Bruce Allen: A Reluctant Grand Marshal

The stereotype of World War II veterans is that they don’t like to talk about their service. They did what they had to. They came home. They got on with their lives.

Tomorrow’s Westport Memorial Day grand marshal fits that stereotype perfectly.

Bruce Allen  was a combat infantryman, serving as a gunner in the 78th Division. His decorations include a Purple Heart (for wounds at the Remagen River Bridge in 1945), Bronze Star and Croix de Guerre.

Bruce downplays it all. After the war, he says, “I wanted to be away from all that. I never look back. Always forward.” He’s been to just one high school reunion, and did not join any veterans group.

Bruce Allen (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com)

Bruce Allen (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com)

After his service, he majored in theater and English at Wesleyan University. He worked in TV production at NBC and ABC (and freelanced at CBS), and became a producer/director at J. Walter Thompson and Grey Advertising. He was also a vice president and production supervisor at Grey.

Bruce and his wife Marjorie moved to Westport in 1957. His brother and sister-in-law (who was also Marjorie’s sister) already lived here. Bruce and his wife loved the water.

While scoutmaster of Troop 39, 13 boys became Eagle Scouts. He was director of community services for the Y’s Men, and has been active in Greens Farms Congregational Church as moderator, chairman of deacons and a church school teacher. Bruce also spent 46 years as an auxiliary and special police officer.

He says he is embarrassed to be named grand marshal. Speaking for many others of his generation, he says: “We did what we did. Then we went on with our lives.”

Tomorrow morning, Bruce Allen will lead Westport’s parade reluctantly. He’s been in it before — but only as an Indian Guide, police officer and Y’s Men member.

In recent years, he and Marjorie have brought chairs, and sat near Town Hall. He never imagined he’d be the one that so many paradegoers cheer on, and wave to.

“It’s a great day to honor all those who sacrificed for our country,” he says simply. “It’s a nice day for the town.”

(The Memorial Day parade begins Monday, May 25 at 9 a.m., at Saugatuck Elementary School. It travels up Riverside Avenue, across the Post Road bridge, then turns left on Myrtle Avenue before ending at Town Hall. Memorial services — definitely worth watching — follow immediately on Veterans Green, opposite Town Hall.)

4 responses to “Bruce Allen: A Reluctant Grand Marshal

  1. Peter Allen

    Thanks, Dan, for this lovely tribute. My dad has always had the faithful, humble heart of a servant. That he has also been a hero and a leader makes him all the more special in my eyes.

  2. Susan Hopkins

    I salute you Mr. Allen, and thank you for your service to our country. Thank you, sir.

  3. The battle of Remagen Bridge was one of the most significant in the latter stages of the war, and it helped bring a quicker end to World War II. Thanks to the efforts and courage of Mr. Allen and his fellow soldiers who fought in that battle, a number of lives were ultimately saved.

  4. Brian Pettee

    I know Bruce Allen through the eyes of my Dad. Most recently, about three years ago, I heard my Dad mention that Bruce Allen “called recently looking for volunteers” for helping seniors get to events and activities, or this or that. And my since my Dad spoke about it, it implied he was going to make it a priority if he could have.

    If my recall is right, I think Bruce and my Dad, Mike Pettee, became acquainted through Westport Police Auxiliary around the 1970s. Maybe they commuted on Metro North together to the Grand Central. So when I hear the name Bruce Allen, I only saw the tip of his iceberg, so I think of a guy in a cop uniform and a steadfast demeanor and voice (at age nine or so, when I first ever saw him, I thought he was full-time police staff not in the least because he drove a cruiser, not volunteer auxiliary). He must be probably one of the most selfless community-minded guys I have ever heard about; and Dan, your biography corroborates this as you note his consistently honorable conduct.

    When Zig Ziglar, the motivationalist, said “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”, he was definitely thinking of Bruce Allen. Hope his parade appearance inspires more Moms and Dad to give back as much or even more.