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Volume 3481b
Bruce Salen (October 25, 1944 - March 5, 2011)
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Memories of Bruce from Victoria and "Huck" Huckenpohler

This eulogy for Bruce Salen by 
Victoria Huckenpohler was read at Bruce's funeral.

Hadron, safe in the shelter of the dome of OkarIt is with deep sadness, though not total surprise, that I learned of the passing of my cherished friend, Bruce. Those of us close to him had noticed, in recent years, his accelerated physical decline and psychological loneliness, and we worried that his valued independence might soon be curtailed. I honestly believe, therefore, that the sacred has looked out for him, allowing him to bypass what might have turned into melancholy years. Still, it is painful from the perspective of us, his friends, to lose so profoundly good a soul at what is by today's standards a relatively young age.

I have known Bruce for the last seven years, and in that time I was privileged to witness in him a rate of personal growth that I have seen in few others. In his early years Bruce, like many of his contemporaries, experienced a difficult growing up which caused him to turn inward. Where other adolescents in his position might have lashed out and even harmed fellow students, Bruce simply took refuge in his considerable intellect, spending hours at what became the most cherished spot in his universe: the Brooklyn Museum. He would recount how, while his classmates were playing ball and generally "hanging out," he was spending his time browsing among the Museum's artifacts or poring over its precious tomes. But though these pursuits filled his mind, they did little to nurture his bruised heart. So at a relatively advanced age he decided to tackle, head on, those developmental phases he had earlier passed over, and to reach out to the larger world. Given the way that world had often slighted him in his youth, Bruce's belated effort required a quantity of determination and courage that most observers neither suspected or appreciated. Nonetheless, he enjoyed some social successes, particularly among his science fiction collector friends in Washington, DC, whom he periodically joined at meetings and came to cherish, as they did him.

Bruce was also involved in ham radio, an activity he was especially proud of because he had shared it with his Dad, and because it brought him into contact with physically challenged athletes who transcended daunting deficits to participate in the races. "If you think you have troubles," Bruce would often e-mail his friends following such an event, "you should come down here and see what these people can do." Witnessing their unyielding determination inspired Bruce to keep on pushing himself, despite his own increasingly limited mobility brought on by diabetes.

But more important than these efforts at outreach was Bruce's genuine interest in emotional growth. He truly worked on himself. When I first met him, Bruce still harbored considerable resentment against people and against what he considered an uncaring God. He even pronounced himself an atheist, though it was clear to all but himself that he was in fact a very spiritual -- though not necessarily a conventionally religious -- person. But as time went by and we compared notes between our two traditions -- his Jewish, mine Buddhist-- he increasingly verbalized growing trust in the power and compassion of the Almighty. He even set up a small shrine table in his home, and when I would tell him about someone in my life who was a source of concern, he would promise to ritually wash, sit down in front of this table, and meditate for the individual in question. It seemed that as his trust in humanity deepened, so did his confidence in the sacred. It was gratifying, too, to note that while he remained loyal to the faith of his fathers and to such customs as keeping kosher, yet like his Mama he was objective enough, had heart enough, to respect all authentic religious traditions, taking from them those nuggets that, while useful, did not contradict the tenets of his own faith.

The serious illnesses his mother experienced in her last years, and the attendant worry, definitely played a role in Bruce's own rather rapid decline. It is one of life's ironies that after so long worrying over how he would survive Mama's passing (and by the way, he credited her with so many of his own positive qualities), he ended up hardly outliving her himself. However, the brief time that remained to him intensified the devotion he had always felt for his beloved sisters, Laurie and Liz. He used to boast that in a world where so many siblings are at odds, he and his sisters were wholly united in the decisions they took on their mother's behalf, and that afterward each of the siblings selflessly deferred to the others in the sharing of Mama's family treasures. Given the esteem in which he held his blood family, I can say that I cherish as one of my precious memories of our friendship Bruce's assertion that I was his "third sister." Dear Ones, I hope you find me worthy to be of your company, and I join you today in both celebrating and mourning the passing of a dear human being, brother, and friend.

~ Victoria

The telephone call on Sunday afternoon has left me in a bit of a state of shock, and I am only now beginning to be able to put my feelings into words.

Bruce and I first met at an Edgar Rice Burroughs convention in Tampa in 2001, though we had corresponded on several of the Burroughs listservers for several years.

We soon found that we had other common interests besides Burroughs, including hisory, especially the ancient Near East, and manifestations of the supernatural.  He visited us in Washington a number of times. to the point where he considered Washington a second home, and joined the local chapter of the Burroughs Bibliophiles and attended several meetings over the last few years.

In return, on several occasions I was his guest, the last time when I was on my way to Montreal for the 2009 World Science Convention.  Since the train to Montreal left Penn Station early in the morning, I went up the day before and spent the night in his apartment.  He took me to breakfast at one of his favorite neighborhood delis, and I told the waitress, "I'm a Confederate Catholic, and he's a Yankee Jew, but he's my little brother."  That's the way I felt about him.

I'll miss those crazy e-mails we exchanged every couple of days, which he would sign with a large variety of aliases -- Artaxerxes of Weehauken, postulant of the Lamasery of the Blue Moon; Armond of Armonk, Somnambulist to the Court of Cyrus the Mede; Ptolemy Euergetes, Lector Priest of Tur's House of Waffles, and numerous others.

But even more, I'll miss my little brother.

~ Huck

Bill and Sue-On Hillman ~ Bruce Salen ~ Huck and Victoria Huckenpohler

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