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Bruce F.W. Brodigan

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Bruce F.W. Brodigan of Somerville, MA, August 7, 1954-April 7, 2012. Bruce Brodigan was, first and foremost, a teacher. Born in Charlottesville, VA and raised in West Hartford, CT, Bruce graduated from Amherst College and George Washington University Law School. In his 57 years, he taught Latin, Greek, adult literacy, ESL, English Literature, poetry, and history. He taught in Botswana, Japan, Washington, DC, Boston, MA, and Belmont, MA. Most recently, he tutored young children, where he made his home, in Somerville, MA. Bruce was also a writer. If you were a friend, relative, neighbor or colleague, you were the beneficiary of Bruce's compassion, and his trenchant, often ironic and humorous, observations. This past winter, Bruce e-mailed the Somerville schools volunteer coordinator about the achievements of one of his tutees. "I have to admit, that boy has driven me scatty at times -- but last week's 95 on his spelling test was the best way we could possibly have ended the fall term. [He] was so proud he took me to his locker to show me: every word correct except for two letters transposed. Wow. He and I had worked hard on those words with the long-e, and [he] grasped that the long-e could be spelled the two different ways -- that's the best success we've had to date. Up from a 65 he showed me from the previous week." "More important than how I feel, [he] was so happy yesterday he was bouncing off the walls -- an A-student in spelling, now that is something. We did not get much done, as [he] was in a hilarious state yesterday, but you should know that -- along with the other work we have done -- [he] has memorized two short Caribbean poems. [He] is so proud of this accomplishment, he practiced them yesterday with me so that he could recite them. I am so very happy that this has worked out the way it has. We may not be able to move mountains, but I am encouraged that the tutoring sessions can make a difference for this very endearing and worthwhile boy." Bruce had a special place in his heart for the underdog and the marginalized. In between his two teaching careers, he became a labor lawyer in Washington, D.C. Upon learning of his death, a law colleague of Bruce's wrote, "How inspiring his intellect and compassion were. How indelible his memory will be on those of us who were fortunate enough to spend time with him." For the past dozen years, Bruce served as one of the primary caretakers first for his ailing mother-in-law and father-in-law, then for his own father. He visited them at least one day a week, cleaned house, paid bills, cooked countless meals, planted gardens, talked politics, literature, and history, and organized special outings-small college football games, chamber choir concerts, and dinner picnics at Trinity College's outdoor, summer carillon concerts. Most recently, in addition to his work with Somerville's public school students, Bruce volunteered with Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services. For the past nine months he spent Thursdays with an elderly man, who became a good friend, for whom he provided companionship, ran errands, and cooked meals with names like "Pork with Tarragon in a Mushroom Gravy Sauce and Green Beans." Bruce cooked in abundance so that there were always leftovers in a neatly labeled Tupperware container. Bruce was an avid reader. Over the years, he, his mother, sister, friends, and other family members exchanged books and, through his letters or guest participation in book groups, Bruce would provide insightful commentary, akin to what one might read in a newspaper book review. A retired high school teacher and friend who knew Bruce for over 30 years, recently wrote, "Bruce liked so many things-everything, really-that he radiated intellectual curiosity and emotional intensity, side by side, all the time." Bruce revered tradition and etiquette, but he was also an iconoclast. He took great pleasure in creating inventive solutions to both personal and public problems or obstacles. When the city of Cambridge had taken far too long to install sidewalk curb cuts, overnight a series of homemade concrete ramps, just wide enough for a bike wheel, appeared, curiously on just the sidewalks Bruce used to ride to work. Church, its sense of community, its liturgical rituals, were central to Bruce's life. While living in Cambridge, he attended The Memorial Church at Harvard University, and reveled in Reverend Peter Gomes's learned homilies. After moving to Somerville, Bruce searched for a new church, exploring different neighborhood parishes throughout the area. Bruce finally found one this past fall, St. James Episcopal Church in Somerville. He was drawn to the church's diverse congregation, its commitment to service, and the "simple but profound" sermons of Reverend Karen Coleman. After just three Sundays in attendance, Reverend Coleman caught him as he was "slipping out the back door" and asked him to serve on the vestry. One vestry member wrote, "Although I only knew Bruce a short while, he made a great contribution to the St. James community." Bruce leaves behind his husband, Thomas Grasso, and their children, Jamie and Jacob, as well as immediate family members: his mother, Shirley Brodigan, sister, Amy Brodigan, niece, Caela, and nephew, Liam, all of Amherst, MA. He is also survived by in-laws Elizabeth Welsh (Amherst, MA), Frances and Kenneth Toomey (Groton, MA), Alfred and Melanie Grasso (Delray Beach, FL), Michael Grasso (Venice, CA), Paul Grasso (New York, NY), Nancy and Robert Pedersen (Devon, England), as well as many uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, godchildren, and friends. Holidays were often marked by family gatherings with Bruce as chief planner, chef, and organizer of games. A cousin wrote, "Bruce was 'the glue' of the family; he was our historian, story teller, and moral compass." Bruce was preceded in death by his father, George D. Brodigan, his brother Christopher C. Brodigan, and his first husband, George Milko. A memorial service will be held in Story Chapel, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA at 11:00 AM, Saturday, June 23, http://www.mountauburn.org/. The burial service will be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Bruce's memory to the Christopher Brodigan Africa Scholarship Fund, care of Marcy Herlihy, 318 High Street, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06459.

Published in The Belmont Citizen-Herald from June 14 to June 21, 2012
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