

With a sense of humor that fell somewhere between dry and corny, Bruce was quick with a joke, loved making people laugh, and was always smiling. A gregarious soul, people close to him knew him to be a man of honor, a man who believed in family, and a man of his word. In short, a man much admired. He also was an excellent handyman, a jazz aficionado, devoted Denver Broncos fan, and worked magic with a barbecue. On more than one occasion he was heard to exclaim, “Gad, I’m a good cook!”

Following military service, Bruce lived briefly in Wyoming, then returned to Colorado. He passed away in 1986 at the too young age of 58. Per his final wish, he was interred in Fort Logan National Cemetery, a national cemetery in Denver.

The Hometown Banner Program is a military service recognition program sponsored by the City of Coronado. Introduced in 2014, the program has honored 218 hometown heroes. On Nov. 5, 2022, another 12 will be honored. The City funds all the costs for the program. City staff and volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2422, the Coronado Historical Association and the Third and Fourth Streets Neighborhood Association oversee its operation. In 2011 the inspiration for the program came spontaneously with the movement of two Navy SEALs to their final resting place. News spread quickly in Coronado. The local Rotary Club passed out American flags. People lined Fourth Street to honor the fallen service members. As the procession approached the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, a lone Navy SEAL stood at attention, saluting as he waited for the passage of his comrades. At that moment, it was clear that Third and Fourth streets were already an Avenue of Heroes. From that spontaneous beginning, the program was launched in May 2015 with 18 banners. Ceremonies are held twice yearly and men and women with ties to the community have been recognized from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The Hometown Banner program is a reminder that Coronado has a rich history and legacy of service to country.

Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]