Mark Bruce was born in San Luis Obispo, California, a small agrarian town of about 14,000 people. Mark was the youngest of three boys and while growing up, received his fair share brotherly pranks – tackle football with a paper-thin helmet, dirt clods smashed on his head, and an occasional dunk in the toilet. He may have been the “baby” but he wasted no time evolving into a storied “tumbleweed” as he grandfather used to call him. The family moved to Santa Cruz and Mark eventually moved to Chico, Oakland, San Francisco and eventually New York.
He was gained legendary status as locker room comedian, able to imitate voices and mannerisms of his high school coaches. These same mannerisms, including stares, frowns and other nonverbal gestures were refreshing and memorable. At a memorial in Santa Cruz, where 17 of 25 fifth grade classmates got together to honor Mark, they all fondly remembered his ability to make them smile, think, and try harder. And one classmate very fondly remembered “always being the victim” as he later became a classmate of Mark’s at college. He told of having Mark type an economics paper for him. When he got the paper back, there were a few comments, one in particular noting a reference to “making love to …..” . Mark had typed this line right in the middle of the paper to see if the professor would catch it. He evidently did.
Mark loved working in New York. He especially enjoyed working at Sandler O’Neill. He enjoyed the emotional roller coaster life of being a trader and particularly enjoyed sharing what he had learned along the way with his colleagues. One colleague was thinking of visiting the wine country in Napa during August. Mark talked him out of it, saying the second week in September would be better.
Tribute submitted by Steve Bruce.
Call of the Wild West
Mark Bruce's childhood reads like a Steinbeck novel. The grandson of Nebraskans, Mr. Bruce grew up in 1960's San Luis Obispo — a sleepy agricultural town near California's central coast with a Rexall drugstore, a creek to fish in, and where kids rode their bikes to 4H meetings.
But unlike Steinbeck's characters, Mr. Bruce moved to the city, and then East. He studied business, and went to work in the Bay Area, where he met Dawn Bryfogle, who was there on a business trip from New York in the late 1980's. "He was very high- energy," she said. He was a joker and a mimic, he took part in sports, he loved hiking and flyfishing. Their first date was at a restaurant on San Francisco Bay. "That was the beginning of a two-year bicoastal relationship," she said. When a job offer came from New York, Mr. Bruce, 40, left the West behind.
He got his break at Bear Stearns before becoming a trader in mortgage-backed securities at Sandler O'Neill & Partners in the World Trade Center. He shared the commute from Summit, N.J., with Ms. Bryfogle (they married in 1992). He brought a ferretlike intensity to his work while retaining his small-town demeanor.
But the West still called to the couple. They felt drawn to mountain air and open space. They looked for a house in Montana, but had not decided if it would be their primary home or a vacation home, if they would really move or if they would stay in New York. Now, Ms. Bryfogle is ready to make a decision. She said, "The West is the place that I look to when I think about moving forward in my own life."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on February 17, 2002.
Mark Bruce, 40, a merry prankster
Even in the middle of his most hectic days, Mark Bruce rarely passed up an opportunity to pull a good-natured prank.
The urge to play a practical joke might strike Mr. Bruce during a five-minute break from the harried bond-trading floor at Sandler & O'Neill Partners. He would call his brother, Steve Bruce, a bond trader in Los Angeles, and together they would make a quick conference call to an unsuspecting relative.
"We would call our cousins and say we were the Sears above-ground pool installers and there had been some confusion -- did they want the new pool in the front yard or the back? We'd really have them going," Steve Bruce recalled.
"They're not going to get too many more of those calls."
Mr. Bruce, who lived in Summit and worked on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was 40.
The California native had moved to the East Coast in 1991 and married Dawn Bryfogle. The couple met working in the securities industry and moved to Summit five years ago.
His wife said Mr. Bruce had a great passion for the outdoors and loved to hike and flyfish.
To spend more time in the wild, the couple bought a weekend house near Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. But Mr. Bruce had his heart set on a house in Montana.
"He wanted to do it right now," Bryfogle said. "I wanted to get more money in the bank."
It was an argument Mr. Bruce was very close to winning.
"We were going to doing it," she said.
Mr. Bruce also loved competition and relished playing alongside his brother in pickup basketball games at a local park when both lived in Lower Manhattan.
"He was a great competitor," Steve Bruce said. "He didn't hold a grudge if he lost. But he always wanted to make sure he got to play you one more time."
After graduating from University of California at Chico, Mr. Bruce took a job as a management trainee for a retail store in California, but ultimately he wanted to be a bond trader, his brother said.
He made it to Wall Street largely by teaching himself the intricacies of trading bonds. Once he got there, he often mentored younger colleagues.
Steve Bruce said he learned at one of the memorial services for his brother that Mr. Bruce had had a particularly good day on Sept. 10 and was planning a special dinner for some of his company's support staff for the night of the Sept. 12.
"He was all pumped up to take some of the back office people to diner on that Wednesday," Steve Bruce said. "He had done well and his attitude was: Let's go share this."
In addition to his wife and his brother, Mr. Bruce is survived by another brother, David Bruce of Santa Rosa, Calif., and his mother; Diane Bruce of Windsor, Calif.
A memorial service for Mr. Bruce will be held Friday at Central Presbyterian Church, 75 Maple St., Summit.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Mark Bruce Memorial Fund, c/o the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, 2425 Porter St., Suite 17, Soquel, Calif. 95073.
Profile by Wayne Woolley published in THE STAR-LEDGER.