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Dr. Bruce A. Craswell

Dr. Bruce A. Craswell died in his sleep on June 4, in Bremerton, at the age of 84. Bruce was preceded in death by his wife, Ellen Craswell, and by his sister, Clarice Hawes of Seattle. He is survived by two other siblings, Keith Craswell of Bellingham and Bernice Comstock of Poulsbo, and by his four children (Dick Craswell, Palo Alto, California; Jim Craswell, Sammamish, Washington; Patty Johnson, Waddell, Arizona; and Jill Solano, McKinney, Texas). Bruce was also blessed with 14 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren, as well as a much-loved assortment of extended family and friends.

Bruce was born in Kent, Washington, but his family soon moved to Kitsap County, settling first in Waterman and then in Port Orchard, where he graduated from South Kitsap High School in 1949. He took classes for a year at Olympic College in Bremerton, then transferred to the University of Washington, where he graduated from dental school in 1955. 

While he was in college, Bruce had the good fortune to meet Ellen Howe, also a University of Washington student, at a social gathering. They went on their first date (a blind date, arranged by Ellen’s sorority sisters) on December 31, 1951. Just over a year later, Bruce proposed, and they married on November 25, 1953. Their marriage was a joyous partnership that lasted almost 55 years, ending only when Ellen passed away in 2008.

In 1955, though, when Bruce graduated from Washington, he had a new dental degree, a new wife, and an even newer firstborn son (Dick, who arrived in October 1954). Bruce’s first three years as a dentist were spent in the U.S. Air Force, providing dental services to military personnel and their families stationed on remote Air Force bases in the upper midwest and Canada. “Fighting the Cold War by fighting tooth decay” was how Bruce later jokingly described his service.  His home station during those years was in Minneapolis, where his next two children (Jim and Patty) were born.

Eventually, in 1958, Bruce received his honorable discharge from the Air Force and returned to Kitsap County to begin his own dental practice. He bought a house overlooking Dyes Inlet just a few doors down from the house where Ellen had grown up, and where Ellen’s mother still lived. Ruth Longmate (one of Ellen’s sisters) lived with her own family just one house further up the bay. One effect of this arrangement was that it provided instant family gatherings for holidays and whenever anyone wanted one, especially whenever cousins from other parts of Puget Sound came to visit. This was when Bruce’s youngest child (Jill) was born.

To say that Bruce flourished in this setting would be a serious understatement. His dental practice grew, but he always found time for camping, hiking, boating, water skiing, playing cards, and any number of other activities. He built an outdoor ping pong table in his back yard, made of (what else?) cement. He built a cable swing (sort of an early zip line) from a tree house to the bluff overlooking the beach, matching a similar swing that had been built at the Longmate’s. Bruce also built a 20-foot wooden slide running from the top of the bluff to the beach.  He also built secret passages through the attic of his house, entered through concealed panels or by swinging open one side of an apparently solid bookcase.

Later, those of us who grew up during these years would realize that most other families were less eccentric in their domestic arrangements. Fortunately, though, that realization never stopped Bruce. At the time, it all seemed perfectly normal!

The 1960s also saw the beginning of Bruce’s (and Ellen’s) involvement in politics. In the early 1960s Bruce worked on the legislative campaign of a friend, Don Thompson. He later served as the Kitsap County campaign director for Governor Dan Evans, and (later still) as Kitsap County Republican Party chairman. Bruce was also active in civic affairs, from the Silverdale Rotary Club to the Central Kitsap School Board, the Olympic College Board of Trustees, and the Kitsap County Board of Freeholders. Bruce remained an avid hiker and mountain climber, and was for many years a member of Olympic Mountain Rescue.

In 1974, Bruce ran for the state legislature, losing narrowly by just 200 votes out of 23,000 votes cast. He considered waiting two years to make another run at the same office, but in 1975 a different opportunity arose. In that year, Bruce gave up his dental practice to help run the Washington Dental Service, a prepaid dental insurance plan that was then being organized by the Washington State Dental Association. Bruce didn’t lose his interest in politics, serving in 1980 as Deputy to King County Executive Ronald Dunlap, and later as Deputy to King County Assessor Harley Hoppe. Meanwhile, in 1976 Ellen had been elected to the state legislature to start her own political career – a career in which Bruce was always at her side.

