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I am an Elk - Meet Bruce Spencer

The saying is, “War is hell.” For Bruce Spencer’s father, Roger, that meant fighting in World War II in a country not his own, in a war that would lead his nation to become the most powerful on Earth. Suffering from the effects of the war, Roger was sent to Dover, Kent, England to convalesce. There, he would meet and fall in love with Vera Miles. The two would share a son, Paul David. When Roger was returned to Lewiston, Maine, he sought help from US Representative (and later Senator) Margaret Chase Smith for help. While servicemen who had adopted dogs during their time overseas could have them transported back to the United States, at the time, it was not so easy to do the same with the women they had married or the children they had while overseas. “What about a war bride?” the elder Spencer would ask. Smith made it happen and in 1945 Vera and her son made their way across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the SS Queen Mary. Bruce would later visit the ship in its berth in Long Beach, California, and reflect on his mother and brother’s time aboard the ship during their voyage. “Before I was even a thought,” he says.

Bruce would be born to Roger and Vera just a few years later and the parents would raise their children in Lewiston. A mill town, and the second-largest town in Maine, Lewiston provided the quintessential childhood for Bruce. He would go to elementary school at Farwell Elementary school and play baseball and football in warm weather and hockey in the winter, in the dirt, make-shift baseball diamond with its backstop of chicken wire. The Spencer home was at the end of a dead-end street, near the field Bruce would spend countless hours playing on.

You might think that you recognize the town of Lewiston, and you probably do, because Lewiston was the site of the Mohammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) v. Sonny Liston rematch on May 25, 1965. It is famous for the photograph of Ali standing over Liston, taunting his rival while Liston was on the mat. “[it was] Quite the event. He was Cassius Clay back then. Everyone thought Liston took a dive. It put Lewiston on the map for the first time.”

He was a member of the Boy Scouts of America as a youth but did not take it far in that organization after growing a bit older. He did not play organized sports as the family had only one car and Roger used the vehicle to go to work as the manager of an auto parts store. “Dad was the kind of guy that you could just describe the part on the car to and he would know the original part number, how much it was, and whether it was in stock, without ever looking it up in any book.” Bruce would come to find himself fascinated with numbers because of watching his father’s ability to recall numbers and details associated with those parts.

He graduated from Lewiston High School after he enlisted in the Marine Corps and attended basic training at Paris Island. “I was seventeen and had just made the Dean’s list. The recruiter told me if I scored a 120 on the test I could go to OCS.” Bruce scored a 139, but the recruiter had failed to tell Bruce that he had to be twenty years old to go to officer candidate school. And, at seventeen, he ended up as an enlisted rifleman instead. Bruce says that he never considered himself fit or in shape, but when he traveled to New York City, after Paris Island, a woman shouted “Hey skinny” at him trying to get his attention and he had no idea she was talking to him. He went to Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune for his second phase of training. During his time in the Marines, Bruce suffered a lower back injury during a training exercise. He dealt with the effects of that injury for years afterward and received an honorable discharge for his efforts. Once a Marine, always a Marine, Bruce wears his service branch proudly on his arm in a permanent tattoo.

Returning to Lewiston, Bruce became the assistant auto parts manager for Marcotte Chevrolet. But being the assistant manager at a dealership did not leave much room for upward mobility unless someone died or was fired, and he did not see that happening soon. So, when his then-sister-in-law Donna and her husband Earl enticed Bruce to move to the Quad Cities area where he settled down in Moline, Illinois, he went to work for John Deere at the Plow and Planter Works where he drove a forklift.

It was great work. But, Bruce says, “When it was fifteen degrees below zero outside and you are along the Mississippi River, it can be miserable.” Spence would spend fifteen years working for Deere as a member of United Auto Workers Local Union 434 until the recession of 1982 hit. Anyone with less than fifteen years of seniority, including Bruce, was laid off. The hope of a call back within five years was not going to pay the bills and Bruce suffered a significant financial burden following the layoffs.

Accepting the help of relatives in Pensacola, Florida, Bruce was able to get back on his feet again, going to work for Fade Auto Parts. Fade was a local company, and though its founder and owner was a great man, he was an absent owner. Eventually, Bruce was able to secure a job with the Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF) where he would work for the next thirteen years until the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission slated its closure and would terminate operations at the facility in 1996. However, in the interim, Bruce had worked his way, “…up from an apprentice to Journeyman as an aircraft sheet metal mechanic and then in composite rotor blades.” Bruce worked on mostly rotary blade aircraft, but sometimes also worked on fixed-wing aircraft such as the A4 – the ones like the United States Navy Blue Angels would fly - as well as the workhorse, the A10. Spencer would have loved to be able to pilot one of the aircraft that he repaired and longed to be able to do so, “I fixed the damned things, but couldn’t ever go up in them.”

