WILLETT, Bruce E., age 95
Died: Friday, January 8th, 2021
A celebration of Bruce's life is being planned for summer 2021
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to one of the following charities in honor of Bruce: Beaver Creek Reserve https://www.beavercreekreserve.org/, The Carter Center https://www.cartercenter.org/, or Second Harvest Food Bank https://www.secondharvestmadison.org/.
Bruce E. Willett, enthusiast of Wisconsin's northwoods, passed on Friday, January 8, 2021 at age 95.
Bruce was born in 1925 in Rice Lake, WI, the last of 6 boys. Growing up, the family's Model T transported all 6 boys plus a dog, bird and rabbits to Lake Nebagamon for summers up north. In 1956, when he married the love of his life, Phyllis, they honeymooned at Lake Nebagamon on their way to the Boundary Waters. When Bruce and Phyllis were raising their three children, Bruce found joy and peace at Wildernest, a secluded cabin with no running water or electricity. His love of Wildernest compelled him to visit as often as he could; he especially loved soaking his feet in the silky water of the lake. These experiences nurtured his passion for the natural environment. After retirement, he served on the Eau Claire County Board for 23 years where he worked tirelessly to grow the acreage of the Beaver Creek Reserve and on Eau Claire County land conservation.
Over his lifetime, Bruce had a variety of educational and job experiences reflecting his passions. These included: Cincinnati School of Music where he learned the art of piano tuning; divinity school in Dubuque where he was ordained; and UW-Madison where he achieved a Master of Social Work. After being discharged from the Army in 1945, his work life took him on many adventures: bike riding from Chippewa Falls, WI to New York where he worked at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital; doing migrant labor in California, Washington and Colorado; digging wells in Mexico with the American Friends Service Committee; leading Methodist congregations in Albany, Melrose/Cataract/Shamrock; running a greenhouse in Madison, WI; and finally finding his passion as a psychiatric social worker and director of human services. He was the director of human services for Taylor and Green counties in WI.
Bruce became an active member of the Quaker community while residing in Madison, working towards peace through counseling conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War. One of Bruce's greatest traits was his empathy for others. Over the past 80 years, Bruce typed letters to elected officials urging them to seek social justice, and he marched for various causes including civil rights, a living wage, peace, and gun control.
Bruce is survived by his beautiful wife of 65 years, Phyllis; children, Sarah (Raymond), Chris (Peg) and Rebekah (Andy); and thoughtful grandchildren, Claire, Olivia and Paul. Bruce also leaves behind many nieces and nephews and beloved friends of all ages spread throughout the world. He will be dearly missed.