Bruce Kenneth Pollock, known as Bush by his closest friends, died peacefully at home on April 1st. He was known for his quick wit and his love of the wind in his face. His last wish was to become a tree rather than a bush. This he will do after being composted. He chose the pink dogwood, a fitting choice given his love for Gita, his first Bouvier de Flanders, the dog he loved these past 13 years. He wished that Gita could be composted with him, but she died two weeks before he did.
Bush the Good as he later came to be known was a loving and loyal friend. He grew up in Akron, Ohio, where in third grade he won a city-wide art contest to welcome the new elephants to the zoo. He kept his childhood friends until he died. One of those, Jimmy, spoke of the science projects they did together, the intellectual discussions of books and life, and that Bruce, or Otis as he was called in high school, was involved with numerous clubs: the German Club, the Chemistry Club, and the Politiclub, amongst others. Bruce (Otis) always had passion.
The same is true for friends he met in college and graduate school. In the early seventies, he dropped out of a Stanford PHD program in History, China studies, to participate in the antiwar and social justice movement. He gathered folks around him and became an influential community organizer. He also was a beautiful, well-informed writer and helped publish brochures and leaflets on the social justice movement. He wrote plays and participated in street theater. His friend Myron, whom he met in those days, says,
Folks were a bit in awe of him for he had a vast understanding of the political situation while being uniquely focused. He was warm, compassionate, always smiling and encouraging. His friend Bill, says of that time,
I smile when I think of Bruce because whenever he greeted us, he was smiling, letting us know that he cared for us and how we were doing. His delight in seeing us left us feeling delighted. Bush’s clear-headedness and quick humor kept groups motivated and amused. He also could be gruff and imposing in the face of what he considered injustices.
There are other stories of that special time in his life. Bill tells the following:
Bruce and I never lived in the same house. However, after living near the campus at 103 Stanford Avenue, I moved into a house in Los Altos with Margie, Andy Parnes, and Jeanne Friedman. I have a distinct memory of Bruce at that house. In April of that year, Margie, Andy, and Jeannie hosted a Passover seder there, inviting lots & lots of guests -- all of whom had been part of A3M. I was fortunate to be there.
We didn't have a Haggadah, and no one had been designated as leader. Bruce was wearing an all-white “Nehru shirt,” and on his own accord, stepped up and became the leader for the seder. Speaking off the cuff, Bruce re-told the story of the Jews freeing themselves from slavery in ancient Egypt. Bruce’s re-telling was magic because he told the story in terms of the language and struggles that we all had been going through in the anti-war movement and in our efforts to get Stanford out of its role in support of the U.S. military. I can’t remember all the details that Bruce wove into his re-telling, but Bruce made the seder an occasion for re-dedication to the idea of liberation. We were all laughs & smiles, amazed at Bruce’s ability to tell the old story and help us to see our own movement in terms of freeing ourselves. I think of Bruce whenever I am at a seder. We will miss his ability to lead.
Another friend Jeanne from that time wrote:
Bruce was one of the most patient people I ever met. If you were telling a story, he was actively listening never interrupting. At Moody Road, he did the dishes a lot. A lot of people have commented on how sweet he was - absolutely true. And quick to laugh.
And another tribute from Leslie who knew him then:
Bruce was Good and he was a wonderful influence on those of us who were barely 20, charged up about changing the world. In the 1970's we had houses and communes in Palo Alto where Bruce would come to hang out, we participated in demonstrations together on campus and in the community. At one point we worked in the same factory in East Palo Alto, and I was on the midnight shift when he suffered a terrible accident caused by the machine he was cleaning. I believe this was a life changing event for him and the healing process was long.
I don’t recall the exact timeline, but I do believe it was after this event, that I suffered the loss of a prematurely born child in 1972. I have never forgotten his coming to me and offering to say Kaddish for my child at the funeral. While I had support during this time by "comrades", my parents were in Ohio, and Bruce's offer was incredibly important to me. He was the only person in our radical left world who would have offered to help me in this way. He brought me an anchor of support when I most needed it. The importance of our Jewish upbringings found common purpose at that moment in time.
He was a great man, he was wise, was kind, committed to justice, had a wonderful smile and a good sense of humor. At the time he was a dear friend for whom I am grateful for having known. I will say Kaddish for Bruce.
