In Memoriam: Bruce Beerbower

Operations Administrator

The Mackinac Center is sad to announce that our beloved, longtime employee Bruce Beerbower passed away January 28, 2016 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. We send our deepest sympathies to his entire family, especially his son and our colleague, Isaiah.

One of the MCPP’s earliest employees, Bruce began his career here in November 1997. For 17 years he worked tirelessly behind the scenes in the operations department. Bruce was a quiet, humble man with a terrific sense of humor. His presence has been, and will continue to be, missed.

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The Beerbower family, the Mackinac Center and the world lost a good man yesterday as Bruce W. Beerbower "slipped the surly bonds of earth," to use a phrase echoing everywhere the day he died. I was privileged to work with Bruce for 17 of the 21 years I knew him and his family.

In a profession full of people known for saying a lot, Bruce accomplished more with fewer words than any of them. I have no doubt that far, far more will be said about him in the coming days than he ever said about himself all the days of his life.

At Mackinac, Bruce was the ultimate behind-the-scenes guy. He was happy to perform well and quietly the necessary and mundane tasks that form the foundation for excellence. His heart was huge. He and his beloved wife, Lisa, have been lifelines for the many children they have fostered and adopted, adding them to their first children Heather, Melissa, and Isaiah. Puzzle

It was somewhat difficult to draw Bruce into a conversation or humorous moment. I am proud to have achieved something rare with Bruce -- we had our own private joke. Every couple of weeks we would act on the instructions of our respective wives and conduct an exchange. Bruce would bring me a sealed box. I would bring him an envelope. We traded these, never knowing what was inside either. I'm told it has something to do with a food co-op, but in reality, Bruce and I were just "mules" ferrying packages with some measure of plausible deniability of the knowledge of their contents. I could get Bruce to smile about that. When Bruce became too ill to fulfill his mule duties, his son Isaiah took his place and now he's in on the joke, too.

I'm not glad Bruce is gone but I am glad his suffering is over and that he had faith in God. And if Providence ordained his passing, it's fitting that it happened on the anniversary date of a national disaster when President Ronald Reagan made famous the words, "slipped the surly bonds of earth" when seven astronauts died. Bruce has slipped those bonds, too, for his final home.

May God bless the Beerbower family.

Joseph Lehman

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Bruce Beerbower was a quiet, gentle man who did his work flawlessly and faithfully. He never expected any fanfare or praise but deserved it nonetheless. He was a loving father at home and as dedicated a colleague at work as anyone could ever hope for.

Lawrence W. Reed
President, Foundation for Economic Education and Former President, Mackinac Center

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I learned with sadness about the passing of my old friend and colleague, Bruce Beerbower, last night. He was a kind and gentle soul and will be missed by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him. He was then as he was until the end: humble and quiet. So quiet in fact that it is hard to come up with words to describe a man who didn’t use many.

It was difficult not to marvel at how Bruce seemed so shy about conversation — he was not chatty by nature, with one important exception. He would light up should you ask him about his kids. Bruce and his darling wife, Lisa, homeschooled their children and it showed. The intense interaction between caring, homeschooling parents and their children seemed to pay real dividends. The three oldest children, whom I’d met at Mackinac Center events, were mature and thoughtful for their age and capable of engaging in very adult conversations — even in their early teens. Bruce and Lisa were clearly doing admirable work raising these children.

One day in the Mackinac Center kitchen I just asked in passing how the kids were doing with their school work. Bruce’s facial expression changed immediately. He practically transformed in front of me. He went from talking in a whisper and not making eye contact to standing ram rod straight with his chest puffed up and shooting happy blue laser beams out of his eyes into my own. I’m not being theatrical here. You could see him swell with such pride I thought he might pound his chest with his fists and uncork a Tarzan like scream (see example, here). I was so taken and delighted with his willingness to talk to me in such depth and steely confidence that I went out of my way to occasionally ask him how his kids were doing. He never failed to react positively. His big smile would almost be involuntary. He could not help but enjoy the moments where he talked about the progress of his children.brucelisa

There was a similar experience after Bruce became sick. While exchanging emails with Lisa I learned that Bruce loves baseball and has a particular interest in the history of ancient Rome (which he taught his kids at the dinner table, by the way). While a colleague of mine and I visited Bruce we engaged him in baseball talk and he spoke to us as easily and confidently as he had when talking about his children. I regret not learning earlier of his interest in baseball and history.

