December 28, 1944 - April 21, 2023
Bruce Adams never seemed fully San Franciscanized, what with being a native of Wisconsin and a born-and-bred cynicized newspaperman and all, but he did find a very SF-style way to pass from his adopted city and this earthly realm: dropping of a heart attack on April 21 while trying to move his car on street cleaning day.
Had he known this would be his particular final forfeit, he probably would have let the car get towed, but that's not guaranteed. Of all the things Bruce Adams understood, the concept of disproportionate response was one he grasped most keenly.
Adams, 78, was a 35-year veteran of Bay Area journalism with the Contra Costa Times, Associated Press, the San Francisco Examiner and finally the San Francisco Chronicle. He reported, he edited and, in his happiest and best times, covered sports because, as he put it, "Beats a four-car pileup every time."
He could and did do whatever he was asked and excelled at it because he was born to the ink. His family owned the local weekly newspaper, the Belleville (WI) Recorder, and Bruce was part of the third generation of the line. His first job while still in elementary school was helping to fold papers, affix mailing labels and sweep up, a form of bulk editing that certainly put him good stead when confronted by some of the copy conundrums offered him in later years. Helping his father, Jack, get the paper out each week put him on the unavoidable path to too much work and not enough money but more fun than could legally be had anywhere else at the time.
After graduating from Belleville High in 1963, he spent a couple of years in college before being drafted for Vietnam. Confronted with this opportunity, he did what any sensible lad of the time would do -- he joined the Air Force instead. Better still, he was stationed in England and spent three years driving a fuel truck. Upon his discharge and return to the US, he assessed his future with precision and economy, threw his uniform in an airport garbage can and faced the newspaper game knowing what he was in for, and what the industry was in for with him.
He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and worked for the Wisconsin State Journal for a couple of years before moving to the Bay Area to further his journalism adventures, as well as find the best companion of his life, Sue Shoemaker. They met in 1974 while both were working at the Contra Costa Times and he was completing his second practice marriage. Despite the evidence of his first two trial runs, they married in 1976 and triumphantly remained so until his death.
His journalism tours included the required time as a general assignment reporter, an assistant city editor and editing the Examiner's Sunday magazine during the Warren Hinckle/Bentley the Dog era (Bruce was an acknowledged sucker for dogs and eyepatches until he switched to cats). He eventually moved over to sports, as an editor and reporter, because, like most sportswriters, he enjoyed working well past closing time and getting home at 2:30 a.m. after explaining the intricacies of Eastern Washington-Cal basketball. College sports were, in fact, his favorite thing to cover. In his spare time, he taught reporting and sportswriting at San Francisco State.
Bruce and Sue had one son, Nick, a quality fellow by any analysis who maintained pride of place at least until a mysterious orange cat/squatter named Daniel showed up in their back yard and decided to stay for the duration. That was in 2003, and Bruce was so smitten by anyone who could just turn up in a place and refuse to leave that he became a devoted feline advocate, Bentley notwithstanding.
Indeed, by the time his journalism career reached its denouement in 2009, Bruce had decided cats were an evolutionary improvement over people and became a regular volunteer at the San Francisco SPCA. He started out socializing cats so they were fit for adoption, an extraordinary achievement in itself given what it had taken for Sue to socialize him, and then moved on to matching cats with potential adopters. He had the magic touch there and became one of the SPCA'S top matchmakers, specializing in helping clients understand that they really needed two cats, not just one. A few happy clients even named their cats after Bruce, an honorific that pleased Bruce more than it ever did the cats. He also ended up teaching and mentoring new volunteers.
If he could have made more money in the cat game than journalism, he might have taken his career that way, but cat publishing was still in its infancy, so he begrudgingly worked with and for humans. In fairness, though, he rarely entertained cats the way he did his colleagues by taking his teeth out at a moment's notice, for no apparent reason.
He was quiet-smart on any number of subjects, offering wisdom only when asked, creative and witty as a writer when the moment revealed itself, and a master of snark built over years of reportorial experience and human behavior, or as often as not the lack of same. He was a grand companion in nearly any setting and a highly entertaining storyteller. He will be missed terribly by his legions of friends and his family, including generations of younger relatives who fell for his "pull my finger" joke for much longer than they should have.
There will be no service, but a celebration of life (meaning the new religious rite of drinks and stories) will be scheduled for later this year, possibly near the start of Cal's football season. Anyone in a mood to commemorate Bruce should consider a donation to the San Francisco SPCA, where the next generation of cats are waiting for a new Bruce to wrap their manipulative tails around.
Also, there is no word yet on the car, but San Francisco being what it is, it will probably be towed some time right around Christmas.
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