Community leader leaves legacy of service
Bruce Sutherland was a treasure and a friend and a pillar of the Lewiston community.
Shortly after learning of his unexpected passing on Monday, friends were quick to comment on social media. Some of the many statements included:
“My heart is heavy. Godspeed, Bruce.”
“It’s hard to imagine this community without him.”
“He was such a wonderful person.”
“Such a huge loss to the community.”
“He was a treasure. So very sad thinking of life without him.”
“A great man and friend.”
“He was loved by everyone who knew him.”
“Amazing human. … If we could all be a little more like Bruce.”
“Lewiston lost a great man and a very kind person.”
“Like the whole community I am shocked and saddened by the passing of my friend. He always brought a huge smile to my face whenever we saw each other.”
“He was one of a kind, had great stories, and always had the best interests of Lewiston in his heart no matter what. Very sad.”
“A wonderful person.”
“Nobody I know went about their life, personal, political – no doubt in military and airline – with more grace, humility, and good-will than you. Right now, Lewiston has a hole in its heart.”
“What a champion for Lewiston. And a warm, contemplative man.”
“Orange Cat will never be the same.”
“He will be missed.”
Clearly, we are all better off for having known Bruce.
Sutherland, one of Lewiston's most esteemed and respected leaders, passed away unexpectedly of complications from a recent surgery. He was 75.
A Lewiston native, Sutherland was born on Nov. 8, 1946, the son of Ronald R. Sutherland and Alice Coulter Sutherland. He attended Lewiston-Porter schools, excelled at sports, and enjoyed playing wide receiver for the football team and pitching for the baseball team. He also lettered in basketball.
Sutherland married his high school sweetheart, Jacqueline (Jackie) Foss, on Aug. 24, 1968, at Messiah Lutheran Church in Lewiston.
He attended and graduated from both Niagara County Community College and SUNY Geneseo. Sutherland earned a degree in biology and also obtained a master’s degree in management from the University of Southern California. After college, he joined the Air Force and enrolled in officer training school, ultimately becoming a pilot.
During his 26-year Air Force career, Sutherland and his family were assigned to far-flung locations across the U.S. and the world, including the Philippines and Panama. He flew aircraft including the T-37, C-130, the B-1 bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress. His military service culminated in his promotion to colonel and his appointment as wing commander at Dyess, a major Air Force base in Abilene, Texas, which is part of the Global Strike Command.
After retiring from the Air Force, Sutherland became a captain for a major airline.
Bruce Sutherland at work on the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce office porch.
He and Jackie returned to Lewiston in 2002. Sutherland became active with several civic organizations, including the Lewiston Veterans of Foreign Wars Downriver Post 7487. He was the highest-ranking veteran in Lewiston history, and a member of the committee that constructed the new “Circle of Honor” veterans memorial at Academy Park.
Sutherland was currently serving as president of the Lewiston Public Library board of trustees. He was a former president of the Historical Association of Lewiston and served on the Fort Niagara board of directors. He was first appointed and, in 2011, elected as a Village of Lewiston trustee, where he served for several years. Sutherland also was appointed deputy mayor.
The news of his passing hit the community hard.
Lee Simonson, one of his volunteer colleagues and good friend throughout the years, said, "One of Lewiston’s pillars just collapsed and will never be replaced. Not only was this a shock to his family and community, but the impact of losing Bruce will be felt for years to come. His volunteerism and contributions to Lewiston were legendary. His devotion to his career in protecting our freedoms and way of life were praised and commended by our nation. But beyond that, and on a more personal level, his legions of friends will miss his humor, optimism, inspiration and the fascinating conversations about his wide-ranging adventures and experiences. He touched our lives and made us all better. And for that, our appreciation and gratitude for having Bruce in our lives will be forever remembered.”
Bruce Sutherland with Mayor Anne Welch.
Longtime friend Ken Slaugenhoupt volunteered with Sutherland on Historical Association of Lewiston initiatives. He said, “I have known Bruce since high school. After his Air Force career, he and Jackie moved home and since then we have grown close. At least twice a week we would get together, often more. He was deeply invested in living life fully. He loved being on his front porch greeting everyone who passed by. There is a small cadre of Lancers from 1964 who keep in close touch and they are deeply touched at his passing. Life in Lewiston will never quite be the same.”
Vince Canosa, who served alongside Sutherland in VFW Downriver Post 7487, said, “Bruce, as many know, was an officer in the USAF. He was also an active member of VFW Downriver Post 7487. Bruce was one of the individuals responsible for the establishment of VFW Post 7487 scholarship fund. He had chaired the committee for the past three years and was responsible along with committee members for selecting the winner. Bruce, along with Bill Justyk, was responsible for raising the scholarship amount and seeking to include Niagara Wheatfield in the scholarship program.”
Bruce Sutherland with Leandra Collesano, above, and Sandy Blackwell Yates.
Sandy Blackwell Yates partnered with Sutherland to win the recent HAL fundraiser “Lewiston Jeopardy!” At a party earlier this month – which he attended – she said, “Bruce always puts a smile on my face when I see him! Mostly that is because he always has this incredible smile on his face. I was lucky enough to have him on my ‘Jeopardy!’ team this year with his long, golden, flaxen locks, and his incredible brain power. He helped us to our victory! Once I told Bruce … that Bruce Sutherland is just the most pleasant man. I really don’t know how you do it. You truly make people want to say ‘Hello’ to you and chat with you. You have this incredible way about you and I hope you realize this!”
Sutherland was a supporter of Wounded Warriors and the Lewiston No. 1 Fire Co., and was active at the Messiah Lutheran Church in Lewiston.
He was a passionate golfer and participated in many tournaments. Sutherland achieved the rare distinction of shooting his age, along with completing several holes-in-one. He played at the Niagara Frontier Golf Club regularly and had served on its board of directors.
Bruce is survived by his wife, Jackie, and three children: Morgan (Noah Brown) of Hampton Bays, Long Island; Ty (Mariah) of Placitas, New Mexico; and Blake from Amarillo, Texas. Additional survivors include four grandchildren: Isaac, Lucas and Eden Brown, and Ione Sutherland. He is also survived by his brother, Dennis (Sharon) Sutherland, of Lewiston; his sister, Wendy Treharne, of Niagara Falls; his brother-in-law, Chuck R. Foss; his aunt, Mildred Coulter; along with several nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by his parents and a brother-in-law, Jeffrey Foss.
There is no prior visitation. At Bruce’s request, his remains were cremated. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be directed toward any of the organizations he volunteered for or supported.
The public is invited to attend a memorial service at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, at Messiah Lutheran Church, 915 Oneida St., Lewiston. The Rev. Thomas Mason will officiate.
View the service live here: https://celebratebruce.org/.