Enjoy the super-talented Madeline Hopkins (Linda’s cousin’s granddaughter) perform the song Hope’s Alive at Bruce’s Celebration of Life.
Hope’s Alive was Bruce’s favorite song and it was written and recorded by Erin Willett who lost her father to pancreatic cancer. All proceeds from the song go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. For more information about the song and where to download it, click HERE.
When Bruce first told me he didn’t want a traditional Wake, I suggested a Celebration of Life instead. He asked me what that was so I explained what I knew about it. He listened and looked at me and said: “Do you think anyone would come?” I said: “Are you kidding? For you, everyone will come.” Thank you all for proving me right and for being here today.
There are several people I need to thank.
First of all, none of this would be possible without Henry Schmidt’s help, so thank you, Henry. I’d like to thank everyone who donated food, made our centerpieces, or helped with setting up. many of you have been here since early this morning. There are too many to name but I appreciate all of you. Doug not only wrote Bruce’s obituary and eulogy, and designed our program and bracelets, and did our slide show, but he and his friend, Marc, made a beautiful video which you’ll see shortly. Jen did our picture boards and the framed picture of Bruce. Chris and Jen bought all of the items for the kids. Chris will be our DJ today. Bob Pecarific assisted with our audio.
I’d like to thank our Purple Family, whom Bruce loved so much, for their support of Bruce and me, for their visits to the hospital, and for their unending advocacy for pancreatic cancer. Equally involved in advocating for pancreatic cancer is my Never Ever Give Up group, some of whom drove eight hours to be here today.
One member of our Wage Hope family, Muskaan, deserves a special acknowledgement for driving Bruce and me into the City for all of our appointments at Sloan Kettering and Weil Cornell. Few of you know that outside of the hospice staff, Muskaan was the last person to see Bruce alive. She stayed at the Hospice after the rest of us had left. I had a bag packed to stay overnight but I was told to go home and rest and that it was unlikely Bruce would pass that evening. Sadly, I got that terrible call a couple hours after Doug and I got home.
Bruce’s brother, Wayne, and his wife, May, were at the hospital with Bruce every day just as they were when he had his surgery. Another brother drove with his son straight through from Florida to see Bruce. The day they got to the hospital was Bruce’s last good day.
Debbie, Michael, and Gianna were with us at the Hospice on Bruce’s last day. They tried to come back after Doug called to tell them about Bruce but it was snowing and they were forced to turn around. My sister stayed with me for two weeks after Bruce passed, stocking up my freezer so she knew I’d have something to eat after she left.
As most people know, Dylan Flinchum was Bruce’s super hero. He gave Bruce strength to fight these past three years. Any time Bruce had a setback, he’d always say the same thing: “This is nothing compared to what Dylan goes through.” Dylan was supposed to be here today but he had a setback of his own recently and could use our prayers. Dylan’s four grandparents are here. By the way, I’m sure if Bruce were here he’d tell all of you that you should attend Dylan’s next Dinosaur Stomp on May eleventh.
More than anyone, I have to thank my family here by my side, as they’ve been for Bruce and me throughout the past four difficult years. A special thank you to Doug, Chris, and my fourth son, J.P. I would not have made it through the terrible night of January 17th and the early morning hours of the 18th without them. They were beyond amazing!
In the past four years, I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent three major surgeries. Bruce was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery, numerous rounds of chemo and radiation, and a brief try with a clinical trial. Laura had chemo, radiation, and surgery after her own cancer diagnosis, and she’ll have another surgery this summer. Chris underwent an emergency appendectomy. Jake was hospitalized with a serious illness that lasted months and left him unable to walk for a while. Ella was hospitalized as an infant with a serious virus. And not to be outdone, Colin had to be rushed to the hospital after a terrible accident outside his school. All the while, the constant in my life and the person who kept me sane was Bruce. He would always say, “This is just a bump in the road.” Then he’d assure me that everything would be alright. I have Cat scans every three months and the week after next, I face my first scan without Bruce by my side to reassure me. Fortunately, Chris is going to take me for my scans. I’m hoping Bruce’s strength and positivity will get me through whatever lies ahead.
Finally, as much as I appreciate all of you being here, and I do, if you really want to honor Bruce, live your life as he did—be kind and care about others.
Franco Juricic (November 2, 1966 – March 6, 2019)
By JP Schmidt
We leave our fingerprint on this world based on the life we lead, and we all hope to leave a positive impact during our time here. We are here today to honor and celebrate the life of Bruce Hill, to talk about our memories of him and the impact he had on each of us, the fingerprints he left on our lives. I have thought a lot about what it is I want to share about Bruce this afternoon, the way he specifically impacted my life and the way I think about things.
They say there is beauty in simplicity. I’m a believer in this and I think Bruce more than anyone proved this to be true. Bruce didn’t need fancy expensive material things to find the joy in life, the joy in each day, or the joy in each moment. Maybe this is why he stayed so positive throughout his illness, because he focused on the now, he relished in the moment at hand, he didn’t rush or wish life away.
