Hyde Park booster Bruce dies at 49

By Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul
Assistant to the Editor

Lifetime Hyde Parker and attorney Jason Bruce, 49, passed away Tuesday, Sept. 10, leaving with his friends and colleagues many fond memories.

Bruce practiced law at an office in the Hyde Park Bank Building, 1525 E. 53rd St., following work as an associate at the downtown firm Jenner and Block between 1988 and 1991. He sat on the board of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and served as its president from 1998 to 2000.

As president of the business coalition, he worked on organizing a 53rd Street festival, coordinating trolley service that would link the Museum of Science and Industry with the wider neighborhood, and promoting local businesses on light pole banners, according to Hyde Park Herald archives.

“He would process his thoughts, and he would think before he would speak and he was always well spoken,” said Joyce’s Event and Party Planning owner Joyce Feuer, who also served on the chamber’s board.

Bruce also sat on the boards of the Hyde Park Co-Op, the Harper Court Foundation and the Blue Gargoyle Youth Service Center. He received a bachelor of arts at the University of Virginia and a juris doctor at Stanford University Law School, and was a University of Chicago Laboratory Schools alum.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) met Bruce more than 30 years ago, when he began attending the Lab Schools. “We were real close friends in high school,” said Raoul, who also ran and played basketball with him.

“He was pretty fast,” Raoul said. “Much more of a superb track and field athlete than I was, following his older brother’s footsteps.”

Raoul added that it was “no surprise” to him that Bruce became a lawyer.

“Even going back to the days in high school, Jason was always the person who would find a way to engage in debate over any issue,” Raoul said. “He would debate a seemingly simple issue and offer perspectives that you wouldn’t even think about on even simple things.”

Rich Nayer, owner of Nayer Construction and a lifetime friend of Bruce’s older brother, said, “If you got into a discussion with Jason, sometimes just for fun, he would take the opposite point of view and argue it really well as a lawyer could.”

A nearby resident growing up, Nayer added that Bruce’s “greatest love” was playing chess at the previous Harper Court’s boards.

Raoul, whose Hyde Park office lies a stone’s throw from where Bruce practiced law, said he referred to the attorney as a “Mayor of 53rd Street,” because he could often be seen strolling down the thoroughfare, speaking with others.

Feuer called him “a fixture over the years on 53rd Street,” where he could be seen taking walks, sleeves rolled up in “a white or blue button-down shirt.”

Craig Truitt, a laywer at the Hyde Park-based firm Truitt, Brown and Truitt, who attended high school with Bruce, called him a “highly intelligent” man, a “good father” and a “talented” lawyer.

Truitt said he remembered “talking to him about the move [to practice law in Hyde Park], and he was very clear about what he was looking for: he was looking for independence. That was the word he used.”

“He is an inspiration with regard to living an independent and deliberate life. He figured out what he wanted, and he went for it, and he ended up with a beautiful family and a great practice.”

Services are currently being planned.