In 2004, Bruce would be invited by his friend Roy Suarez to join his first fraternal organization, the Loyal Order of Moose #557, Pensacola Lodge. “The Moose stand for helping the elderly and children,” says Spencer. He threw himself into the organization after being initiated on January 24, 2004. “I became the prelate and had to attend nine funerals in six months. It does something to you.” He became a Moose Legionnaire on April 30, 2010, the second step in the Moose, and received his fellowship degree of Honor on June 23, 2014, the third of the four Moose degrees. He eventually would become the Junior Governor of that Lodge and later, Administrator. He is proud of his Moose Lodge affiliation and his friends and the accomplishments of that organization.

Bruce did a lot of volunteering at the Lodge and worked one year as a volunteer Administrator. This is normally a paid job, but Bruce did it for no pay.
Bruce was a member of the Moose Riders and was the Chairman of Putts for Mutts. This was a fundraiser that the Moose Riders put on to raise awareness for the local animal shelter that is a no-kill shelter. Bruce along with everyone else raised over 2000 pounds of food, cat litter, and other items for the shelter.
In 2010, I was running for Governor of the Lodge and asked Bruce to run for the Prelate position; this is now the Chaplain position. I told him that the position was usually very easy and that all you need to do is visit the sick in the hospital and give a report at each meeting on who is sick. Well, Bruce was very busy that year because I think every month we had someone in the hospital and there were several members that passed away during that year. Every time, Bruce was there making sure the member or family had what they needed.
Bruce is the true meaning of a volunteer and a very good friend of mine. The Pascagoula Elks Lodge is a better place because of Bruce in my opinion. I could go on and on about Bruce but I think you get the full picture of Bruce Spencer.
Roy Suarez - Administrator - Pensacola Moose Lodge No. 557

In 2012, he bought a home and moved to Gautier, Mississippi. With no Moose Lodge nearby and not knowing fully about the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Pascagoula Lodge of which he is now a member, he renewed his affiliation with the American Legion. But he only spent a few years in Gautier, before moving again to Providence, Rhode Island. Because the American Legion there was non-existent, he longed for membership in an organization where he felt he could make a difference.

He was introduced to the Elks by a friend of a friend, and in 2015, he joined the Woonsocket Lodge 850. “I saw a need in the kitchen on Wednesday and Friday and took the opportunity to help.” He would work in the Lodge’s kitchen preparing many dishes including fish, chips, and more. “You [would] have to stand in line to find a seat,” he says of the popularity of the kitchen’s dishes. But, one day in February 2018 it was eighty degrees and the next day there were eighteen inches of snow on the ground. That was it for Bruce, and in July 2018, he moved back to Mississippi, settling in the community of Escatawpa, north of Pascagoula.

“When I transferred here, the kitchen was the logical place.” Bruce applied for and received a demit to join Pascagoula Lodge 1120 which he now calls his Elks home. He did, however, still venture sometimes to the American Legion in Gautier. “I was going to be a player,” he jokes, “I had no intentions of looking for someone.” But the next day after moving back, he heard a woman singing Karaoke at American Legion Post 1992. That woman was Wanda, and he was smitten. They would marry in November 2019. “I found the perfect Christian lady that loves to sing.”

Bruce is not interested in being the face of the Elks. He prefers behind-the-scenes participation. But he does it with such enthusiasm that you can see it in his smile. He asks for no recognition and is humble about his participation, denying that he does anything noteworthy at all. It is far from reality. His passion is working in the kitchen. He has held no offices in the Elks and plans on none. He organized a joint cooperative effort with his friend Roy Suarez from Moose Lodge and his Elks Lodge 1120 in September 2022. That effort was to collect supplies for the victims of Hurricane Ian and with his fellow Elks delivered those items to Pensacola where Moose Lodge 557 received the supplies and ensured their distribution in the affected areas.

Bruce and Wanda live in Escatawpa where Bruce does a lot of flower gardening for Wanda. They have seven children between them. Bruce also rides a Valkyrie trike when the weather cooperates.

Bruce, we are so lucky to have you. Keep smiling, our friend!


Becky Turner
Becky Turner

We are blessed to have Bruce as a member. Thanks for all you do!

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