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In Memory of a Great Man: Bruce Joseph Kane

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This article is a little different, and very personal to me.

My wife’s father and my friend, Bruce Joseph Kane, died Thursday morning after a valiant fight against cancer. “Bruce Bear” was a loving husband and father, a teacher, a mentor and an inspiration. You should have known him.

Bruce served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War and upon returning he attended St. Cloud State University completing his Bachelors degree. He then taught special education in the Minneapolis Public School system for several years before returning to school at Peabody College for Teachers where he received his Masters in Education. His passion for education prompted him to study for his Doctorate from the University of Kansas which he completed in 1974. His teaching career included service in the Minneapolis Public Schools, Hennepin County Home School, Minneapolis Community College and finally in the Ramsey County Work House. Throughout his life he was active in the church serving twelve years as Superintendent of Trinity First Lutheran School and Sunday School. He was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather. He will be missed by all. The funeral and visitation will be held at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church at 5025 Knox Avenue South in Minneapolis on Tuesday September 8, 2009. The Funeral begins at 11:00 Am with a visitation one hour prior to the service. Interment Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis. Memorials may be directed to Mount Olivet Lutheran Church or Trinity First Lutheran School. I met him when I was 19, and he quickly became like a second father to me. He encouraged me to continue my education at a time when I was unsure of everything.

I learned the story of how he had been working as a plumber’s apprentice after returning from the Korean War, but decided to go back to school. Not only did he finish his high school diploma, but continued on to St. Cloud Teacher’s College (now St. Cloud State University). But he didn’t stop there. As he and his wife worked and raised a son and four daughters, he continued his education, securing a Master’s degree at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education, and later a Doctorate in Education at Kansas University. He became a lifelong KU supporter, and was thrilled this Fall when his granddaughter recently became a Jayhawk.

When Bruce took a turn for the worse Tuesday night, my daughters left at 10 pm on a 15-hour drive to Lawrence, KS and back to retrieve their cousin so she could say goodbye to Grandpa.

Dr. Kane, who eschewed that honorific, published several important studies on various aspects of the education of incarcerated juveniles while teaching in the Minneapolis public schools, the Hennepin County Home School, Minneapolis Community College and the Ramsey County Workhouse. There are countless students who will credit Bruce Kane with redirecting them from a wayward path.

He was an active member of the church, serving twelve years as Superintendent of Trinity First Lutheran School where he had been married. He was later active at both Mount Olive and Mount Olivet, where many of his children were married and grandchildren were baptized. Many of those grandchildren were by his bedside during his last lucid moments Wednesday night, and spoke to him of all he meant to them while holding his hand and kissing his forehead. “Don’t forget to tell people about his perfect Donald Duck impression and his beard scrugs.” He loved babies, and couldn’t resist sneaking a quick neurological assessment on each new arrival.

He was a lifelong staunch Republican and still a proud Union member. He was always gracious and patient with his left-leaning son-in-law. He taught me about education, responsibility and hard work. In many ways, he showed me how to be a man.

He also taught me how to plumb a bathroom wall, seat a toilet and sweat a pipe. He helped me frame walls, erect sheetrock, and paint whole houses, inside and out. His temporary nickname was “Sparky” as he taught me to be very, very careful while wiring into a hot electrical box, and still blowing the circuits on an entire wing of the Oak Grove Hotel. He was always willing to help everyone. There are sinks, toilets, bathtubs, tile floors and handmade mirrors all over Minnesota that stand testament to his love and care.

He was a friend and a mentor and we miss him.

The Star Tribune Obituary reports the funeral and visitation will be held at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church at 5025 Knox Avenue South in Minneapolis on Tuesday September 8, 2009. The Funeral begins at 11:00 Am with a visitation one hour prior to the service. Interment will be at Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis immediately thereafter. Memorials may be directed to Mount Olivet Lutheran Church or Trinity First Lutheran School.