Life Story Celebration
Thursday, August 31, 2023
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
St. Augustine Elementary School
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Bruce McCollum, it is easy to see both his unwavering strength and his unconditional love for his family. He was a shining example of kindness and service to those around him, and he was the sort of person who could find joy in even the simplest of things. Nothing brought Bruce greater joy than spending time with his loved ones no matter how simple the moments spent together were. He was well known for his sense of humor, and his big heart allowed him to touch the lives of countless others in ways both great and small. Deeply loved, Bruce will be forever missed by those who knew him best.
It was great to be an American during the 1920s. Jobs were plentiful, advancements brought us conveniences like the refrigerator and washing machine, and the radio became a staple in our world during this time as well. In the midst of these exciting days was a time of great excitement in the lives of Francis and Anita (Gartmeier) McCollum for a much different reason as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Bruce on February 18, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York.
Growing up, Bruce was a typical young man of his generation in many ways. His father was a naval officer, so the McCollum family moved often. As a result, Bruce spent the first few years of his life in the Orient, growing up alongside his brother, Larry. He even learned to speak a bit of Chinese. After returning stateside, Bruce enjoyed riding the trolley to go to the movies in San Francisco. Later, after moving to North Hollywood, he worked as a paperboy and even had Bob Hope on his route.
From a young age, Bruce dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps and joining the Navy. His father insisted that he finish high school first, so he skipped two grades, graduated early from Compton High School, and went on to join the Navy on his 17th birthday. Bruce became a radioman and served aboard the PC-466 submarine chaser in the Pacific during WWII. Throughout his time in the Navy, Bruce was known to frequently request permission to visit the bigger ships and bring back ice cream for himself and the crew. He was even moored near the USS Missouri when the Japanese surrendered.
Following his service to his country, Bruce began working as a probation officer. However, he soon found that his true passion was in teaching. Bruce earned his bachelor's degree from Loyola University, then his Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from University of Southern California. He taught in the Paramount Unified School District in Los Angeles, California and specifically enjoyed teaching fourth, fifth, and sixth grades since his students were still impressionable and didn’t think they knew more than their teacher! One memorable day, he was at school early, before the students, when the 1987 Whittier earthquake hit. He stood in his doorway and watched the entire playground move like a wave. When he retired in 1993, Bruce left behind a career full of service to the children of his community.
As a young man, new and exciting changes were on the horizon for Bruce as he met the woman who would soon become the love of his life. Her name was Mildred Andrade, and she had been raised in Hilo, Hawaii before moving to California in order to attend nursing school. At the time, Bruce was a member of the Catholic Alumni Club and the SCOTT Club, a group for single Catholics over 22. One of Millie’s friends also belonged to the SCOTT Club, and this friend introduced the two. There was an instant spark between Bruce and Millie. It didn’t take them long to realize that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Bruce and Millie were married in the presence of friends and family on May 2, 1964.
All who knew Bruce can certainly agree that, of all the things he loved in life, he treasured his family above all else. He and Millie were overjoyed to welcome their children, Mary, Joseph, Christopher and David, into their hearts and home. Bruce thrived in his role as a father, and both he and Millie balanced their careers with raising their family. He and the children loved spending their summers together, often riding roller coasters at Knott’s Berry Farm, a park in California. Among other things, Bruce was well known for his dad jokes. Once, after asking his son if he’d like a half or a whole sandwich, Bruce made a sandwich with a hole in the middle! After taking them to see Star Wars, he hit the gas pedal on the way home and shouted, “Hyperdrive!” Bruce enjoyed teaching his children new things, but more importantly he taught them the value of a smile and finding joy in their daily lives. Later, he was thrilled to become a grandfather as well. Bruce adored his grandchildren and doted on them whenever he could. In 2007, Bruce and Millie moved to Kalamazoo so that they could be closer to the grandkids. He truly considered himself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.
Never one to sit still for long, Bruce pursued many hobbies to stay busy in his free time. He was an avid coin collector, and he sometimes brought his children along to collector’s meetings. Bruce enjoyed traveling the world with his wife, Millie. They had a timeshare at Lake Tahoe, where they visited every year. Bruce and Millie traveled to Canada, Portugal, Scotland, Scandinavia and various locations throughout the United States, especially the Pacific coast where they enjoyed many sunsets and panoramic views. They loved participating in activities wherever they went, and throughout their travels they took many tours, enjoyed wine from each region of Portugal, and rode toboggans down the mountainside streets of Madeira.
After retiring from teaching, Bruce went to work at Knott’s Berry Farm for nearly 14 years. He helped lead tours for school children, and he loved dressing as a pumpkin during the Halloween Haunt. He also spent time as a cowboy in the old west at Knott’s. One of his roles was to jump on and off a moving train to rob the passengers on the train. Millie finally got him to stop doing that since he was in his seventies at the time. At home, Millie never had to worry about the floors as Bruce thoroughly loved vacuuming. He would even vacuum at the houses of others on occasion.
As his family and friends can certainly attest, Bruce McCollum truly understood the secret to a life well lived. He was a constant source of strength, even in the most difficult of times. A loving husband, father, and grandfather, Bruce was a friend to all he met. He was always willing to go above and beyond to serve his family and his community. Though he will be dearly missed, Bruce leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones will be proud to carry on in his footsteps.
Bruce McCollum, of Kalamazoo, Age 96, died on August 22, 2023. Bruce was preceded in death by his parents, and his son, Joseph. Surviving are his wife, Millie; children: Mary (Paul) Michaud, Dave (Susan) McCollum, and Chris McCollum; grandchildren: Joseph, Alexis, Ryan, Brandon, Vincent, Keaton, and Jason; and brother: Larry McCollum. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared on Thursday, August 31 from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. Mass will be celebrated Friday, September 1 at 10 AM at St. Augustine Cathedral with a luncheon to follow. Burial at Fort Custer National Cemetery. Visit Bruce’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Augustine Elementary School.