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Walter G. Bruska, 93, of South Burlington, VT, passed away on November 28, 2018, leaving an enduring legacy for family and friends.
Walt was born May 31, 1925, in Herkimer, New York, to George Bruska and Julia Fistick Bruska.
He graduated Mohawk High School in 1943, having lettered in four sports: football, basketball, baseball, and track. Being a small high school, Walt also played trumpet in the marching band, necessitating his playing in his football uniform at half time in the game. His band director told him that he should give up football as it wouldn’t benefit him as much as playing trumpet, so he promptly quit the marching band! Being a member of “The Greatest Generation,” he enlisted in the Army Air Corps immediately after high school and became a navigator on the B-29’s. He was sent to Tinian Island as one of the back-up crews for the atomic bomb runs to Japan, although he was never called into that action.
During the war, he had a short leave in Phoenix, Arizona, and his fiancée, his mom, and his sister, took a train to Arizona from central New York, so he could marry his childhood sweetheart, Anne King, on April 14, 1945.
Upon an Honorable Discharge as a 1st Lieutenant in 1946, he used the GI Bill to attend Cornell University. Walt played football at Cornell for 3 years on the Championship teams and upon graduation in 1950, became an assistant football coach at Cornell for three more years. He also served as assistant to the President of Cornell, later becoming Director of Development for his alma mater. During these years in Ithaca, he and Anne raised their three children, Charlotte, Nancy, and Walter, Jr (“Biff.”) Always involved in the lives of his children, some of their most wonderful memories are when he would take them to a favorite swimming hole for a picnic supper after work, go tobogganing on a Sunday afternoon, or spend innumerable hours flooding a backyard skating rink for the neighborhood. He was an assistant football coach at Ithaca High School for nine years, coached his son’s Little League Baseball and assisted coaching Biff’s high school hockey teams.
He was a passionate man, sharing his love of hunting and fishing, not only with his grandchildren, but also with numerous friends. Walt also owned a cottage on Lake Champlain, where he created indelible memories for family and friends. He was a member of the Lake Mansfield Trout Club and enjoyed many wonderful times there too.
Walt continued his storied career as an administrator and advocate for higher education as Vice-President at Springfield College, University of Vermont, Kent State University, and Alaska Pacific University. He returned to Vermont after being at Kent State to become the Executive Director of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation. In the late 1980’s he served as Vice-President of the John E. Fetzer Institute in Michigan. When he “retired,” back to Vermont, he accepted the position of Executive Secretary of the Champlain Valley Exposition. Throughout his life, Walt volunteered for numerous organizations (see the partial biographical data:) he was active in Rotary, the College Street Congregational Church, Prevent Child Abuse, Vermont, and especially in the lives of his 6 grandchildren.
Cornell honored him over the years by inducting him into the Cornell University Athletic Hall of Fame, awarding him the Frank H.T. Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Award, the Lou Conti Lifetime Achievement Award with the Cornell Football Association, and Class of 1950 President 1975-1985.
When Walt moved to Vermont in 1967, he was the motivating force behind founding the Cornell Club of Vermont and hosted many a summer send-off for Vermonters headed to Cornell as freshman.
As Vice-President at UVM. Walt joined Athletic Director, Ed Donnelly, in establishing the UVM Athletic Hall of Fame. This honorary just had its 50th induction class. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame which has formed alliances with Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, an organization Walt was passionate about. Not one to sit still, he attended every UVM home hockey and basketball game until he became ill.
Walt’s Celebration of Life will be held this Saturday, the 15th, at 2 pm at the College Street Congregational Church 265 College Street, Burlington. A reception will follow at the UVM Alumni House, 61 Summit Street, Burlington, VT.
As a final act in the name of education, Walt requested to be donated to the Anatomical Gift Program at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.
letter to Pete Noyes
The enclosed are a helmet and jersey that were worn by Walt Bruska ’50 over the ’47, ’48,’49 football seasons.
Also, the game ball for the Cornell vs. Colgate football game in 1949. I was given the game ball because I had scored two touchdowns in that game.
During those years, it was customary for the coach to give the game ball to one of the outstanding players of the game. I also received the Cornell-Penn game ball for the 1949 game as I scored the winning touchdown but unfortunately, I used that ball to play catch with my grandsons and gave them that ball.
Some interesting highlights of that 1949 season:
We were ranked 3rd in the nation before the next to the last game. We played Dartmouth in Hanover and proceeded to lose the game. We did beat Penn on Thanksgiving Day 29-21 with about 75,000 fans in the stands and I believe ended up ranked 10th-12th at the end of the season.
Thanks for the great job you have been doing, Pete.