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Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Bruce Smith would testify that he was a joy to those around him. He had a great sense of humor and contagious zest for life that was easy to see. Bruce was the sort of person who was never afraid of a challenge, and he had an innate ability for facing everything with a smile on his face and love in his heart. There was no greater gift in his life than his family and friends, and he was happiest when surrounded by their love. Deeply cherished, Bruce will never be forgotten.
The 1950s were an exciting time in American history. Televisions became a part of everyday lives, entertainment icons such as Elvis Presley took to the stage with his rock ’n roll music, and, by the end of the decade Alaska and Hawaii were added to the United States as the 49th and 50th states. It was also during this time that Hugh and Charlotte Smith, Jr. of Kalamazoo, Michigan, were embracing changes of their own as they awaited the birth of their new child. On March 10, 1951, their wait was finally over and their lives were changed forever. Their son was brought into the world at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the new parents named their son Bruce.
Much of Bruce’s unique character was shaped as he grew up in the family home in Kalamazoo. His father worked in public relations with the Upjohn Company, and Bruce loved to be involved in multiple ways. Even at a young age, he would entertain many of his father’s clients and their children. Bruce also liked to keep his father on his toes as he loved to eat the olives out of his father’s martinis.
Another large part of Bruce’s childhood was his social life. He loved people, and he created many lasting friendships during his formative years and was adored by his neighbors. Playing baseball with the Oakwood Little League and the All Stars helped shape his strong work ethic, which showed in every area of his life. As a student, he attended South Westnedge Elementary School, Oakwood Jr. High, and Loy Norrix High School.
After graduating high school, big changes were in store for Bruce and he was eager for all that life would bring. He went on to attend Western Michigan University as he highly valued education. Bruce excelled in his career in sales, including in the technical lab furniture industry as well as in appliances.
Fate was in control one evening when Bruce met the woman who would forever change the course of his life. Her name was Sue, and they met at the Holiday Lanes in 1994, where Bruce regularly enjoyed bowling. Bruce and Sue had bowled together on Wednesday night leagues for years many prior, but they had never met before because Bruce would leave Holiday Lanes right after his league to bowl for profit at another alley. That all changed once night when he stayed and joined a big party in the bar. Eventually, Bruce and Sue were the only two left, and while they talked, they bonded over the name shared by Bruce’s father and grandfather and Sue’s grandfather, Hugh Smith.
Throughout his life, Bruce was never one to sit still, and he had plenty of hobbies that he often shared with others. He loved to spend time on Long Lake Cloverdale with Rod, and they pulled many a crazy stunt at the Hackenberg’s lake home. Bruce also visited Bad Axe, Sue’s hometown, and he enjoyed sharing fun times with friends and relatives. He frequented Main Street Pub, where he always played fantastic music on the jukebox. Everyone always loved the tunes and thanked him many times. Bruce could also puzzle over a crossword for hours. He loved golf and regularly played with Sue. Although, it has been said that she could never manage to hit a good ball! The pair enjoyed several years as members of Ridgeview Golf Course, and they played in leagues and participated in special outings and annual golf trips to Manistee National. Throughout his time playing golf, Bruce formed many new friendships, and no words can describe his years on the golf course.
As his family and friends can attest, Bruce’s tough-as-nails personality really shined through as his battle with cancer began in 2014. Despite having a laryngectomy, he was able to enjoy several more years of his life, thanks both to the medical experts at University of Michigan and Bruce’s strong spirit. He took all the surgeries and procedures in stride, and he also never gave up an opportunity to show how grateful he was for the life he had been blessed with.
Bruce Smith will forever be remembered as a man who surrounded himself with those he loved and never took anything for granted. His smile was catching, and his contagious laughter often drew people to him, including his former wife, Carrie. Friends and family recall his rosy-cheeks, often from the Miller Lite of Main Street Pub, and his unbreakable spirit will always serve as an example for those who knew him best. Though he will be greatly missed, Bruce leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
Bruce Smith, Age 69, died June 12, 2020. Bruce’s family includes his wife, Sue; sister and brother-in-law, Linda and Hank Mittelstaedt; and many in-laws, nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews, cousins, and many friends. Bruce will be cremated and no services are planned at this time. But there will be a big party to celebrate his life! Please visit Bruce's personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the Evelyn Prince Memorial Scholarship Fund in care of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.