1980 brought another change when Bruce (and, soon afterwards, Ellen) accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Their political activities now centered less on the Republican party, and more on supporting their vision of Christian principles and Christian candidates. After Ellen’s campaign for governor in 1996, Bruce and Ellen both left the Republican party. Bruce would run for office one more time, seeking a U.S. Congressional seat in 1998. In that campaign Bruce represented the American Heritage Party, and finished third behind both major party candidates.

In later years, Bruce’s health began to limit his physical activities, especially after one of his legs had to be amputated. Nevertheless, he remained surprisingly mobile, even when confined to a wheelchair. He was mentally sharp, and continued to play duplicate bridge, hearts, and “chicken feet” dominoes. He enjoyed being with friends and family, and his sense of humor stayed intact as well. After his leg was amputated, Bruce did not hesitate to reply to any argument by asking (with a smile), “Are you saying I don’t have a leg to stand on?” 

That was Bruce.

Note: Bruce’s ashes will be scattered in a small ceremony to be held by his surviving children. No other memorial service is scheduled, and the family requests that you respect their privacy in this regard. Instead, you are enthusiastically invited to supply your own stories or reminiscences about Bruce (and to read those supplied by others) in the online guestbook here.


I want to say how much I appreciated Bruce. I have so many good memories of him, and learned so much from him. He made my life better in so many ways. Here are a few of so many great memories I had of him:

Fishing trips on Mondays (his day off) to Olympic peninsula rivers (where I first learned to drink a quart of milk in one sitting).

Climbing many mountains and peaks with him. (Rainer - first time with one crampon, the second with altitude sickness - fun!)

Westport fishing trips with Bruce, Lee, and Ellen (almost everyone got sea sick except Lee and Bruce).

Bridge, teaching me to play, then beating me. At least I was in good company. He was a wizard at Bridge. How did he know what I had before I picked up my cards??

Lessons in ping pong, pool, poker, and basketball (darn left handers).

Golf. Once they had no left handed clubs - so he played the whole 18 holes with only a right handed putter!

He gave me my first car. A Ford Model B I believe. I was 15 or 16, and thrilled.

Listening to his politic stories. Working with him and Ellen on their campaigns was eye opening.

Those famous 4th of July Bridge games he organized down on John's beach, and all the laughter there.

His energy was contagious. And he always made us feel he was interested in what Lee and I were doing. We had planned to see him in a few months. We miss him already, and he is in our thoughts and prayers. God bless you Bruce for all that you did.

Rick and Lee

To Jim and all the wonderful Craswell families:
SO glad that Bruce is now wiith our Lord - and with Ellen and all the saints who have gone on before us.
Barb and I learned SO much from the Craswells and feel SO privileged to have been counted among their MANY friends. Bruce will be deeply missed. Heaven's gain, our loss.
We will be praying for you all during this time of grieving.
God Bless,
Tom & Barb Hemphill - Bainbridge Island

Bruce (as well as Ellen) is high at the top of the list of those who impacted our lives in one of the very best ways! Scores of memories are wrapped around his cheerfulness, kindness, enthusiasm, intelligence, drive and passion- especially as it pertained to his faith-and-politics. He told the story of his conversion to Christ often, and cried with gratitude every time! The passion that he and Ellen shared for Christ and politics (combined) was unmatched and kept them up late night after night! I remember getting a call at 1 a.m. from Bruce and/or Ellen who said whatever it was they called for, then hung up- completely oblivious to the time as they basked in their work they loved late into the night. When we arrived at their house at 10 p.m. once, Bruce started to put the coffee on when I declined, saying it was too late for coffee. He looked at me incredulously, and said, "We're just getting started!" Bruce will be as missed as deeply as Ellen has been. We WILL meet again…at the feet of Jesus.

Dan and Susan Eby

I’d like to echo what Rick Howe (Ellen’s brother) has written about Bruce. As I write this, I feel a burdened because paying him a visit was one of those things in the back of my mind that I hadn’t got around to doing.

As my uncle, growing up just a few houses away from Bruce, my aunt Ellen, and my cousins, they/we all were family. To this day, whenever I see the Craswell house in Silverdale, I remember those good old days. Bruce's confident and remarkable intellect is manifest in many aspects of his life—at bridge, he had the ability to keep track of every card played—but perhaps best manifest in his four great kids, our cousins, who are all great people. His intellect was also manifest in aspects of the Silverdale house itself. One of my early memories of Bruce’s ingenuity was a cool bookcase that was actually hinged. As I remember it, along with the books it held, could be pulled out as if a door. I don’t remember what, if anything, was on the inside, but I remember the masterful construction, and it reminded me of things one might see only in the movies. One of my last memories of being in that house was the phenomenal maze in the attic made out cardboard tunnels. I also remember how my cousin Jill’s wedding reception took place in their house, with the garage being completely transformed into a huge party room, carpet being rolled out perfectly on the garage floor. I think those who didn't know they were in the garage wouldn't have suspected they were.

