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Big Chuck

May 6, 2013

My pal Brucie, savior of Sidney's hospital


Bruce was one of the most liked and most likable people I have ever met. He was my greatest audience, too. When I saw Bruce I would say, “Hi ya, Brucie,” and he’d dissolve into fits of laughter. Why, I have no idea. He was just like that. Immediately our conversations would turn to the good, old days. He was jovial, funny, armed with a quick wit and a quick mind.

After decades in administration at Bassett in Cooperstown, the fates of Bruce Wilhelm and that of his former hometown hospital collided. Dr. William Streck, president and CEO of Bassett Healthcare Network, tapped Bruce to shepherd the closed Sidney medical facility back to its former vital condition.

Bruce tackled the task with a seriousness coupled with a missionary’s passion for his work, for Bassett and for his beloved hometown. “To open up a closed hospital was unheard of,” Dr. Streck told me. “Bruce was key to its reopening. It was an incredible achievement.”

On Feb. 5, 2008, Bruce cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the former The Hospital, now called Tri-Town Regional Hospital. He was named its first CEO.

Sidney got its hospital back. Sidney got its heart back.

Bruce Wilhelm died on April 16, 2012, after a battle with esophageal cancer. He was 52 years old and left a wife and two children.

Last week more than 100 family, friends, classmates and colleagues joined for a celebration of his life at his hometown hospital in Sidney. After a yearlong fundraising campaign that netted more that $150,000, the TTRH Specialty Services Wing was officially named in honor of Bruce Wilhelm.

Lorna Wilhelm reflected on what her husband would have thought of the day. “Bruce would have loved this. Our kids, Kristin and Brett, are here. And to see so many of his Sidney Class of 1977 classmates here, so many friends and all his co-workers from Bassett, well, I just know he would be absolutely thrilled at what this day means to all of us.”

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