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Obituary Detail

January 05, 1939 April 15, 2023
January 05, 1939 -- April 15, 2023

William Bruce, Age:84

William (Bill) Thomas Bruce, Jr., of Dallas, Texas, passed away peacefully of natural causes on April 15, 2023, surrounded by three generations of his family.  He was born on January 5, 1939, in the family home on Dallas Street in Port Neches, Texas, to William Thomas Bruce, Sr., and Frances Willard Ritchie.  Bill spent his formative years in Port Neches where he enjoyed playing baseball and building things with his brother and cousins, who seemed to live on every nearby street!  He also ran track for Port Neches-Groves Junior High and High School and reportedly still holds a PNG pole-vaulting record.  Bill graduated 3rd in his class as High Boy in 1957 from the first combined PNG Class.   

Bill attended The University of Texas at Austin, graduating in January 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME).  While at UT, Bill worked as head waiter at Helen M. Kirby Hall dormitory, where he met Dorothy Jean Odom, a resident there; they married in July 1960.  He and Dorothy began married life in Austin, before moving to Dallas, then to California, and eventually returning to Texas, making Dallas their lifelong home.  They also enjoyed their lake house in Palestine, Texas, with family and friends. 

After a brief stint at Proctor and Gamble managing production of Ivory soap, he joined Rocketdyne as a propulsion test engineer for the F-1 engines used on the Saturn V rocket as part of NASA’s Apollo program.  Bill was the lead engineer on one of the F-1 engine test stands located on the side of a mountain at Edwards Air Force Base in California; noteworthy is that he conducted more than 100 F-1 engine test firings without a failure.  There he also began his parental volunteer duties, such as building and spray painting glow-in-the-dark decorations in his garage for his daughter’s first ice-skating recital.  Returning to Texas, Bill worked as a systems engineer with Collins Radio Company on airborne navigation and communication systems for the U.S. Navy’s TACAMO and the U.S. Air Force’s Nightwatch aircraft.  While at Collins, Bill was the program manager on the 4th-generation airborne trailing wire antenna system; this system is still operational today and enables vital communications with the U.S. nuclear submarine fleet.  He spent his later years at Rockwell International and E-Systems as a project engineer and manager working on low-observable (stealth) technologies such as those used on the F-117 fighter jet.  Bill’s work spanned both commercial and military aviation, ranging from small planes and helicopters to Air Force One and Strategic Air Command aircraft. 

Bill was passionate about his family, coaching and refereeing soccer, and all things related to Texas Longhorn football and the Longhorn Band.  He held Longhorn football season tickets and enjoyed them even more while watching both his children and grandchildren march in the Longhorn Band and Alumni Band.  

Bill and Dorothy enjoyed Square Dancing as well as meeting up with all sorts of family all over the U.S. for genealogy and fellowship during their more than 30 years of membership in the National Odom Assembly. 

One of his favorite things was being surrounded by his family.  Dorothy, Cathy, Tom, Bob, Sara Beth, and John truly appreciate the love and care shown to Bill during his final week as Max, Judie, Karen, David, Linda, and Andy helped us see to his every need and made him laugh and smile with stories and tales of our lives together.  So many other family and friends were there in spirit or by phone call including Bill and Sue Hines, his favorite Australian Royal Flying doctors.  We are grateful for visitors from his Sunday School class and for friends who brought us meals.  We deeply appreciate his caregivers at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Plano who provided us what we needed.  They also let all of us be with Bill around the clock while we said goodbye. 

In lieu of flowers, anyone who would like to honor Bill’s memory and wishes to make a donation should consider The Alzheimer’s Foundation, The Alzheimer’s Association, the University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering, or the Longhorn Alumni Band Scholarship Fund.  

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, and his sister, Frances Willard Buffer (Jim) of Sacramento.  Bill is survived by his wife of 62 years Dorothy Odom Bruce, brother Maxallen Lee Bruce (Judie) of Houston, daughter Catherine Bruce Purdy (Bob) of Austin, son Thomas Howard Bruce of Plano, grandchildren Sara Beth Purdy and John Thomas Purdy of Austin, and his many beloved cousins, nieces, and nephews stretching from Texas to California.    

Family and friends held a Celebration of Bill’s (and his wife Dorothy) meeting and early married life in Austin, Texas starting at Kirby Hall followed by a tour of all their favorite UT spots and first homes on June 10.

A Graveside Service will be held at 11 am on July 15th, in his hometown of Port Neches, Texas, at Port Neches Oak Bluff Memorial Park Cemetery with an additional Family Memorial Celebration in Rusk, Texas at 11 am on Dec 9 at Cedar Hill Cemetery.