A strong memory from growing up was Bruce as the Silverdale “A” string pee wee basketball coach for two years, during which it was league champion both years—he was coaching during a time when neither of his two sons were old enough to play. The first year, Silverdale lost to Manette during the regular game but came back to win in the championship game at the end. I was on the “B” string during his first year but became a sub on the A string the next year, his second year. Because Bruce would give me rides to the practices (the A and B strings practiced at the same time in what was then the CK auxiliary gym), when I ran into one of the A-string players between seasons, Gary Larson, he asked, “Do you know Bruce Craswell? Tell him he’s the best coach in the world.” The nucleus of those players (Don Thorson, Gary Larson, Walt Goit, Dan Stout) were part of the Central Kitsap High School team that won the AA state championship in 1969. (I remember that during practices, Bruce would call me “Jackie,” which other aunts and uncles would call me, but by then, I preferred to be called “Jack.”)

Bruce was on the Central Kitsap School Board when tennis was reinstituted as a sport in the CK district. As representative of the school board, Bruce spoke at the assembly to celebrate the state basketball championship by saying simply that he was proud of the personal development and the accomplishments of the players; I remember our Norwegian exchange student Nils Raestad commended Bruce’s succinct statement when most speakers were expected to drone on.

I believe on one Mt. Rainier climb, Bruce fell into a crevasse but managed to pull his way out. He also organized key-exchange hikes on the spectacular Deer Park to Obstruction Point on which scores of Silverdale-area people participated. I remember him joking that they should put the bacon under Ellen’s sleeping bag so that the bears wouldn’t get it.

During my time in the Peace Corps in Brazil, I remember dentists in that country remarking about the excellent dental work that I had (a bridge of three front teeth), and was proud to say that it was done by my uncle. (Bruce’s dental practice and building was taken over by Dr. Jeff Phillips; the building that Bruce built has recently been demolished, replaced by a 17-chair facility adjacent to the original site.)

I remember a story that Bruce would tell about when he was dating Ellen. It went something like this: They were finishing dinner at Granny’s (Ellen’s mother, my grandmother) house, and Bruce was secretly holding Ellen’s hand under the table. A young child at the time (possibly me) came in the room after playing in the mud outside, and was about to touch something in the dining room when Granny, exclaimed, “Get your filthy hands off!” Bruce, embarrassed and assuming that he was the one being reprimanded, quickly let go of Ellen’s hand. 

-Jack Longmate

We miss Bruce but he told us how much he longed to go "home". How we enjoyed our weekly and sometimes more often hearts games. Steve would call and say he was having a heart attack. that meant Hearts tonight? My the fun we had. Bruce usually won though it was the three of us against him. 
Bruce and Ellen encouraged to us to be politically involved. It would be a challenge to calculate their impact and influence on our State. God blessed us with these wonderful friends.

-Steve & Gloria Hargrove

To Dick, Jim, Patty and Jill:
My heart goes out to you all and you are in my prayers. Oh, the memories that my sisters and I have from growing up with the Craswells! Our second family it seemed. From the time we were small, staying at your house when our parents went out and then magically waking up in our own beds the next day having slept through the ride home, crawling through the passage ways up in the attic, the big sleeping porch, the rope swing (scary for me), the backpacking and boating trips, walking down the beach to your house to hang out all day. It was a magical time. Your parents were so wonderful to us. Now your mom and dad are reunited in heaven with our parents! So special also was the letter I found from Ellen after my mom passed that recounted my mom coming to Christ in your kitchen. What a blessing!

-Denise (Cooke) LaPlant

To the family... Sorry to hear of Bruce passing. Lost my father last year and know the pain. Spent some time with Bruce over the past few years and was always great!



Ours is a friendship that has lasted for many a year..fifty some..fond, fond memories. A blessing for all of us. 
I'm also one of the people Bruce taught how to play a decent game of bridge...playing into the wee hours of the morning. Yes, he knew when I had bid incorrectly but played right along with me !! you learn from your mistakes. And that holds true for all of us each day.
Our political road was one of agreement. Enjoyed being involved in both Bruce and Ellen's campaigns. They were true to their word.
Being able to spend time with for both of us. Telling it like it is. Conversation that could go on forever. We
loved it. That's what friendship is all about.
Dear Bruce, you are missed. 

