Bruce Spear is known by several pet names at Rosewalk. Staff calls him Brucee Goosey or Mr. Brucey, among others. He says the pet names brighten his days.
Mr. Spear helped develop several high-end senior housing communities and nursing homes across the nation. Before retiring, he was president of a company that built a $35 million project in Palm Harbor, Florida.
When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Mr. Spear was forced to see nursing communities from an entirely different perspective. He became a resident of one. Of course nice surroundings are important, but what matters most, he said, is how residents are treated.
“The difference between success and failure in these communities is the service and the relationships,” said Mr. Spear.
Mr. Spear was born in Indianapolis and grew up on the Eastside in the Irvington area. His father died when he and his brother were young; he was 10 and his brother was 6. His father was an engineer who designed machines used in manufacturing. His mother, Florence, who died about 10 years ago, worked as a waitress and kept the family together.
After graduating from Howe High School, he went to West Point then into the U.S. Army. One of his assignments took him to Ethiopia, where he worked as a finance officer. He had married by then and his wife, Rhea, was with him in Ethiopia, working for the university there.
After returning to the U.S., he graduated from Indiana University with a master’s in business administration.
He said the most fun he ever had was climbing Mt. Rainier in Washington State. It took three days to make it to the top of the mountain, and out of over 100 people on the climb, only 15 made it to the top.
“The others couldn’t make it for one reason or another,” he said. “I had the most fun I’ve ever had in my life coming down that mountain.”
Back in Indiana, Mr. Spear and his wife settled into life. He went to work for the City of Indianapolis as an engineer in the Division of Urban Renewal. She became pregnant. They had a daughter, Erin. Three years later, the couple thought they were having twins. But during delivery they learned they were the parents of triplets: Cortney, Amy and Matthew. Mr. Spear also has six grandchildren.
Fifteen years ago, As Mr. Spear was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This would be yet another mountain to climb. He agreed to cutting edge brain surgery that promised to minimize symptoms by stimulating dopamine production.
“I had a trembling in my hands, my neck was stiff to the point I couldn’t look up from the floor. When I woke up from the surgery this was completely gone,” he said.
Mr. Spear said he always doodled, but after developing Parkinson’s disease, he began having an interest in art. He dabbled with water colors and oils. He discovered he actually had artistic talent. “I never had any interest in art before then,” he said.
There have been several cases showing a link between Parkinson’s disease dopamine-enhancing medications and the emergence of artistic talents
Of course an artist needs a studio, so Mr. Spear and his brother, Bryan, opened one in the Stutz Building in Downtown Indianapolis. “We were there 10 years doing art and all kinds of crazy things.”
It wasn’t a money-making venture, but it was their man cave and the pair had a great time, Mr. Spear said. He now teaches art to residents of Rosewalk.
“My goal now is to play three rounds of golf,” he said. “You gotta be flexible. You have no choice in what’s given to you. And don’t be afraid to try something new.”