Bruce Beerbower was a good man robbed of time with his beloved family here on earth. I hope and pray that his eternal and heavenly home provide him with worthy and peaceful recompense. It’s hard to imagine a kinder and gentler servant than Bruce.

Michael LaFaive
Director of Fiscal Policy

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Bruce passed away much too soon by our standards, yet his life was a life well lived. He possessed a strong faith, the love of his family and the deep admiration of his colleagues. I will always be grateful to have known Bruce. His integrity, humility and strong sense of duty served as examples for us. Lisa, thank you for sharing your frequent updates as you, Bruce and the family embraced your final months together.

Michael Reitz
Executive Vice President

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If I had to choose one word to describe Bruce it would be faithful. Bruce was faithful in all things. A humble man of God who could be counted on, without question, to do the right thing in all circumstances. During his 17-year career with the Mackinac Center he attended to many of the unsung tasks typical of all organizations. Bruce executed every responsibility with care. Whether he was opening the mail, boxing up books for shipping, updating database records, or hanging a picture, he did his job promptly and well. I had the pleasure of working with him for 11 of those 17 years. Not once did I hear him utter a complaint or speak a single, unkind word about another person. Not once.

Quiet and unobtrusive by nature, Bruce took some time getting to know. It was time well spent. He had a quick wit and a beautiful, compassionate soul. He especially loved to talk about his kids. He, with his wife, Lisa, were raising 10 children, many of them with special needs. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during these difficult days.

I will always miss Bruce’s peaceful, unfaltering presence and join my colleagues in mourning the passing of a great man.

Patricia Benner
Vice President for Operations

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Bruce was reserved to the point of shyness, but he did his work with a settled competence and goodwill that spoke in his place. My heart goes out to his family and friends. We will miss his gentle soul.

Tom Shull
Former Senior Editor

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It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of our dear friend, Bruce Beerbower, when you called me today. As you know, Bruce was a terrific friend and colleague. I still remember the day that he joined our staff at the Mackinac Center. He was so proud to join our team and always took his job very seriously. Mild-mannered – soft spoken – [never an unkind word], he was always what I would refer to as “Steady Eddy.”

Bruce was the ideal employee. Always showed up on time, dressed very neatly in his Mackinac Center uniform [that he wore proudly] and cheerfully did his job. He always seemed to have a great joy in his work, and never acted like he was doing anybody a favor by doing it. More than 20 years ago I saw an interview with the famous English movie actor, Sir Laurence Olivier. The interviewer was complimenting him on his incredible career and accomplishments. [Olivier's honors included a knighthood (1947), a life peerage (1970) and the Order of Merit (1981). For his on-screen work he received four Academy Awards, two British Academy Film Awards, five Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe Awards.] Olivier’s response to this praise struck me and stayed with me all this time. Olivier said, “Thank you for the high praise, but I am just a worker, like any other craftsman. My goal in life has always been to perform my craft at the best of my ability – to be an excellent craftsman. Not working to win honors and awards.” I was overwhelmed by the incredible humility of this great man.

I bring this up because I always saw Bruce Beerbower the same way: a great man with incredible humility, cheerfully working day in and day out to be the best craftsman he could be. I always respected and admired him and considered him my friend. He will be greatly missed.

James E. Kostrava
Former Vice President for Development

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Bruce played a crucial but largely unseen role in the Center’s important work. In this way his work mirrored him: quiet but indispensable. He will be very much missed.

Pete Leeson
Professor, George Mason University, and former colleague

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It is rare to find a friendship where you don't even have to question that they are your friend. I'm so glad I had a friend named Bruce. And I'm blessed to be able to say I worked with him for 17 years.

Before becoming co-workers at the Center, I knew Bruce through the little church where I worked as the secretary. Bruce and Lisa were solid, friendly folks. Good people through and through, and we were fast friends. I talked a lot more with Lisa, though!

So Lisa gets full credit for my employment at the Mackinac Center. She would occasionally mention if they were hiring. Eventually, I came to work at the

BRUCELEANN Center. And a couple years later, Bruce joined the staff.

Over the years, I never had to worry who would sit with me at events. Any Center event we were at or the staff picnic, or our annual Christmas party, you name it! For me, and husband David, we were always welcomed by the Beerbowers.

