Senior Living & Resources
Bill Brusher, left, greets Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, at Mercy Retirement and Care Center.
MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Longtime altar server and volunteer recognized
The chaplains at Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland have been wrestling with the details: They have been trying to find out if Guinness will recognize 85 years as the world's record for longest-serving altar server.
Record or no, that's devotion.
But devotion and Bill Brusher, 95, are no strangers.
Bill Brusher began altar serving when he was in grammar school at Our Lady of Lourdes parish. Father Bartholomew Kevany was the pastor; Sister Clara was his teacher.
He was born at Fabiola Hospital; his parents were in Sacred Heart Parish in Oakland.
He's sure he was "taken for outings in a perambulator in Mosswood Park."
Brusher served Mass as a teenager and college student at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Oakland.
A graduate of Oakland High School, Class of 1937, he went to Saint Mary's College for two years before transferring to the University of California at Berkeley to study mechanical engineering.
"I was studying for the last final when the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor," he said.
He graduated soon thereafter, going to work for Standard Oil, which became Chevron.
"I found a way to get into the Navy," said the "90-day wonder," who was trained in aviation ordnance.
"I had been asking for carrier duty since Day 1," he said. He was assigned to the USS Essex on Bastille Day, 1945. The war ended soon thereafter. The Essex, he said, "was the first to be mothballed."
His farthest-afield altar serving assignment was in Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. "I served Mass for a French missionary priest," he said.
He returned to Chevron after the war. He and his wife Teresa were married at St. Jarlath Church, and raised their four sons in the parish. The boys went to grammar school there, before continuing on to St. Elizabeth High School.
After his retirement from a career in engineering, he was recommended to the Order of Malta in 1988.
"My kids said I needed to learn to say no,' he said. But "no" was not in his vocabulary.
"We had a clinic at Providence Hospital," he said. After that closed, the Order of Malta group turned its attention to Mercy Retirement and Care Center. Among the activities: helping feed people in the care center and, later, "manning the wheelchairs."
He and his wife Teresa made six trips to Lourdes with the Order of Malta. Brusher made one additional trip.
He was one of the founding directors of the Order of Malta Northern California Clinic, located at the Cathedral Center of the Diocese of Oakland.
He served a seven-year term on the board of directors of Mercy. "My mother was here as a resident in the '70s and '80s," he said. "My wife entered the care center in 2000."
Brusher made the move later. "I gave up my car keys in 2007," he said, and decided to move into the residential center the following year.
When he moved to Mercy in 2008, the chaplain asked him, "How about serving Mass?"
Bill Brusher looks forward to turning 96 next month.
He has an older sister. "All of us blessed with long life, so far," he said. "I've been fabulously lucky."
He does share a bit of career advice: "You have to have a job you like doing," he said. "Nothing worse than having a job that causes great distress."
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