Bruce, Thomas Carlin (Tom) His heart beat its last the morning of January 15, 2021 in the garden he created, worked in and loved. Born in Canon City, Colorado on June 10, 1936, the only child of Frank William and Anna Elizabeth Carlin Bruce. Tom grew up in a multiethnic small town, attended St. Michaels’s Parish school and high school at Holy Cross Abbey. His moral and ethical underpinnings developed during those school years. Tom was an average student except in three areas. A member of the Abby choir, Tom was told by Father Bede to ‘mouth the words’ of the song. He played the position of end of the Abby Bruin football team-starred as a pass receiver and spoiler of defensive plays and won a berth on the All League team his Junior and Senior years. Tom loved football but hated exercise! He also had an exceptional ability to solve problems in Geometry class.
Perhaps the most fundamental element of Tom’s being was his response to the high school counselor who asked him what he wanted to do with his life. “I want to learn everything I can”.
Winning football scholarships to Colorado State and University of Colorado, Tom, instead, chose New Mexico State University where they had a Coop program in science. As part of that program, he worked at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, Flagstaff Arizona and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, developing skills as a telescope operator, film reader, night observer, and data analyst. Reluctantly, Tom graduated in 1963 with 213 semester hours, a B. S. degree in Secondary Education specializing in mathematics and physics and 18 hours of Graduate courses in Computer Science.
Following the admonition of President John F. Kennedy to “…ask what you can do for your country,” Tom signed up for the Peace Corps. From 1963 to 1965, he taught mathematics and physics in a Municipal Secondary School in Srikakulum, Andhra Pradesh, India. He developed the school’s first science laboratory class with students using homemade lab equipment and doing “hands on” experiments. He mentored students as they created the first school newspaper written in English and Telegu. Tom’s India teaching experiences were made into a Peace Corps recruiting movie.
Tom proposed to his college sweetheart, Adelaide, by letter from India. They married in Baltimore in 1966, just as Adelaide was finishing her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. Returning to Las Cruces, Tom was hired as a staff member in the Research Center Planetary Office at New Mexico State University doing data analysis, programming and leading the Jupiter Project under the supervision of Dr. Brad Smith and Dr. Reta Beebe. In 1975, Tom took a position with the U.S. Forest Service, Umatilla National Forest, in Pendleton, Oregon. Working with Dr. Bruce Marcot, Tom developed a wildlife information retrieval system “WHIMP,” which was used by biologists to predict the effects of habitat modification on plant and animal communities in the forest. On the Carson National Forest, Tom developed an integrated resource database and mapping system. It became the first Geographic Information System i.e. “GIS” to be designed in the Forest Service for use at the Forest level. In addition to planning, budgeting and installing 38 minicomputers to facilitate data, voice and radio transmission between districts and Headquarters in Taos, Tom and his assistant taught Forest Service staff how to use the computers.
A close college friend and art major, Barbara Smith, came to Taos in the early 80’s to take watercolor classes at the Sagebrush Inn. She persuaded Tom to take classes with her. Eventually, he became competent using oils, acrylics, and watercolors. That experience developed into a lifelong fascination with art and the Taos art scene.
Influenced by stories of the families and history of northern New Mexico related to him by his assistant, Larry Mondragon, Tom devoured books and articles on those subjects. He became an active member of the Taos County Historical Society and served as President in 1990-91. During his tenure, Tom initiated recurring monthly field trips in the summer and a monthly lecture series during winter months. He was one of the founders of the first internet group in Taos, La Plaza.
In retirement, Tom taught astronomy and computer programming at UNM-Taos, founded a discussion group in Science and Humanities “The Cave”, and for nearly 30 years was the provider and administrator of two internet groups – The Elderly, “Elders,” and returned Peace Corps volunteers of the India IV group. Tom studied quantum mechanics for five years until he finally said, “I think I get the gist of it.” He turned his energy to designing ever-expanding areas of the garden where, in the last years of his life, he was ably assisted in the physical work by his good friend, Rick Wilkinson.
Comfortable in his own skin, and consumed by his interest in physics, mathematics and technology, Tom nevertheless had a wonderful sense of humor. His goddaughter said he was a “kid’s grownup,” because he still had the kid inside him and could see the souls in small children. And that was true. Whenever the children in his wife’s playgroup would see Tom, a large 6’3” person, they would immediately shout, “There’s Tommy Bruce,” and run to him.
Tom’s career choices were always dictated by the needs of his family. He came to Taos in 1980, not only to bring Computer Science to the Carson National Forest, but to raise his son, Michael, in a small, diverse community, where a Catholic education was possible and Grandma (Adelaide’s mother) could visit from her home in southern New Mexico. To the end, Tom lovingly supported his wife and son.
Tom is survived by his wife, Adelaide Majorie Powey Bruce, their only child, Michael Canon Bruce, daughter-in-law Misty, step-grandson Callan Torres, sister-in-law Majie Powey and numerous nieces and nephews. He will be especially missed by his dearest lifelong friend, Barbara Smith, and goddaughter, Hillary Smith Crowley.
A Celebration of Tom’s Life with family and friends is planned for late summer.
With profound gratitude, Adelaide and Michael wish to thank Joaquin Gonzales and Denise Ortega of DeVargas Funeral Home for their kindness and respectful care of Tom’s remains.
The family of Thomas Bruce has entrusted the care of their loved one to DeVargas Funeral Home of Taos.