Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What Bruce Did ...

I had originally intended to write a post titled What Would Bruce Do, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that the things that Bruce did were amazing and they should be documented, at least from my perspective.

I am not sure if Bruce Walshe kept a journal. He was so busy with everything else I don't know how he possibly could have had time to do that as well. But maybe he did. He was so obedient to the counsel of our Church leaders that he most likely did, and I am sure it would make an interesting read.

I don't know much about Bruces' early life. I didn't meet him until I was 24 years old (32 years ago) and he would have been 28. He was a convert to the Church in his early 20's and I was a convert at 24. He was found by in 1976 Elder David Young and Elder Jeff Gillette when they felt impressed to go tracting in a Graves St in Essendon within the Glenroy Ward boundaries. I was found by missionaries when they tracted the street that I lived in, in Manifold Heights, Geelong Ward.

He served a mission in (I think) the Fiji Mission, as a very recent convert. I served a mission in New Zealand 18 months after I joined the Church. He was a surfer and so was I. He played guitar and sang at a professional level, while I was a hack. He was a talented artist. I simply admired art. He had a beautiful wife, and I hoped to one day have a beautiful wife! Almost everything that he did, I either did too, or wanted to do, but never could do was well as Bruce. I do have a beautiful wife, but only 2 kids - he has 6!

Bruce, Jenny, Stephen and Campbell in 1984

I first became closely aquainted with Bruce when I came home from my mission and he and his beautiful wife Jenny had moved to Geelong and were living in Church Street, Geelong West. They were hosting and teaching the Young Adult institute class. This would have been in 1985 and they already had a young growing family. Campbell would have been 1 or 2 years of age and Steve a couple of years older. Rochelle was born a year or so later. I think sometimes the classes involved more entertaining of the two young boys. I particularly remember their balls skills at such a young age. Potential footballers I thought.

I can't remember any of Bruce's lessons or even if he or Jenny shared the teaching. But I do remember the feeling of being there and the camaraderie that developed between all of us. It was during this time that a young 24 year old by the name of Nicholas Grbin started coming to these classes and then accepted an invitation to be taught by the missionaries. It was a great period of time in our lives!

The first 10 years of my married life I lived in Melbourne. We would visit Geelong Ward occasionally and I would catch up with the Walshes. I would sometimes bump in to Bruce when going for a surf, but we never really organized to surf together. There was never much planning involved in surfing in the days before the internet and decent surf forecasts.

Bruce's son Campbell reminded me recently that he first met me at Point Impossible, near Torquay, one day when he was going for a surf with his Dad and I had just finished surfing and was heading back to the car park. Several times over the years I would be walking up the Winki Pop stairs at Bell's Beach while Bruce was coming down. We always stopped for a quick chat, to catch up on the latest news.

I decided to move back to the Geelong area with my family in 1999. At that time, John Carthew was the Bishop and I have a feeling Bruce may have been serving on the Stake High Council. After various leadership changes (which saw Richard Watts have a short term as our Bishop), Bruce was called as Bishop of the Geelong Ward in I think 2002.

At about the same time that Bruce was called to be the Bishop, I was called to be the High Priest Group Leader (HPGL). Prior to this we had both served on the Stake High Council for several years. With me now as HPGL, it would mean more time spent working very closely together. For maybe the last year that Bruce was Bishop, I was called to be one of his Counsellors, which meant that I worked with him even more closely. 

One responsibility I took very seriously was looking after my Bishop by making sure he surfed regularly. I would always call him when I knew the surf was good and I was going down the coast. It was usually early in the morning, often scheduled around getting kids to early morning seminary classes and the season. Cliff Slade and I would often pick up Bruce as we drove through Geelong from Lara. Graeme Aydon would often join us, as would Nick Grbin. We all loved each others company, but it was always just a little bit more special when Bruce was with us.

I remember the first time that Cliff met Bruce and we surfed Guvvos, just past Anglesea. They hit it off immediately and when Cliff saw Bruce catch a wave, he made a comment about what a good surfer he was. Bruce had surfed in the Rip Curl Pro at Bell's Beach in the mid-seventies. He really was very good. Cliff and I were clearly in very good company - he was several cuts above us in ability, skill and experience.

Adam Roberts wrote a really insightful piece about what it was like to work with Bruce in a Church setting. I can only echo what he has already said.

Bruce is an intensely spiritual man (I like to use present tense when talking of Bruce still in some instances. He is not here with us physically any more, but his spirit lives on). He learned to practice Yoga from a relatively young age. He was going through an intense period of searching for spiritual enlightenment prior to the missionaries finding him, and he was attracted to the the Eastern philosphies and learned Yoga. He continued practising Yoga throughout his life. He studied the Latter-day Saint scriptures daily and prayer, both family and personal, had become part of his daily routine over many, many years.

He learned about his religion and he practised it. He was a most loving husband and father. He reached out to those around him constantly. He had genuine concern for people. When Bruce asked "how are you", it was not just conversational - he really wanted to know how you were  travelling and what was happening in your life.

He practised true religion - to visit the widows and the fatherless. But he didn't just visit. I remember one elderly sister telling me that when he was Bishop and visited her, he vacuum cleaned her floors. That was not an isolated incident.

Because of what he did and how he made people feel, I expect to see hundreds of people at his funeral. It is being held in Werribee as the Geelong Chapel is just not big enough to accommodate all the people that will be there.

I could keep writing all night about Bruce, but I won't. A man must sleep. One thing that Bruce taught me was the importance of looking after yourself. Keep your life in balance. Take time to smell the roses (or at least go for a surf if roses aren't your fancy).

He taught me so much. I will always miss him.

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