Friends rally to pay for classmate's funeral

Cathy Conley

“I will listen to the roar of thunder coming down from the clouds and say, ‘There goes God laughing at another Laurie B joke.’”

Over and over again in the memorial guest book, classmates and friends remembered the laughter, quick wit, and zest for life that Laurie Bruce had.

How could this joyful young woman take her own life?

How could this brilliant, goal-oriented, caring person end up so destitute that there was no money for her funeral and her classmates raised funds to bury her?

How now can the friends who were so close to her at Braintree High School deal with the loss of her gift of laughter?

Laurie was born and educated in Braintree. She skipped through Lincoln Elementary, South Junior, and Braintree High with a sunshine smile, droll humor, and a joke for every classmate although “she was never mean. She never offended anyone,” her classmate Susan Daley said.

Time passed, and each passing year robbed her of what she treasured in life.

Her mother Norma died in 1984 of breast cancer and “Laurie missed her terribly,” Susan said.

Her father Smokey remarried, but died a few years after Norma.

Laurie stayed in touch with his wife, but she died shortly after Smokey.

Laurie was left without a family.

She worked locally at the Bank of Boston for a while, then transferred to Missouri eight years ago.

A member of the close-knit BHS Class of 1973, Laurie stayed in touch with her classmates and even went to the 10th reunion, but then dropped out of sight after moving to Missouri.

In recent years, Laurie suffered terribly with a bad back. She was always in pain. Her condition was degenerative.

She saw a specialist who brought her a great deal of relief, but because of her illness, she was not working and had no health insurance. She was unable to continue treatment.

She dealt with it on her own, falling deep into depression.

She lived with her 22 cats. They were her life.

On the night of Feb. 13, Laurie put her cats in another room so as not to disturb them.

Then she ended her excruciating pain forever.

Laurie had good friends in Missouri. One was a family who lived across the street: Tedy and Janet Stegman and their daughter Beverly.

On Feb. 14, they noticed that Laurie had not put out her cats. They entered her house and found their beloved neighbor.

She left a two-page note with her final wishes.

In it, she asked Beverly to find a good home for her cats.

Beverly found homes for all but four of them.

Laurie wanted to be cremated and buried next to her mother in Braintree.

There were logistics involved in this request.

Laurie’s remains were in Missouri. There was no money for a flight or a funeral.

Miles away

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Susan Daley was making plans by email with six close friends from Braintree High to go out for dinner.

Suddenly a stunning email appeared on her screen.

“Laurie Bruce has taken her own life.”

The friends were horrified.

A strange network developed immediately on the Internet.

A friend from Florida knew a co-worker of Laurie’s from South Carolina. The co-worker from South Carolina got in touch with Laurie’s neighbor.

They learned the details of their classmate’s tragic end.

Neighbors held a service for Laurie in Missouri. Her body was cremated.

Susan sent an email to the Class of 1973, explaining the circumstances of Laurie’s death and her desire to be buried next to her mother in Braintree.

“The Class of 1973 is a very caring class,” Susan said. “Whenever something happens, we all come back together again.”

Laurie’s death was no exception.

Classmates rallied together and raised enough money to bring Laurie home and hold a service for her.

There was money left over which the class donated to the teen center.

On March 15, 70 to 80 friends and classmates attended a moving service for Laurie at Holbrook United Methodist Church, followed by burial at Braintree Cemetery.

Laurie was laid to rest beside her mother.

“‘The cem,’ the very cemetery where we hung out drinking Boone’s Farm apple wine with Laurie, was her final resting place,” Susan said.

“In her note, she said not to feel sad, as she wasn’t in pain any longer,” Susan said.

Legacy of laughter

Classmates shared memories of their friend at the service and in a memorial site online.

“I loved Laurie Bruce. She was different and unique and always made everyone laugh.I will miss your zest for life and what you gave to everyone else. Just happiness. Just smiles. Just laughs.”

“Laurie loved sports, the country, and her cats.”

“She was witty and fun and would make you smile.”

“You were one of a kind and I’m honored to have known you. I hope you’re at peace.”

“You are such a strong and wonderful memory of my childhood. I can still see you eating your bad paperson the way home from school so your parents wouldn’t see them.”

“You made all of us laugh so much as we grew up in the Highlands, and I will never forget all the fun we had.”

“No time was my life better than South Junior High School. You made me the brunt of your first junior high joke and by doing so gave me instant celebrity status. You accepted me and then so did the best people of my life.”

“Will never forget you, Laurie, and all the fun and trouble we got into. I learned so much from you about life.”

“Laurie was an absolutely beautiful person.”

“I have many fun memories of Laurie. She was great at bringing laughter to others.”

“It seems like just yesterday we were young and hanging out with not a care in the world. Your sense of humor was like none other.”

“I still see your smiling face.”

“Laurie is frozen in time as the funny, fun loving girl in high school.”

“Laurie, you were always a ray of sunshine. I will always be grateful for the laughs.”

“She was very quick with her wit and will always be remembered.”

“Will always cherish our childhood days and all the fun and trouble we got into. You are now at peace with your mom.”

“Laurie and I were good friends in high school. She was very quick-witted and greatly enjoyed adolescent hi-jinks.”

“Lauren was a ray of sunshine every time I saw her. We had a lot of fun giving each other a hard time.”

“If only she knew how many cared.”