June 27, 1941 ~ July 30, 2021
Bruce Curtis Kirkham, 80, of Egg Harbor, passed away late Friday night, July 30, 2021, in Unity Hospice care at the Door County Medical Center in Sturgeon Bay. “Our family would like to thank all the outstanding staff who cared for him with such warmth, vigilance, and dedication.” Bruce is deeply loved and will be missed by his devoted wife of 57 years, Helen; their loving daughter, Kristin of Egg Harbor; brother, Wayne of Dallas, TX; and cousins in the Minneapolis, MN area.
Bruce was born June 27, 1941, in Norfolk, NE, the son of Curtis Cutlan Kirkham and Gertrude Louise (Peterson) Kirkham. His family moved to Rice Lake, WI, where he was raised and attended high school, graduating as class valedictorian. As a member of the Boy Scouts, Bruce earned his Eagle Scout and was an avid outdoorsman.
Bruce met Helen Marie Linder at the 1959 regional mass band clinic held in Rice Lake. After meeting Helen, he had the idea to form a 6-piece ensemble, which they named “The Bel Aires” after Bruce’s favorite 1957 car. Bruce was the band’s drummer while Helen played piano. The band was a favorite at local sock hops, proms, and Saturday night dances. Bruce and Helen remained friends before going off to college, Helen to UW-Superior in music and Bruce to UW-Madison in pre-med. Sophomore year they each returned home for Easter. After church, Bruce at the Methodist church in Rice Lake and Helen at the Lutheran church in Cumberland, both families happened to dine at The Tower House, Cumberland’s Italian restaurant. They were seated in opposite corners. As Bruce told it, “I saw her across the room. She was wearing a yellow dress. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I knew I would marry her.” From their respective schools, they each wrote a letter every single day for the next two years, amassing volumes of love letters. Bruce often sent roses. Many weekends they drove, Helen for two hours each way and Bruce for five hours, on two-lane roads in all weather to meet back at home. They were married June 27, 1964, at the First Lutheran Church in Helen’s hometown of Cumberland, WI.
Bruce played drums with the UW-Madison Concert and Marching Bands, enjoying the opportunity to perform at the 1960 Rose Bowl parade. Always a loyal Badger fan, he continued on to earn his medical degree at UW-Madison, along with many high academic honors and awards (including Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, and Alpha Omega Alpha), graduating in 1966. Bruce and Helen then moved to Dallas, TX, where Bruce completed his year of Internship at Methodist Hospital. The couple returned to Madison for Bruce to complete his Radiology Board Certification, which he passed in 1971.
From 1970-72, during the final years of the Vietnam War, Bruce served on active military duty with the United States Navy in the U.S. Public Health Service as Chief of Radiology at the USPHS Hospital in New Orleans, LA.
Happy to return to Wisconsin, Bruce practiced Radiology for 22 years in and around the Eau Claire area, where he and Helen raised their daughter, Kristin. The family enjoyed much happiness there, making great friends and treasured memories. After semi-retiring from private practice, Bruce and Helen returned to Madison so that Bruce could share his experience and expertise as a Clinical Assistant Professor with the UW Medical School. However, retirement beckoned in 1998…
Bruce and Helen happily retired in Door County, nestled in the woods amidst a beautiful abundance of wildlife and kind community of people. In recent years, Bruce courageously battled the cruelty of Alzheimer’s disease with the help, support, and love of his family.
No public services are scheduled to be held.
Memorials may be given in Bruce’s honor to the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org).
Huehns Funeral Home, Inc. & Door County Crematory LLC in Sturgeon Bay are caring for the Kirkham family. Expressions of sympathy, memories, and photos of Bruce may be shared with his family through his tribute page at www.huehnsfuneralhome.com.