Thursday, May 16, 2002

Cape’s Bill Bruns left legacy of caring

Published in the Current

Bill Bruns, 63, died suddenly at his Scarborough home earlier this month, but the spirit and energy of the 30-year Cape teacher and USM professor live on in town and throughout the area.

“He was just a dear, sweet individual,” said his wife, Mary, who\ works for the Cape school district. “Losing him is like losing a part of myself.”

The couple met at USM in Gorham in their first year of college, when both were studying to become teachers. They dated throughout college and married after graduation, 41 years ago.

When they first finished school, Bill taught in Portland and Mary in Westbrook. After a year, he took a job in Cape and she took some time off to raise the couple’s daughters.

Bill was a eucharistic minister at St. Bartholomew’s Church and a member of the Knights of Columbus, as well as being a math teacher.

After the kids finished school, Bill and Mary moved to Windham, to a home on Pettengill Pond. “Bill always wanted to live on the water,” Mary said. In
1992, Bill retired with 30 years in the Cape schools, but continued teaching, increasing the load he taught part time at USM.

In 1998 the couple moved to Scarborough, and family was nearby. One of his daughters lives in Windham, and Bill had sisters in Gorham and Portland.

“He was always a family person,” Mary said. But he had a lot of friends, too. Mary estimates she has received over 200 cards since Bill’s death on May 2, including one day when she got 50 cards.

Among those friends are former students and colleagues, including Cape Police Chief Neil Williams.

“Bill was just a great teacher,” Williams said. “He would take the time (to help) when you were struggling.”

Williams remembered his former math teacher as even-tempered and kind. “He really knew how to get the best out of kids,” Williams said, admitting that while he wasn’t the best math student, Bill “made it interesting for me.”

Williams also remembered a man with a great sense of humor, which he directed at himself and at others. It was how Bill handled difficult kids. “I just had total respect for the gentleman,” Williams said. “He enjoyed teaching as much as the kids liked having him.”

John Casey was a former student of Bill’s, and is now the assistant principal at the middle school in Cape.

“He always started class with a joke,” Casey remembered. “He taught with a lot of energy,” Casey said, remembering that Bill was always willing to work a problem again, to make sure everyone understood the concepts involved.

Casey has taken some of his own teaching methods from Bill, as well. Though Casey doesn’t always wear a tie like Bill used to, Casey does try to connect with students on a personal level and be aware of what’s going on for them outside of school.

Ralph Bolduc worked alongside Bill for many years at Cape and at USM. He said USM faculty and students are still shocked and saddened at Bill’s death, and called him “irreplaceable.”

“Bill was always the person who volunteered to help someone in trouble,” Bolduc said. “He was an excellent math teacher and a wonderful friend.”

Casey pointed to Bill’s choice of retirement jobs as a testament to his dedication to teaching and learning.

“(Bill) retired after 30 years and he still teaches. That ought to say something,” Casey said.