-Helen Sturdivant

I met Bruce and Ellen at the Silverdale Methodist Church many years ago. I was a single mother raising my two children. They invited us to a cabin (relatives had) and we snowmobiled and made an igloo and played games into the night. We also played Shanghai and after my first game, Bruce suggested that the object of the game was to score the fewest points, of which I did not. The first morning up at the cabin I came down stairs and was thrilled that it was snowing, Bruce came out and quieted my enthusiasm because he wanted Ellen to sleep as long as possible. He was always looking out for her. It was the best vacation I ever had and I think my kids feel the same.

When I first heard Bruce's testimony, I cried and cried, because my experience was very similar. From that moment on, he and Ellen were high on my list. It was so enjoyable to share experiences with our Lord and Savior with Bruce and Ellen.

One time I was over at their house and my son was afraid to go on the cable swing. Ellen immediately went up there and came down very quickly. I then was going to exhibit my courage, I thought death was around the corner. I loved everything about the two of them and they will always be in my heart. We will see one another again one of these days

I am so happy they are joined again. Bless the four of you!!!! What a great dad you had!!!

- Roberta (Bertie) Paschal

We enjoyed many parties with Ellen and Bruce they were so fun. He was our dentist also. God bless this wonderful man

-Harold and Mary Lou Dahl

Bruce was a mentor to me in many ways. He hired me right out of high school when he opened his practice in Silverdale. He introduced me to backpacking, mountain climbing, politics, how to enjoy life to the fullest and most of all always having a positive attitude.

So many good memories.
Gerry Graybeal

Although, I'd known the Craswell name, I did not meet him personally until he started playing Duplicate Bridge. I partnered with him on several occassions and thouroughly enjoyed his company. After he became somwhat immobile I started to visit hime both at Bayview and Forest Ridge. We had interesting political discussions, even though we came from different perspectives, but they always remained civil. His bridge game was also similar, he planned far enough ahead in the bidding to never place his partner in a difficult situation. I thourghly enjoyed his company and will miss him a great deal. My thoughts and prayers are now with his family.
Richard Baker

Dear Dick, Laura, Jim, Denise, Patty, Glenn and Jill and all the grandkids and great grandkids,

You are all in my thoughts and prayers this week with the passing of your Father and Grandpa, Bruce. He lived a long and very full life.

Here are some childhood memories that I have of both my uncle and aunt, Bruce and Ellen, that I would like to share with all of you:

I was a flower girl in Ellen and Bruce's wedding, and I remember how happy everyone was for them both. Grannie was concerned that Ellen was leaving school - but Ellen did go back to college later.

Bruce became a dentist (and my Grannie no longer kept candy in the kitchen cupboard). Brushing teeth became really important in our family.

We went on La Push camping trips with all the Craswell aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa Craswell did all the cooking. There was always lots of rain, hikes to the ocean beaches, and swimming in the very cold water with huge waves. The kids built camps in the beach driftwood and put on plays in the evenings. The men did lots of fishing.

Bruce had an incredible energy to get us to do things. I remember Ellen and Bruce taking us hiking and overnight camping in the Olympics for the first time. Bruce and Ellen carried huge packs. I was supposed to carry my own pack, but became too tired, so Bruce carried my pack also, the rest of the way. I remember getting in trouble because I had even packed curlers for my hair in the backpack! Dick, Jimmy and Bobby had so much energy - next trip I think that they put the backpacks on them.

Bruce and Ellen played lots of bridge with my parents, and took motorhome trips with our family, too.

Bruce gave me my first job in his dental office when I was 15 years old. Bruce would talk about politics to the patients (who had their mouths open and could not answer back). He taught me to drive that summer going back and forth to work.

I babysat for Bruce and Ellen so that they could go out in the evenings. Their house had a sleeping porch room and secret passageways that the kids would disappear into.

There were many heated discussions about politics around Grannie's dinner table when Bruce and Ellen were there. It was really my first exposure to politics. Later we helped with Ellen and Bruce's campaigns.

More recently Bruce was the publisher of the Howe's the Family Newsletter, and he kept it going for many years for all of us (even though he was an in-law!)

Last year on 4th of July I visited Bruce at his residence in West Bremerton. He was not able to attend the picnic at the Longmates, and sadly, that was the last time that I saw him. I think that the 4th of July the year before (2014) was the last time that he came to the family gathering at Longmates beach.

