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Eastern Regional High School teacher writes tribute for school’s late ‘super fan,’ Bruce Jackson

This tribute was submitted by English teacher, Susan Pomerantz.

This tribute was submitted by English teacher, Susan Pomerantz.

For Bruce William Jackson (1964–2016)

Soon after the dismissal bell would stop echoing, the sound of Bruce’s speeding wheelchair would precede him into (room) 412. Usually, my mouth and my heart would say, “Hey, Bruce!” He is such a part of my day, and sometimes, I would groan inwardly because I ALWAYS have so much to do! He would park near my front table, waiting while I talked to after school students. If the line were long, he would look at me with the “I’ll be back” look. Sometimes, he might be impatient if we couldn’t talk right away. I could tell by the way he would rearrange my furniture with his wheelchair, that devilish grin on his face.

One time, I joked, “Don’t go away mad, Bruce. Just go away!” and he surprised me so much with his spontaneous, hilarious reply. On his way out the door, he reached up and switched my lights off. I could hear him laughing all the way down the hall, and I am chuckling right now, and crying a little bit, too, at the memory of such moments.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving break, Bruce was at my door just after the dismissal bell. We’d arranged that time to meet because there’d be plenty of time to plan his talk — it was an early dismissal day! Bruce was going to give a talk to the Key Club, and we were going to develop a list of topics that Bruce wanted to talk about. We were going to prepare the answers to a whole bunch of questions that we guessed, together, that students would want to ask. He was really good with that spelling-board, and I had become facile interpreting it, too. Mostly, I could guess his next word after two or three letters. (We were going to write his memoirs this year.)

But as fate would have it, I was so sick that day that I could barely talk. I still see the image of his face — his disappointment when I told him I was going home and that we would have to reschedule our planning session for the Monday after break.

“I’m so sorry, Bruce, but Happy Thanksgiving,” I croaked.

“Aw, man!” he groused. “Alright,” he said, finally. “You.” (I think he meant, “You, too.”)

Bruce had an undying, relentless, and incomprehensible passion for life. Over the past year alone, we made marketing material for his Avon business, applied to college (he ended up going to a weekly community lecture series about baseball), and polished his resume so he could continue to advocate for himself and try to find a job. He enjoyed so much: his long list of friends (it could take an hour to go through his email!), ice cream sundaes at that frozen yogurt place that used to be in the Eagle (plaza), wheelchair dancing (he was going to perform for the Key Club), movies and Coffee Works. He loved so much: his family, his dearly departed wife, and, especially his Eastern family.

Students, coaches, colleagues, all of us. This school, from top to bottom, has given so richly to Bruce, and he to us. We all have Bruce stories.

On one of my visits to the ICU, his mother and sister were there. They are speechlessly grateful for the connections Bruce had with the school. With us. I’d wanted to talk to Bruce for a while, remember back over some of the times we’ve had. I did tell him that I miss the hum of his wheelchair — that I miss him. I fully intended to say that I love him, but I felt intimidated, so I gave him a kiss on the forehead, and turned to go. His sister, Reverend Jackson, said, softly and pensively, “You know, we all have two families: the families we are born into, and the families we make for ourselves.”

We miss you, brother Bruce.

— Susan Pomerantz, Dec. 11, 2016

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