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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 fire