May his memory be Blessing.
In the mid 70s Bruce spent time in Germany with his then wife, Dorothy Rosenberg, working as a GI Counselor and advocate. Again, he made friends whom he had until he died. Upon return to the US, Bruce trained himself to become a machinist, and for a number of years, he worked in a small machine shop until he was recruited by Boeing. He and ‘Dorf ‘moved to Seattle in 1977. He worked for Boeing for 31 years, first as a machinist, then through a series of promotions, became a manager. Having worked for a second Master’s degree in software engineering, he and a team earned a number of patents around the invention of an electronic flight bag. His last assignment before retiring was as a trouble shooter for those flight bags. He interfaced between Boeing and the customers, travelling to Europe and Asia to support their usage. He was liaison between the customer and the teams who invented and produced the flight bag.
In the twenty years between marriages, Bruce continued to work for Boeing. He traveled. He spent valuable time with friends, going to Sunday brunch regularly and being uncle and godfather to their children. One of them Elia, wrote:
I didn't know that last Thursday, March 23, 2023, would be the last time I would see him. when I hugged him goodbye after sharing some pork sliders, I told him, “Thank you for making me laugh today." and if that is the last thing someone tells me before I pass, I will be grateful. to laugh is to attune the hearts. and Bush may not live in his body anymore, but he most definitely lives in my heart.
As I go back further in my memory, I see him at our family dining table on a Sunday morning, asking for someone to pass the lox and explaining how an airplane wing works, or how the sun works, or how the filibuster works...or doesn't work.
And then when I close my eyes a little tighter, I see him break out into a big belly laugh, or a baritone rendition of "Zum Gali Gali" that fills the room with an unmistakable vibration that bounces off my heart and inspires me to join in and do the same.
He took up space, and always made that shared space smarter, funnier, and more heart-y.
And even though he no longer takes up space in our rooms and at our tables, he takes up space in my heart and everywhere else the spirit can wiggle in.
This Passover, there will be two empty chairs — one for the prophet Elijah, and one for my uncle Bush, and I promise to sing extra loud.
Bush the Good also took pleasure in a men’s History Book club for more than 25 years. The lively discussions stimulated him. His friendships with those men were important to him. He was one of the
Three Bears. They studied distilling together and had fantasies of opening a small distillery.
From College forward, Bush’s health was challenging: a heart infection at 18, a brain infection at 23, an industrial accident in his late 20s. Then in his forties, he suffered kidney failure. He had a kidney transplant, bought a
room with a view and always hoped to marry again.
Love, laughter, and romance came to Bruce in his late fifties. He married Judy and travelled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Central and South America, taking pictures and making new friends. The two of them shared a Pea Patch in Bradner Gardens, had frequent dinners with friends, where he cooked. As first reader and editor to Judy’s writing, he was both muse and valued critic. The two, indeed, laughed a lot, taking pleasure in each other’s company — a good thing during COVID.
Although Bush the Good had no children of his own, he was father and grandfather to three stepchildren, their partners, and six step-grandchildren. He took an active interest and role in their lives, being always available to help solve a problem, repair a device, or listen to a story. He enjoyed their dancing, their acting, their musical accomplishments and attending the many sports events in which they participated. He was always willing to drive them where ever they needed to go. Having been a rower at Cornell University, he was pleased that one of his grandsons became an avid rower, even rowing in the same position that Bush the Good had had at Cornell.
Bush was born, March 19th, 1946 in Akron Ohio, the eldest child of Trudy and Jerry Pollock. He was preceded in death by his parents and his sister Barbara. He leaves behind his wife and soul-mate Judy, her children and grandchildren: Scott and Ellen VanderWey, their children, Landa, Linus and Perry; Mark Perry and Tanya VanderWey, and their children, Conrad and his partner Haeley, Nicole, and Drew; and Risha VanderWey. He also leaves behind his brother and sister-in-law, Rick and Jane Pollock, their children, Josh & Sarah with children Uly and Mo; Tara and Paul with Delphina, and Brock and Natalia.
Of course, he also leaves behind friends from all walks of life, from all times in his own life, and others who wished they knew him better.
A Celebration of Life gathering was held on May 28th at Mt Baker Rowing Club in Seattle. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bruce’s name to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Mt Baker Row-a-thon, Replant the Forest Festival, or Street Books.