As people often note, Bruce was known for being so quiet. He was always polite and intelligent and just a very serene individual. He was kind and caring. He was conscientious and hard working. He was loyal and reliable and trustworthy. I suppose I could go on.

His children meant the world to him. And even though his time with the younger ones was short, we know he taught them about many things, including history and the Bible, and what it means to be of strong character. These things will continue to be a solid foundation for them in the years to come.

My heart breaks for Lisa and the children. The loss of such a good person so soon is hard to comprehend. But we know the Lord watches over them and will carry them through this grief that we all share for our dear friend, Bruce.

LeAnn Hadley
Administrative Assistant

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Bruce exemplified the most important traits in a person that I strive to achieve: A quiet, humble man who never spoke ill of others. A diligent, dependable person who would always get the job done. A loving husband and father who spread that affection widely. A committed Christian; one who you knew was a dedicated man of God whether he told you or not. Bruce had an immensely positive impact on my life and I will miss him.

Jarrett Skorup
Policy Analyst

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Bruce was a delight to work with. He carried himself with a quiet and unpretentious integrity. His life reminds me of Paul's instructions in 1 Thessalonians 4: "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." Bruce certainly won my respect with his unwavering kindness, diligence, humility, and steadfast service of others. He will be missed.

Michael Jahr
Former Director of Communications

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I worked with Bruce in different capacities for 15 of his 17 years at the Mackinac Center. Through my time with him, he was always willing to lend a hand and answer questions in his unique (and humorous) understated way. His smile, which came easily, was always a highlight of my day. I especially admired his quiet strength and devotion to his family, his faith and the Center.

I will miss you, Bruce, and am so grateful the Lord placed us in the same workplace to become friends.

Kara Malkowski
Operations Assistant

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I worked with Bruce for about 10 years and there was no doubt that we could count on him each day to work hard at whatever was asked of him. He appeared to take life as a blessing, in whatever direction it steered him. As quiet and unassuming as Bruce was, yes to the point of shyness, it only took me about two years to start eliciting smiles and laughter from him. He did not seem to mind my teasing – and those smiles were wonderful personal rewards. Bruce was truly a “good man.” And I can only believe Lisa and he passed along the exceptional qualities of hard work, humbleness, faith and caring, to all the lives they touched. A blessed passage, Bruce.

Sharon Millerwise
Administrative Assistant

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Bruce was the first face I saw as I walked through the front door for an interview with the Mackinac Center in 1998. He must have been a good-luck charm — we ended up working together for 16 years. We’d have daily interactions which involved mailing lists, database procedures, library books, or tools. I’d step in front of the door of his office and ask, “can I borrow a hammer?” He’d slowly turn to look at me, stare for a few moments — as though he was contemplating all the possible reasons why on earth Daniel might be needing a hammer — and reluctantly reach over to his desk drawer and pull out a hammer.

Bruce’s quiet connections were consistently refreshing in a noisy and busy world. With a heavy heart I bid adieu. See you on the other side.

Daniel Montgomery
Former Marketing and Design Director

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People can impact the folks around them in many ways. In the think tank world those ways are often demonstrated by those who can articulate their ideas in lectures or as a wordsmith.

And then there was our friend Bruce. It often felt like we were prying words out of his mouth. Unless the topic was his beloved children and then the words tumbled out with all the love he felt. There was never such a quiet employee ... nor one more dedicated to whatever task he was asked to perform. And we asked much of him....with never a complaint from him.

The Beerbowers contracted with us for mailing services so our friendship predates the 17 years he faithfully served the Mackinac Center. I treasure the memories of the stops at their house to deliver mailing materials ... always enjoying the tales of the garden and the music education of those children. The strength and dignity he and Lisa have shown to us all these many months has been nothing short of awe inspiring. If ever someone deserved his reward in heaven it is our friend Bruce. May he RIP and may the comfort and love of our Father in Heaven be felt by Lisa, his children, his extended family and his legion of friends and admirers.

Kendra L. Shrode
Former Assistant to the President

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I'm so sorry to hear of Bruce's passing. Everyone at Mackinac knew him to be a gentle soul who never doubted that his ultimate destination was the loving arms of his redeemer. I join all those who worked with Bruce in praying for the comfort and solace of his family.

Chris Bachelder
Former Director of Communications