Another Fallen Hero

Both men were named Alex; neither one was actually born in Lawrence, yet both hailed as Lawrencians; both volunteered for military service; both were missing in action; both had families distraught wondering where they were.

When Alex Jimenez was announced missing in action last year the History Center was in the process of exhibiting an historic post card exhibit at the Heritage State Park. The exhibit was prompted by post cards from WWII veterans who sent them to Finno's Pool Hall on Common Street so all the neighborhood buddies could read them.
LHC Postcard Exhibit
Northeast Massachusetts Regional Library System Newsletter

While doing research for the exhibit we located post cards from another Lawrencian who died in battle - Alexander Bern Bruce. As we created the panels about Mr. Bruce, Mr Jimenez was never far from our minds. At the time of the exhibit, we did not know if Alex Jimenez was alive or not. We included Alex Jimenez in the Park exhibit with our sincerest thoughts for his safe return.

Sadly, today, we know the answer. Saturday, July 26, 2008, a funeral procession on Essex Street and Funeral Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church were held to honor Alex Jimenez.
Images of Alex Jimenez funeral taken at Essex and Union Street, Lawrence at the beginning of the funeral procession to St. Mary's Church.

Alexander Bern Bruce (1894 – 1918)
The following is the account from 90 years ago, during World War I, from and about Alexander Bern Bruce.

Alexander Bern Bruce, the grandson of Lawrence Mayor Alexander Bern Bruce for whom the Bruce school is named, was born in Seattle, Washington in 1894 to Lawrencians David Bruce, son of Mayor Bruce, and Carrie Wainwright Bruce, daughter of Charles Wainwright, paymaster at Arlington mills for over 50 years.

Alec, as he was called, lived in Washington state for ten years while his father worked for the Union Trunk Line of the Northeast GE Company. Later his father mined for gold in the Alaska Gold Rush in 1898. After being unsuccessful in that endeavor, the family returned to Lawrence, MA. David Bruce was appointed the Superintendent of Sanitation for the city of Lawrence, the job he held for 25 years.
Image of the Bruce Family on an outing in Lawrence, MA.

Alec Bern Bruce attended the Bruce School, Andover Phillips Academy and Harvard University. After college graduation he returned to Andover Phillips Academy as an instructor. While he was teaching in Andover, World War I was taking place in Europe. Bruce joined the Ambulance Service in France in 1918. ( Note: The Ambulance Corps became the basis for the American Field Service [AFS] . The ambulance drivers believed that if there was an exchange among students from various countries, perhaps greater cultural understanding would occur.
American Field Service

Feeling he would be of more help in the military, Alec joined the Air Corps. During the war he sent lengthy letters to the local papers, describing in great detail life on the war front. On August 17, 1918 he was involved in an encounter with the “Boche” (as the Germans were called), he had a mid-air crash with another American flyer and his plane crashed in France.

The post cards and letters he sent to his family and friends were upbeat and often amusing. In a letter to his younger brother, Donald, (from whose family we received the Bruce Collection) he advises him on academic courses to take, saying if Donald makes the honor roll Bruce will name his plane “Don” after him. One letter even mentions an encounter with the Boche indicating his plane received two hits. Three weeks later, Lt. Bruce was dead.

His family was notified that he was missing. In October 1918 his mother received word from the US Treasury Department that she was the beneficiary of his will. They had not yet received official military notification of his death.

In February 1919 the family received word of his burial site in France, yet not the location of his grave. Finally the details of his burial place and the events of his death became known to the family.

Bruce Postcards and Letters
Copy of last letter Bruce wrote - this one to his younger brother, Donald, who was a student at the time. It is Donald's family who donated the Bruce papers.

Cartoon postcard with images of the "evil axis" leaders during World War I.

Postcard note from Alec about possible souvenirs from the war.

Captain Francis Michael Leahy article
Leahy, for whom the Leahy Public School in Lawrence is named, died just a month before Bruce.
Note the Bruce Public School is named for Alec Bruce's grandfather who was a mayor of the city.

Jimenez article

See another story about WWI hero Paddy Donohue


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Founded in 1978 as the Immigrant City Archives, the mission of the Lawrence History Center is to collect, preserve, share, and animate the history and heritage of Lawrence and its people.