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Sundlun eulogized: “We loved him because he was bold and brave”

July 24, 2011

Bruce Sundlun’s life of accomplishment was a common theme during his funeral this morning at Temple Beth-El on Providence’s East Side: how he was a star athlete, war hero, lawyer, and business leader even before taking the reins of state government on the day when the state banking crisis exploded in January 1991.

A few highlights:

Rabbi Leslie Gutterman used the words of author Tom Wolfe to call Sundlun “a man in full”:

Bruce Sundlun was only a man, but what a man – determined, driven, courageous, charming, combative, selfish, assured, irrepressible and uncompromisingly dedicated to principle. He was a towering presence.

Kara Sundlun House, one of Sundlun’s four children, says she sees her father’s outsized personality in her almost two-year-old son:

The gifts you have given us live on in us and our children. You are the glue that has bonded as a family forever. You were so big in life that I know even in death you will not stop leading us, which is good because I’m lost without you, and I love you.

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a former aide to Sundlun, says Sundlun was the man for the moment during the banking crisis of 1991 and the accompanying shadow of corruption.

Whitehouse says Sundlun proved to be among the most accomplished leaders in Rhode Island history, thanks to his efforts on the banking crisis, expanding the airport, extending access to healthcare, and reforming the workers’ compensation system, and in other areas.

Almost every Rhode Islander, almost every day, is touched by something Bruce Sundlun did. Through it all, he drove his staff crazy [laughter]. He was irrepressible, impatient, imperial, unscriptable, combative, frustrating, willful, constantly threw caution to the winds, impossible to keep up. He drove us nuts —  and we loved him.

We loved him because he was bold and brave, and was warm-hearted and trusting and generous, and because he was willing to throw caution to the winds to do what was right. We loved him because  he never once had us make excuses or try to shift the blame. That was not his style; ‘Never complain, never explain.’

We all remember his Bruceisms: “Always touch base with those concerned before taking action” — a rule he relentlessly violated [laughter].

“How fast would you get it done if  the Russians were in South Attleboro?” [laughter]

“When you’ve won, stop talking, close your briefcase and leeeeave.” ….  

“Who? What? Where-when-how? Don’t bother me with ‘why?’

The phone calls at all hours that began with no hello and ended with . . . dial tone. [laughter]

The road shows known to his staff at Dome on the Roam, or more affectionately as Bruce on the Loose.

And sometimes just that big foxy grin. We saw that his qualities of friendship and loyalty had an almost physical force. That he had your back even when you made mistakes.

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