bruce

Former Conway Daily Sun opinion columnist Susan Bruce was found dead in her Concord apartment last Friday. She was 65. (COURTESY PHOTO)

CONCORD — Longtime former Conway Daily Sun opinion columnist Susan Bruce was remembered on Monday as a champion of the underdog with a passion for women’s rights and liberal causes.

Bruce was found dead last Friday at her Concord apartment by her friend and liberal state activist Arnie Arnesen.

According to public records, Bruce was 65.

Bruce is survived by her daughter, Jessica LaPlante, of Rangely, Maine, and a granddaughter, Lucy. Her husband, Conway historian David Emerson, died in 2009,

Former Democratic state Rep. Ed Butler (D-Hart’s Location) said Arnesen, who lived a few doors down from Bruce, went to Bruce’s apartment after Bruce did not appear at an editorial meeting Friday for the State House Watch newspaper.

Bruce had a few years ago served as producer of Arnesen’s radio program, “The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen Radio Show” on WNHN 94.7FM and then had gone on to write for the paper.

Butler said Monday that “friends had been trying to reach Susan for a few days. No one had heard from her since she had last been seen in Sandwich on Tuesday. The landlord let Arnie in and they found her. The cause of death is unknown,” said Butler Monday.

The state Medical Examiner’s office had no comment as of press time.

State Rep. Stephen Woodcock said he had heard Saturday at Rep. Doug Ley’s memorial service that Susan Bruce “passed away suddenly last week.”

A friend of hers, Nathaniel Gurien of Sandwich, wrote the Sun to say: “Susan was a dear friend ... and I’m grievously wounded having learned the news of her untimely passing.”

He continued: “Although I was only in town for a few days, last Tuesday we spent a most agreeable afternoon together sharing and looking forward to our future adventures and laughing about the past when she came to visit our new home in Sandwich. I introduced Susan to a longtime friend of mine whose company she enjoyed. We took pleasure in the beautiful blue skies, open fields and a brief but spectacular thunderstorm.

“When she got into her car to depart, I gave her a big hug and one of the last things I told her was how much I loved her.

I’m deeply grateful, however bittersweet it was to have shared that precious time and hope to have made her last day one of her best.”

The staff of State House Watch posted the following on their Facebook page Friday:

“We begin with news of a heartbreaking loss. Susan Bruce, our State House Watch researcher, writer, friend and co-conspirator, has died. We are in shock, and not prepared for a proper tribute, but we will find our words in the next few days. For now, we can say that New Hampshire has lost a gifted and spirited activist and a passionate feminist. She spoke her truth, often with a wicked sense of humor; she loved people and she had a heart for the underdog. She called out foolishness and she was a steadfast companion to many activists. She loved New Hampshire and she wanted us to be better. The loss of her mighty voice at this critical time in our politics will have to be rectified by hundreds more of us showing up — in person, in writing and on the airwaves — to protect our basic rights and resources.”

Prior to moving to Concord in 2014, Bruce had been a lightning rod for liberal causes during her years of writing columns for The Conway Daily Sun.

Liberals loved her, conservatives wailed at her colorful vitriol against those whom she felt were hurting or stomping on the rights of the poor and underrepresented. The irony of the fact that she died the week that President Biden signed into law the celebration of Juneteenth was not lost on anyone who knew her.

Butler praised Bruce as someone whose passion for justice was inspiring while also being a warm-hearted, humorous person.

“Susan was a powerful woman and an amazingly intelligent, clever and fun person,” said Butler.

“Her brand of politics was very independent. She was not a Democrat or a Republican; she didn’t brand herself with any particular political label. She will be missed.”

“She was a very complicated woman; she was feared by many and she was tough on everyone — and when you have her as your producer she could be tough on you, too,” said Arnesen.

“To tell you the truth, when I found her Friday, I was crying for her beloved granddaughter, Lucy, but I was also furious, because I was telling her what a time to leave, when we are facing all of this New Hampshire Free State movement stuff, because no one in the state knew as much about the Free State movement than Susan. They feared her. And now she’s gone.”

Arnesen said she and friends are in the process of creating a fundraiser to raise funds for Bruce’s granddaughter Lucy, who lives with her mother in Maine.

She also said she was going to create a tribute program featuring some of Bruce’s columns, read by others and interspersed with some of her favorite tunes and poetry.

Fellow Sun columnist William Marvel had this to say, upon learning of Bruce’s death: “Susan and I were friends, yes, although often at opposite extremes of the liberal half of politics. We didn’t know each other in the 1970s, but discovered later that we were both very sympathetic to the American Indian Movement; we both wrote columns in defense of Leonard Pelletier.

“We first became aware of each other in the 1990s, when we butted heads in the Sun over the degree to which the principles of due process should be sacrificed for accusations of ‘special’ crimes such as child abuse and domestic violence,” Marvel continued.

“A decade later, we were in complete agreement about the needlessness of Iraq War II and the dishonesty of the intelligence behind it.

“More recently,” Marvel said, “we were diametrically opposed in our opinions of the woke agenda, but we saw each other so seldom that it hardly ever came up.

“Whenever I found myself on the side of causes that leaned radical, we were in perfect sync; whenever I defended tradition or the Constitution over a liberal initiative, we weren’t,” Marvel said, adding, “She had a remarkable talent for choosing nicknames to ridicule those with whom she disagreed.

Current state Rep. Anita Burroughs (D-Bartlett) said she never met Bruce but was inspired by her righteousness.

“She really wrote about things that were important to people to know about in New Hampshire and she had an impact, including on me,” said Burroughs.

Democratic activist Dave Van Note of Kearsarge and Andy Davis, former director of the World Fellowship Center in Albany, shared that appreciation for Bruce.

“She was a person who was passionate about public policy, equal rights and a whole bunch of other things she fought for,” said Van Note. “With her, you had someone writing in The Conway Daily Sun that would represent a statewide and frequently nationwide perspective on issues that gave you a real perspective.”

The news of Bruce’s passing came as a shock to Davis. He said he always followed her writings, and he said he especially appreciated the the sense of humor that Bruce shared with her late husband, former Conway Public Library Henney History Room curator and Conway Historical Society director David Emerson.

“I always loved speaking with her — this might surprise some who got on the wrong end of her righteous indignation, but she exuded goodwill and I loved being in her presence,” said Davis.

Mark Guerringue, publisher/co-founder of the Sun, said the paper was seeking a liberal columnist after Alex Levin left to counterbalance its conservative columnist Tom McLaughlin.

“Susan had submitted letters to the editor at the time, and I asked her to take Alex’s place. So that’s how it started,” said Guerringue.

Bruce’s last column in the Sun ran July 18, 2019. Entitled, “Till we meet again,” she recounted how her columns for the Sun had started.

“I was given the freedom to write about anything I wanted,” wrote Bruce.

She then went on to reflect on the role of journalism, noting: “A small town paper is an increasingly rare commodity at a time when they are desperately needed. I’m going to miss being part of this one.”

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(1) comment

Grambo

What a beautifully written tribute to a remarkable, sharp, joyful and righteous soul. Great to see old friends from both The Valley and here in Concord sharing their memories. I'm so thankful for community-based journalists, including the staff of The Conway Daily Sun, who bring us the great range of perspectives, issues and civil debate among good neighbors. Jim Graham, Concord, NH

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