“I’m a true Okie from Muskogee,” Bruce Gilfillan once said. But lots of stories didn’t make it into the Merle Haggard classic, and a few of them must have belonged to Bruce. Those close to him knew a renaissance man and humanitarian with a tremendous zest for life. A devout Christian, Bruce was also a very gifted and talented musician and recording artist, as well as an ultrasound technologist, paramedic, model train collector, gun collector, charity man, card-carrying Santa Claus – Bruce saw no boundaries to his passions.
Bruce passed from this life on Monday, March 18, 2013 at age 61. He was preceded in death by his father, Elmer Gilfillan and mother, Mary (Ridge) Gilfillan. He is survived by those who cherish his memory: the love of his life, wife, Pam (Champlain) Gilfillan; two daughters, Karen Gilfillan of Tulsa and Jennifer Gilfillan of Broken Arrow; grandchildren Brittanie, Zachary and Ryan; brothers, Richard Shepler Jr. and wife, Barbara, of Muskogee, Robert Gilfillan and wife, Anna of Muskogee; sisters, Mary Lou Berryhill and husband, Kenneth, of Muskogee, Donna Stover of Sapulpa, Virginia Sloan and husband, Bill, of Whitney, Texas; as well as nieces, nephews, and many cherished friends.
Born December 6, 1951, Bruce quickly became interested in medical work. He observed his mother at work as a nurse and midwife. By the ninth grade, he was volunteering at Muskogee’s V.A. Hospital. It was there that he realized that helping people gave him satisfaction and joy. After high school Bruce interrupted his Pre-Nursing education at Bacone College to join the U.S. Air Force for service in the latter phase of the Vietnam War. After educating himself on his return, Bruce became employed at Muskogee’s very first ambulance service and later became Assistant Director for the Muskogee County EMS where he was a vital part of its early history and helped in its start to becoming the outstanding EMS service that it is today.
As a mobile ultrasound technologist, Bruce examined hearts and found time to give from his own. When he donned his Santa suit and hoisted a toy-filled bag over his shoulder, the magic took over. One asthma-stricken five-year-old boy at Stilwell Memorial Hospital saw Santa enter the ER, and immediately climbed onto his lap to tell him what he wanted for Christmas. It turned out that his request – a Noah’s Ark full of toy animals – was in the bag.
Bruce also enjoyed being an Indian Territory Marshal whose organization taught gun safety and also raised money for disadvantaged seniors in our Muskogee Nursing Homes. He was an excellent and skilled artist and always gave his favorite pictures to his family and friends.
Bruce Gilfillan lived a life of worthy missions, and left a legacy of love and caring. And through that legacy, the music is sure to play on.
Bruce was a member of Christian Chapel Church, Muskogee, OK. Services will be there at 10:00 a.m. Friday, March 22, 2013. Interment will be at Greenhill Cemetery, Muskogee, OK.