Joan Quimby Branch

We had so many fun trips with Bruce and Ellen. We played so many bridge games together. One fun thing I did for Bruce was to bring Kay Enos and Marv Novak and lunch to his Bayview residence so we could enjoy a great game of bridge and enjoy lunch together. I wish I could have done that more often. He really seemed to enjoy himself. Kay and Marv are both members of the ACBL duplicate bridge club where he played before he was confined to a wheel chair.

My husband Robert Dahl was a fellow dentist. Ellen and I were good friends. We have gone on many camping trips with them and the Craswell family's imaginary Troll Hondu! Our three children enjoyed Bruce's secret passageways and the wild ride down to the beach!

I loved the entire family! Ellen's mother could chin herself one handed on a chinning bar in her kitchen. She received a Wally Burr slalom water ski for her 80th birthday. She was an ice hockey player. In the winter she would freeze ice on her tennis court and you WOULD play hockey! She had an enormous collection of ice skates and you were fitted with a pair so you could play. No excuses!

What a fun family! What a great privlidge to have known them all!

They are all missed!

Blanche Dahl

To Bruce's wonderful children and grandchildren: There are so many "truth bombs" in what friends and family have posted - Paulette and I agree with all of them. We had the beautiful joy and privilege of being next door neighbors for many, many years. We were the "new kids on the block" (before the boy band made money claiming that ::), but were treated by Bruce and Ellen and their kids as "old timers". It went so much deeper than neighbors - we as couples were soulmates. Morning coffee in pajamas. "Craskirk Landing" retreats with all rooms filled, tents all over the yard, RVs in the driveway, campfires, worshipping, praying ... so many memories, I can't begin to share them all. We all became Christians within weeks of each other in 1980 and our lives were never the same. We cried, laughed, prayed and spent hours and hours together. Our home was their home, their home was our home. I remember our son Joe, butt naked, walking across a gathering of important politicians having a party of some sort in the yard and Bruce and Ellen just laughing until Paulette and I realized what was going on and retrieved our naked son. Or the time Joe simply went into their house as a 2 year old and not finding anyone on the main floor, just wandered upstairs until he found Bruce taking a bath and greeted him with "what doing Bruce". Classic. Or 5 pm on a Friday summer night saying let's go the San Juans in the boats camping and off we went, arriving in Oak Harbor in the dark nearly out of gas and all sleeping on the dock and off the next morning. What a cool adventurous spirit Bruce had that rubbed off on everyone around him. Or coming home from skiing one time and Bruce and Paulette had begun a remodel job in our kitchen - no big deal he would say and of course, it wasn't because he did it all. Or coming home one time (after Paulette had verbally admired their hot water spicket in their sink for hot drinks) and he had installed one under our sink for Paulette. Flymos and mowing banks .... The beauty of all that was that Bruce was being who he was. A brilliant mind with a child's heart - a rare combination. The smartest man in the room who could laugh at himself. A man who could put himself in the position of others and ask "what would bless them", particularly kids. Secret passageways, opening bookshelves, zip lines, tree houses, a concrete outdoor ping pong table, home built motorhomes .... Kids knocking on the door, can I go through your passageway. Sure, he would say, getting more enjoyment out of it than them. Can we use your zip line? Sure, be careful. Safety first (kind of), fun a close second. Many will say that Bruce mentored them, but he did it in such a kind, thoughtful way that people were changed by his love. So, of course I could go on and on, but what was most meaningful to me and Paulette and many others was Bruce being faithful to who he was designed to be: a brilliant man who did not just talk about solutions, but jumped in to see them implemented; kind and generous; laughing with a twinkle; a deep lover of Ellen and his kids and grandkids, sacrificing much to see them advance; a forerunner of supporting a wife in her call, taking a backseat and beaming with pride over her accomplishments, no hint of jealousy or insecurity; tender tears over many things; a loyal, faithful friend. I miss him. I miss living next door to them. I cherish the memories. I know where they are, Bruce and Ellen. Where they are there are no more tears, no more disease, they have new bodies living in the glorious light. I know they are praising Jesus day and night. No, I don't feel sad for them. It is us that miss them, but one day, we will be reunited. So Bruce, Ellen - I celebrate you today, on Christmas Eve 2016 knowing you are with the One Who came 2000 years ago and you lived in a way that honored Him. Well done good and faithful servants! With respect and love Bruce and Paulette Buskirk

Bruce and Paulette Buskirk

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