Bruce Douglas, of Toledo, Ohio, and most recently, Winter Park, Florida, passed away peacefully from natural causes on January 12, 2022. Bruce was born January 13, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. While his parents struggled financially, they gave him a life-long love of language and learning, and he seemed to have a quote for any situation. He married his beloved wife, Dolores “Dee” Zerfas, in 1955, and they recently celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary.
After receiving a B.A. in Physics from Kalamazoo College and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan, Bruce began his career as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineering Corps (Seabees), with postings in Okinawa, Japan, and Oxnard, California. After his time in the Navy, he and Dee returned to the Midwest where he worked his way up to President of the construction company MacKinnon-Parker, Inc. In 1977, he founded his own construction and design services company, The Douglas Company. In 1999, he founded Harvard Development Company, a real estate development firm, leaving The Douglas Company in the very capable hands of his son Pete. In addition, he served on the boards of several corporations, including CNL Income Properties, CNL Lifestyle Properties, and Health Care REIT (now known as Welltower). He also served as Vice-Chair of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, Chairman of the Toledo Regional Growth Partnership, a Director of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, and a charter member of the Maumee Valley chapter of the Young Presidents Organization.
In addition to his business pursuits, he received a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government at age 62 (roughly 30 years older than most of his classmates), followed by a Ph.D. in History from the University of Toledo in 2004 (at age 71). He took up rowing while studying in Boston and, upon his return to Toledo, could often be seen rowing on the Maumee River alongside the freighters.
Drawing on his business and leadership experience, Bruce entered academia by serving as President of Sterling College in Kansas from 2005 to 2008. Finally, at age 75, he allowed himself to retire to Florida with his bride, where he continued real estate development work, wrote a book about his experiences as an entrepreneur (An Entrepreneur is for All Seasons), and became proficient at croquet and painting.
Throughout his life, Bruce engaged in various civic endeavors, serving as precinct committeeman for the Democratic Party in Ottawa Hills, founding the New Ohio Institute, and running for Governor of Ohio in 1997. He also served on the boards of the University of Toledo (and as interim university president), Rollins College Crummer School Board of Advisors, Orlando Museum of Art, Taubman Center Advisory Board at Harvard, Toledo School for the Arts, Wilberforce University, Toledo Cultural Arts Center at the Valentine Theatre, the Toledo Symphony, United Arts of Central Florida, and many others. Bruce and his wife, Dee, gave generously to various causes, including University of Central Florida, Heartbeat of Toledo and sponsoring and supporting a class at Rosary Cathedral from elementary school through college.
Bruce Douglas Death – Obituary, Bruce Douglas has passed away
He was a fan of practical jokes, grand gestures, and extravagant affection and frequently reminded his family that, “the world belongs to the problem solvers.” He shared with his children and grandchildren his relentless optimism, his belief in the power of the individual to change the world, his love for language, his work ethic, and his ever-willingness to play board and card games.
He is survived by his son Peter (Deanne); daughters, Susan Struna (Steve) and Anne Lewis; grandchildren, Bruce Douglas (Lauren), Megan Tarkey (Patrick), Jennifer Douglas, Sam Struna (Josie), Molly Struna, Kate Lewis and Benjamin Lewis; and great-grandchildren, Peter and Johnathan Douglas, and Eloise Struna. Bruce was preceded in death by his parents, Benjamin and Kathleen Douglas; his sister, Kathleen Cosgrove Dannemiller; his brother, William Douglas; and his newborn daughter, Mary Douglas.
Funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park, Florida with graveside service and luncheon at The Alfond Inn to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Sterling College (www.sterlingcollege.edu) or the Orlando Museum of Art (www.omart.org).