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Bruce Wolfe

1954 - 2020
Bruce Wolfe Obituary
Bruce Wolfe

Bruce H. Wolfe, a highly respected leader in public service and the stewardship of California's natural resources, passed away on February 25, 2020, at the age of 65. On a visit that he and his wife Jan were making to Hilton Head, South Carolina, he suffered a heart attack during one of his regular runs, doing what he most loved to do.
Born on August 14, 1954 and raised in Piedmont, California, Bruce was the son of Kenneth and Madelynne Wolfe. His father, born in Montana, was an executive with Bechtel and Occidental Petroleum. His mother established the extended Wolfe family as pillars of the Piedmont community. Bruce attended high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he became a member of the track team, the beginning of his lifelong dedication to running. As part of the team in 1972, said to be "one of the best track seasons in Phillips Academy history," he ran the mile in 4:32.2.
Bruce then attended Stanford University, where he was a social member of the Class of 1976 and, as at Andover, joined the track team. He received a BS degree in Civil Engineering and an MS in Environmental Engineering in 1977. He studied overseas at Stanford-in-France in Tours in winter and spring, 1975, attaining a proficiency in the French language that for the rest of his life enabled him either to speak it smoothly or to butcher it mercilessly, as circumstances made appropriate. He also joined the trombone section of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, or LSJUMB, a connection that resulted in innumerable friendships with individuals whom he often praised as "high quality low-lifes."
It was at Stanford-in-France that Bruce met the former Jan Kraus, from Olympia, Washington. He and Jan married in 1979. Their partnership was exceptionally strong, one of those rare and wonderful marriages in which mutual support, understanding and good humor make both husband and wife the best people they can be. They were the parents of two daughters, Hillary, now in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Lauren, now in San Francisco. They took pride in their roles as the adoring and devoted grandparents of Hillary's daughters Aspen and Kenna.
In 1977, upon receiving his Civil and Environmental Engineering degrees, Bruce joined the staff of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, a semiautonomous unit of the State Water Resources Control Board, in turn a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency. In 1979, he was licensed as a Professional Engineer. Bruce's 41-year career in protecting water quality culminated in his fifteen years of service as Executive Officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Board, responsible for surface, ground and coastal water in watersheds from Tomales Bay to Pescadero Creek. As Executive Officer, Bruce supervised a professional staff of more than 100 in restoring, protecting and enhancing the Bay and the region's water, wetlands and riparian habitats. His colleagues remember him for providing generous mentorship to countless young engineers, geologists and scientists and for what they said was his "brilliance, humor and kindness." He retired from the Regional Board on December 28, 2018.
Away from work, Bruce made friends across the globe through his devotion to the sport of orienteering, which combines cross-country racing with competitive use of navigational skills. In 1985, 1987 and 1991, Bruce was a member of the U.S. Orienteering Team in international competitions. He later served as coach of the team and as the U.S. representative on the nine-member governing council of the International Orienteering Federation. He was North American Masters Champion from 1994 to 2000. For many years, dozens of Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian orienteers understood that any journeys that brought them through Northern California required them to visit Bruce and his family. Bruce's dedication to orienteering also prompted him to bring Hillary and Lauren into the sport, in which they became star performers. Orienteering also provided excuses for the Wolfes to travel throughout the world, although more recently they settled into a routine of visits to Mexico and Lake Tahoe.
A central part of Bruce's life was his role at Piedmont Community Church. He was baptized and confirmed there; for nearly 30 years he sang as a bass in its Chancel Choir; he played the trombone in its brass ensemble; he invested many hours in its governance and volunteer activities, serving as a trustee and a deacon. His wife Jan, a tenor, is a member of the Chancel Choir as well. On at least one memorable Sunday, with everyone else in the choir out of town for July vacations, all the vocal music for morning worship was performed by the Four Singing Wolfes, comprising Bruce, Jan and their daughters. "They're just like the Von Trapps," said one friend, "except without the heavy accents."
Bruce Wolfe is survived by his wife Jan Kraus Wolfe; the Wolfes' daughters Hillary and Lauren; granddaughters Aspen and Kenna; his brother Dave, of Denver and Palm Springs; his brother Steve, of Albion, California; Steve's wife Debbi; and Steve and Debbi's son Mark.
A memorial will be celebrated at Piedmont Community Church on a date to be announced. The Wolfe family asks that you consider donations in lieu of flowers to either George Mark Children's House, 2121 George Mark Lane, San Leandro, CA 94578, or Save the Bay, https://safesfbay.org/ , 300 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 280, Oakland, CA 94612.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Mar. 15, 2020
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