He enjoyed that moment he was in when he was caring for his lawn, or washing his vehicles, or going on a long walk with a loving dog. Bruce knew that each moment was a gift and he had a love for things that we often take for granted. I worked for years close to Bruce’s childhood home town, so we often discussed the area and when we did boy did his face light up with delight. I would enjoy listening to the tales of his youth, but more so enjoyed watching Bruce open up about it. Bruce didn’t volunteer a lot of stories of his youth, nor did he discuss the future much, because, again, he was more concerned with the now. If you asked him about certain memories or a specific time, he of course would share those stories with you, but usually it was Bruce asking about you, “How are you? How’s the family? How’s my girl Piper?”
When you asked Bruce for help, he never hesitated, he simply said “Ok”. I remember the first time I brought Piper over to meet him, she was 12 weeks old and I think Bruce was 60. As she clumsily climbed up the stairs she was greeted by Bruce at the top of them. No, not standing there waiting for her, Bruce was instead down on the floor to greet her. He played with her, scratched her belly, let her climb all over him. I’m sure many of you have seen pictures of Bruce also down on the floor with his granddaughter Ella. That’s what Bruce did, he related to people, children, and animals in the most simple but beautiful way. Whether a child or a puppy, he came down to their level. If he passed by a neighbor he’d wave and say hello, cause in that moment, that’s what you do. It’s simple and it’s beautiful.
I’ll never forget the day Bruce was told his cancer was back, it was March 22, 2017. I remember this well because I was with Mrs. H. when she got the call from the doctor. The reason we were all together was because we were at the ICU in Dover as my Mom was in the final hours of her life. Mrs. H. told Bruce the news she received from the doctor, and in typical Bruce fashion he simply nodded his head and said “Ok” and immediately went back to focusing on my Mom. I wanted to share that because, again, I think it shows how much Bruce lived in the moment. Even after receiving devastating news he didn’t look back, he didn’t look ahead, he instead stayed with my family and focused on our needs in that difficult time. To Bruce that was simple, to me it was beautiful.
Now on a lighter note I wanted to share one of my favorite Bruce stories, which is when he was pulled over by the police. No Bruce wasn’t speeding, he didn’t do anything illegal, he was pulled over because the police officer saw his pet sitting advertisement, told Bruce he needed a good pet sitter and heard he had a good reputation. I wasn’t there, but I am sure Bruce response was probably “oh, Ok”
I will miss talking sports with Bruce, watching how excited he got to discuss a great game or a great play. Now I am a Mets fan and any of you who might be as well know that’s not an easy thing to be. But, I am going to hold on to some hope here. I know the Yanks were Bruce’s main baseball team, but in his final hours the hospice nurse asked him what his favorite team was and yes, Bruce said, and I quote, “The Mets.” So Bruce, with all the agony that comes with being a Mets fan I am going to forever hold on to the possibility that you entered heaven routing for the Mets.
Speaking of hospice, after Bruce had passed that night and Mrs. H., Chris, Doug and I were leaving the hospital, the staff greeted us on our way down the hall. They offered their condolences and one of the nurses who had just come on duty told Mrs. H. she was sorry. Mrs. H. said to her, “I wish you could have known him, he was one of a kind.” The nurse replied stating, “Oh I knew him well.” We all kind of looked at each other thinking maybe this is standard hospice code? Act as if you knew the patient well? Mrs. H. said to her, “Oh you did?” The nurse said, “Well yes, very well, he took care of my dogs for years.” I don’t know what it was, but it was exactly what we needed to hear in that moment of sadness, it was typical Bruce. We didn’t think of the sadness we just experienced, or the sadness that would be coming in the near future, it gave us a laugh and a smile in that moment. It was simple and it was beautiful.
Bruce had said to me in the hospital that when he got out he wanted to have a party, a party at St Jude’s with family and friends. Bruce, we hope you enjoy your party. We thank you for leaving your fingerprints on our lives, for showing us the beauty in simplicity, for showing us the importance and beauty of living in the moment, for showing us how to appreciate the small things. In Doug’s eulogy he mentioned three things Bruce always lived by: Be Good, Work Hard, Help Others. If I could add one more thing to that it would be: Take time to smell the roses. Bruce always did. So when you leave today and you think about Bruce, I encourage you to wave to your neighbors, get down on the floor with the children and pets in your lives, if someone asks for help and it’s within your means, say “OK”. And everyday live in the moment, take time to smell the roses.
Now most of you know that Bruce was a phenomenal baseball player. If not for injury he probably would have had a nice professional career playing it. In baseball, fans honor a great performance by giving a standing ovation known as a curtain call. So I am going to ask you all to stand, put your hands together, and let’s give Bruce and his life a well-deserved curtain call!
By Douglas Palermo
Good morning. Thank you for coming out for Bruce today. That alone would be enough of a tribute to the life of Bruce Hill, but I’ve had the pleasure of being at my mom’s side as her phone exploded with text message after text message, Facebook alert after Facebook alert, as she read all the beautiful testimonies of what Bruce meant to so many people. The outpouring of love and support showered on my family these past few very difficult days has been humbling, and I wanted to thank everybody for that. As I sat down to write this I couldn’t think of what more I could possibly say about Bruce Hill that hasn’t already been said. But I’ll try.
