ATHENS — Dr. Bruce Ergood, 88, of Athens, died in Rochester, New York while returning from Silver Bay, a YMCA Conference Center in the Adirondacks and his summer home.
Bruce was the son of Clifford (YCMA director) and Eleanor Ergood, and brother of Ruth Ergood-Waller.
Bruce was a Colgate (1952) and Yale Divinity School graduate (1858) and had been both a YMCA Boy’s Work and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Midwest College Director prior to his teaching career of over 30 years at Wittenberg College and then Ohio University.
His Ph.D. was from the University of Florida in Latin American Studies. He co-authored “Appalachia: Social Context” with Bruce Kuhre, and wrote “In Our Own Words-100 Year Anniversary of Silver Bay YMCA,” as well as cataloguing 50 years of AFSC work in Mexico.
Bruce was a conscientious objector during the Korean War; he performed two years of alternate service with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Mexico, which began his lifelong interest in Latin America as well as his many friendships there. He spoke “rural Spanish” well, which helped in daily life and his graduate program. He received two Fulbright scholarships to Argentina, as well as one from Rotary International, teaching at the U. of Tucuman. He was loved by his colleagues and students.
Social Action, including the Civil Rights struggle, was a lifelong focus of Bruce’s beliefs. His best friend and Best Man was his black Colgate roommate, “the Bowse,” who set him straight early on many realities of black life.
Bruce was married in 1956 (while a student) at the Divinity School chapel to the former Jane Sanborn, a Mount Holyoke College graduate who had also worked in Mexico with the Friends, and a Yale School of Nursing student. They lived without an income, and a summer construction accident, in 1957, cost him his right leg. They worked together for their mutual goals, as they did everything to survive, and go on for what Bruce said “was the work God intended me to do.”
Bruce, a Rotary member, and his wife, had two children, Chris (of Sanford, North Carolina) and Joel (of Walnut Creek, California), both graduates of Athens High School and Ohio University); and five grandchildren (Brandon, Grant, Claire, James and Andrew), all of whom he loved.
Besides his teaching, Bruce directed several camps, including a canoeing camp for the YMCA and a Quaker inspired one in Vermont — the Farm and Wilderness Camps — at the Farm (1958), the Boy’s Camp, and Saltash Mountain Camp (1970s and 1980s). With both groups, he was able to combine his love of the outdoors, young people and God.
Music was his second love: he began playing in community bands in his early teens during the second World War, while most adults were in the service, continued in Argentina and Mexico, and in Athens, co-founded the Athens Dixieland Band with Pat Light, and had an Ohio Arts Council performance grant with Norm Cohn.
He played at the Blessed Sacrament Church (near Silver Bay, New York) and Epiphany (Nelsonville), where his clarinet was greatly appreciated in concert with the organ — especially on the Allelulias. His heart was with the Society of Friends and he believed we were all equal in God’s eyes. (A guitar was better for groups at camp.)
For the last several years, he had been singing with the E.M. Davis chorus of Jackson, which he enjoyed as he did the Colgate (1952) and Yale (1958) choruses previously. He had difficulty keeping track of all his interests and schedules and appreciated the help of his wife, Jane, particularly as his cognitive ability faded.
He “made light” of his visual and mobility problems, and “Dad, dad, dad — Hop, op, hop,” was a longstanding family joke — until he could no longer hop. He loved every minute of their activities (we had our grandchildren first) and will be greatly missed. Plans for a Celebration of Life are not final.
His last work in LA (on his “bucket list,” as they say) was for 2-4 months yearly for 20 years with his wife Jane in Honduras. They worked with the Episcopal diocese in a western mountainous area teaching local residents about health issues, from cleft palate to domestic violence. He had also worked in Belize with the Benedictines. In Athens, he had been instrumental in starting CARAC, the Central America Coordinating Committee, which was interdenominational, during the Central American Wars. Their combined skills of language and health proved very helpful.
“He made the sun come up,” as his wife often told him.