Bruce Atwater, 98, of Bemidji, MN, died Friday, January 10, 2020 at the Minnesota Masonic Home in Bloomington, MN.
Memorial services will be 2:00 p.m., Friday, January 24, 2020 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Bemidji with Pastor Mark Kindem officiating. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service at church. Inurnment will be in Pine Hill Cemetery in the spring.
Bruce Mason Atwater was born in Williams, MN on August 30, 1921 to Aubrey & Esther Atwater. The family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1923. Bruce received his education there taking one year of normal school before returning to Minnesota in 1940. He worked in Cass Lake until his enlistment in the United States Coast Guard on October 21, 1941. After only four weeks of boot camp, he was shipped out on the U.S.S. Castor to the Honolulu Coast Guard Station. He arrived in Pearl Harbor on December 4, 1941 just in time for the Japanese sneak attack. Returning to the mainland after serving in Maui, Honolulu, Hilo and on sea duty on the USCGC Reliance, he served at Ilwaco Coast Guard Station. Grays Harbor LB Station in Westport, Washington and the CC district office in Seattle. In May of 1946 he was transferred to Miami, Florida to the District Office and then Coral Gables Air Station before opting for discharge. He was discharged on December 10, 1946 in St. Louis, Missouri and returned to Minnesota. Bruce is a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivor Association. He enrolled at Bemidji State Teacher’s College in March of 1947 and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1950, his Bachelor of Arts in 1952 and his Master of Science in 1962. He married Ellen Premo on October 9, 1948. Bruce taught high school English, speech and journalism for 30 years in International Falls, Williams, Esko and Warroad. The latter for 22 years where the children went to school and grew up. After retirement in 1980, he and Ellen returned to Bemidji. He worked for H & R Block, Miller, McDonald and the Office of Personnel Management giving the ASVABS and civil service tests. He was selected to fill a vacancy on the Bemidji City Council on March 5, 1985 and was re-elected three times before retiring in December 2000. He was active in public affairs in other towns, too. He was city clerk in Williams, MN in 1955-56, elected to the Warroad, MN city council from 1965-78, and chaired the Warroad Hospital board 1978-80. He was also an active life member of the MEA and the NEA. He served as state chairman of the Professional Rights and Responsibilities Committees of the MEA form 1967-70 and was president of the local MEA affiliates at each in which he taught. Bruce was also active in church affairs serving on the church councils of the Congregational churches in Williams and Warroad and of Bethel Lutheran here in Bemidji. He was also active in Lodges serving as Noble Grand of the Clover Lodge #267 IOOF in Williams in 1963, as Worshipful Master of Warroad Masonic Lodge #267 in 1967-68 and was a past member of the Shriners Kem Temple in Grand Forks, ND. He was also Worthy Patron for the Warroad Eastern Star #194, Warroad, MN from 1966-1979. He was a member of the American Legion in Warroad and Bemidji and Bemidji Lodge #283 AF & AM and Chapter 171 Order of the Eastern Star in Bemidji. He was Past Associate Guardian for Jobs Daughters Bethel #5 of Bemidji. He also was a member of the Lions Club of Bemidji since 1980 as well as the local Elks Club, Eagles Aerie and Community Guard 2002-2010.
Bruce is survived by his children, Steve (Vicki) Atwater, Suzan Kaufmann, Jonel (Rodney) Axtell, Sarah (Bob) O’Dier and Bill (Krysti) Atwater; 14 grandchildren and 33 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ellen; parents; sisters, Alberta & Ella; two infant grandchildren and son-in-law, Randy Kaufmann.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Salvation Army.