It’s very difficult trying to make sense of how somebody so good would be taken from us so soon, when he had so much more to experience, and give, and teach us. What I have been trying to tell myself to make sense of it is that Bruce didn’t die young, he graduated early. As a lifelong teacher coming from a family of teachers, I tend to see the whole world as just one big classroom. And if that is the case, then I can think of no better student of life than Bruce Hill.
Very early in his life Bruce was taught some very important lessons. If you would have asked him he would have credited growing up in the small town of Peapack-Gladstone for teaching him everything he needed to know, but I’m sure specifically it was his mom and his brothers that had the most influence over him. Either way, at some point early in his life, Bruce was taught three important lessons: Be a good person, work hard, and help others. And Bruce learned those lessons quickly and never swayed from them an inch his entire life. Be good. Work hard. Help others. He didn’t need to study at any prestigious university, read any self-help books, or sit at the feet of any gurus to figure out how to live his life. He already knew. Be good. Work hard. Help others.
But school unfortunately is not just about learning lessons, it’s also about being tested to ensure that you know what you’re supposed to know. And Bruce was truly tested by this world.
When his father died when Bruce was only three and he had to grow up never knowing or having any memories of his dad, he easily could have grown bitter and angry at the world. But he didn’t. He just remembered his lessons. Be good. Work hard. Help others.
When he was one step away from living his dream of pitching in the Major Leagues and his arm goes dead, he easily could have turned cold. Bars are populated with failed athletes living in the past unable to deal with broken dreams. But not Bruce. He just returned home and remembered his lessons. Be good. Work hard. Help others.
When he finally found the love of his life and his mom died mere months before she could dance with her youngest son at his wedding, Bruce just soldiered on and took all the love his mom gave him and showered in on his wife for the next thirty years. Be good. Work hard. Help others.
When his first dog, Max, whom he loved and cared for with every particle of his being, turned on him, biting the hand the fed him, and had to be put down too soon, Bruce could have soured on the idea of having another dog. But he didn’t just double down, he tripled down with three more dogs: Scout, Necco, and Zoe that brought so much joy in his life for years.
And when his body could no longer handle the daily toil of doing the job he loved for so long, being outside landscaping, he effortlessly pivoted into being a pet sitter, the career where Bruce could finally show that he wasn’t just a strong person on the outside, he was a deeply loving, caring, empathetic person on the inside. Be good. Work hard. Help others.
When his wife was diagnosed with renal cancer, he stood by her side like a rock as she dealt with having a kidney removed and went through the physically and emotionally taxing recovery that followed.
And when he received the most devasting diagnosis one can receive from a doctor: pancreatic cancer. He didn’t feel sorry from himself for a moment. He just immediately began preparing for what he knew would be the fight of his life. Be good. Work hard. Help others.
When he pretty much had his entire insides removed in a 12-hour Whipple Surgery, it was less than four months later that he completed a 5K through the steep hills of Hopatcong… not for himself or his disease… but for his hero, Dylan Flinchum, a young boy who Bruce continually credited for the source of his own massive strength and determination.
And when Maureen Schmidt, a truly dear friend to Bruce, my mom, and the whole family, tragically passed away the very same day Bruce was told that his cancer had returned, we all were ready to throw up our hands, wave the white flag, and give up to this cruel world. But not Bruce. He just turned his grief into the strength and courage necessary for the next stage of his battle. And we all had no choice but to follow his lead. Be good. Work hard. Help others.
Just this past year. When his wife’s cancer returned and had to face two major surgeries. When his daughter-in-law got diagnosed with breast cancer and had to face her own fight. When his own cancer was no longer responding to chemo and was beginning to grow and spread. Bruce remained strong. Bruce remained positive. Bruce remained an inspiration to all of us.
And these last couple weeks, when we had to witness Bruce endure more pain and discomfort than anybody should ever have to, yet we never saw him get any more agitated or grumpy than the average person before they had their first cup of coffee.
Right up to the end. When all his thoughts were on the people he was leaving behind and not a single one for himself. He didn’t wait until he was ready to leave, he waited for ALL OF US to be ready before he left. Be good. Work hard. Help others.
Bruce was once told that him having cancer was like taking one for the team… and he was always reassured by that idea. Bruce rarely talked openly about his faith, but he was a deeply spiritual person. His faith was just as simple, yet just as firm and deep-rooted as all the other pillars he stood on. He simply loved God and followed the Platinum Rule of loving others like God loves us all. And loving others like God loves us requires sacrifice, it requires us all to be willing to carry our own crosses. And that’s what Bruce did with his disease. He willingly took upon the cross of pancreatic cancer so that we all could learn from him, be inspired by him, and become better people because of him. And we did. We did learn from him. We were inspired by him. We are better people because of him.
So I say Thank You, Bruce. Thank you for all you did and all you sacrificed for all of us. We are all forever in your debt. I promise that I will not allow your death to be a tragedy, I will continue to carry on your legacy by embodying the lessons you learned so young and lived so effortlessly. I will be good. I will work hard. I will help others. And I know I’m not alone. Thank you.