Bruce Edward Follansbee born May 13th, 1931 was the only child of Howard Barney Follansbee (1902-1947) and Martha (Sweet) Follansbee (1906-1946). He comes from a long line of Follansbees beginning with our Immigration from England, circa 1640’s. Migrating across the continent where his Grandfather and Father would settle in Zillah. Edward P Follansbee (1854-1948) would become the Treasurer for the city council and Howard (son of Edward) would be a partner in the Follansbee and Co General Store.
Bruce was orphaned early in life around the age of 15 according to his parents recorded dates of his parent’s deaths in the WA state archives. He lost his mother in 1946 to a brain tumor and his father in 1948 to kidney failure; just as the Nation was recovering from the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Loss at such a young age would always color Bruce’s life.
He spent a little time with each of his Grandmothers, Lena Sweet and Edna Follansbee before he started working at the Yakima Ice Rink, where he met his soon to be Wife, Joan Nelson (1931-2008). Joan and her sister Jean performed in a group at that ice rink and were known to be pretty good skaters. From this chance meeting on the cold ice, Bruce and Joan would start a family at the ages of 17 years old. A year later his first child, a daughter was born. It was a rough start, when Bruce’ first son was born Bruce had to give up his motorcycle as three could fit and not four!! Bruce had a bike accident in the Zillah orchard and took care of baby Sharon while he was in a body cast. She would be followed by two brothers. Having three children to support, Bruce would work various jobs, mostly as a driver. For Safeway he drove a truck to transport lettuce and he worked for Belkin Moving Company. Eventually he would work and rise in the ranks for Prudential Insurance.
As his grandson, who lost him at a young age, Bruce seemed to me to be both at once a hard, tough man who was loved and greatly respected by his family and the Yakima Community. Perhaps over the years his toughness softened, or perhaps he only had a hard shell and a heart of gold. He loved a good joke and had a fabulous sense of humor. Bruce was never one to rest on his laurels and let life move on without him. He took up running in his 40’s where he would run in the cold, in the heat, and kept pressing no matter how many blisters his blisters got. My father tells me he liked to run the roads between the old Yakima Mall and the YMCA on Yakima Ave.
Grandpa was not without his antics as our family stories prove. From his daughter, we are reminded of her early memories. “I remember being woken in the night a few times to go camping. Bruce and friends decided after a few beers that the families should jump in the cars and head to Rimrock Lake.” My father tells stories of a tough upbringing and a strict father, but he clarifies these as due to his stubbornness (The Famous Follansbee Stubbornness) and it was during the 50’s and 60’s a tough crossroad en a generation that remembered the Depression and were toughened up by WWII and the generation of Car Hops, a Musical Revolution, and an Age that benefited from the sacrifices of previous few generations. Bruce was fiercely loyal to his family and friends. He loved his boat “Joan Louise” and had to sell it when he got esophageal cancer age 49. He died age 50 after a very difficult year. Mt St Helens blew when he had the first surgery and a year later he was gone. But he is never forgotten. In memory of Bruce, feel free to share any stories you would like to add here to this mini biography.