Bruce Clay Bolinger passed in the early morning hours of August 30, 2021, at a rest home in Clovis, New Mexico, at 68. A long-time resident of Portales where he settled after retiring from the Navy in 1992, Bruce was best known for his bushy beard, long hair and quirky sense of humor.
Born in Santa Fe August 13, 1953, to Herman and Janice Bolinger, Bruce was the youngest of 3 children and had his father's sense of humor. Known as a prankster and a bit of a troublemaker he worked at the Piggly Wiggly in high school and worried his mother often. He eventually enlisted in the Navy at 17 on November 11, 1970, with help of his older sister Jody, who forged his mother's signature.
"Boats" as his fellow sailors called him, was a career Navy man. As and aviation electrician, Bruce worked on helicopters for 22.5 years. He served on many ships including the USS Cleveland and USS Ranger in the early 1970s. He was stationed in the Philippines, Japan, South Korea and San Diego during his career, which included one tour in Vietnam. He survived two helicopter crashes while in the service, saw most of the world, and had many "rousing" adventures during his career, espousing the spirit of an enlisted Sailor. He retired out of San Diego in 1992 as a Petty Officer 1st Class. He stayed in regular contact his fellow sailors, exchanging birthday cards every year.
After retirement, Bruce moved to Santa Fe for a few years before eventually settling a few miles outside of Portales, where he owned a windshield repair business until 1998. His mother joined him in Portales in 1999 and Bruce cared for her lovingly until she passed in 2013.
Bruce was close to his nephews Rice, James and Mat. The younger two, James and Mat, spent their summers at his house in Portales, where he taught them how to shoot using his father's .22 revolver and drive in a pair of old American cars -- a '68 Duster and a '69 Impala.
Bruce retired for the last time earlier this year after working at a local dairy for more than 20 years. He kept their equipment running using the mechanical skills he honed in the Navy.
His beloved four-legged friends where his closest companions. Thumper, Simba, Honey and Tazzie kept him company throughout the years while he enjoyed a smoke, and a coconut rum with coke from the front-porch of his house.
Forever a sailor, "Boats" last request was to be buried at sea.
A memorial in his honor will be held in Portales at a date and location to be determined.
He is survived by his sister Jody, brother Allen, nephews Rice, James and Mat, cousin Anna and many of his fellow sailors including Duke Madsen and Bill Shipley.
Bruce's family would like to thank all the healthcare workers at Roosevelt General Hospital in Portales and Genesis Clovis Rehab and Recovery Center, who cared for Bruce during his final days. They handled the jokes and pains of a crusty old sailor with grace.
A memorial website has been created for Bruce. The family expresses gratitude for kindnesses expressed through thought and deed.
Bruce Boats Bolinger, (1953 - 2021) - ForeverMissed.com
Online Memorials <https://www.forevermissed.com/bruce-clay-bolinger/about
Arrangements have been entrusted to Muffley Funeral Home, (575)762-4435, www.muffleyfuneralhome.com
Published by Eastern New Mexico News from Sep. 2 to Sep. 5, 2021.