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Pillars of the Charis Community
– Bill Brice –

By Karen Troyer

Pillar

Photo of Bill BriceBill Brice (The Most Reverend William R. Brice) has been a close friend for more than 25 years. He is one of those extraordinary people who is an obvious blessing from God – a sacrament for our family. Bill and I served on our first team on the same weekend – at FCI Sandstone in March 1987. He and I were both introduced to Kairos by Glen Silker, the lay director on that weekend, and along with my husband John, we three served many weekends together at Sandstone, Rush City, Yankton SD, and Shakopee. A little more than a year after our first meeting, Bill married John and me at Creek Valley Baptist Church, in June 1988. Six and a half years later he baptized David, our infant son. And somewhere in that period of our lives, he invited our daughter Miranda and me to be baptized by immersion. He even officiated at my mom's wedding. We have all been blessed by the precious time we have spent with Bill Brice. God has blessed our community with his friendship and service. We thought you might like an update.

Bill Brice is currently residing at Sunrise of Edina Assisted Living. He and Bernie (Bernadette) moved into Sunrise a couple years ago when Bill could no longer care for Bernie at their Edina home when she required 24 hour care. Although they only lived a few blocks from the care center, Bill spent most of his time there and most nights he slept on a cot next to her bed. He finally moved into her room and has been living there for over a year. When Bernie passed away in October 2013, Bill decided to remain at Sunrise. He told me how grateful he was to be able to be with her every day. They were married for 66 years and although he misses her, he fulfilled his promise to Bernie to be her protector to the end – she didn't want to be the one left alone.

After graduating from Minneapolis Central High School, Bill enlisted in the Marines in 1943. He served in the Pacific and fought in the Battle at Okinawa at age 19. Of that experience he said, "We advanced to the front lines through horrible battles. I remember the mud and the layers of bodies of dead marines. I recognized a few. I felt I was under the power of death and began to believe that 'that's where I'll be' – it was my darkest moment, when I felt all life and hope were gone. And suddenly I'm lifted, soaring in a heavenly realm where only love, peace and joy are present. All in the midst of the death that surrounded me. And I knew that I had no reason to worry – that God had His hand on my life and nothing else mattered." That was June, 1945. Bill was home again in 1946.

Before enlisting in the Marines, Bill had planned to study engineering in college. But his experiences in battle had changed him. He spoke of a fellow soldier who came to him with worries about his relationship with God. Bill could only ask himself, why me? But he spoke with the soldier. He assured him of God's love and shared scripture with him that night. The next day Bill was 20 feet away when the soldier was killed in a blast. Bill explained he had not been exposed to church as a child. In junior high, Bill began to attend Sunday School with a friend. "That teacher connected God to nature and the outdoors and I was hooked into church. Some years later that preacher suggested that I consider being a minister. I guess I listened." Following discharge from the Marines, Bill worked in construction for the summer. That fall, he enrolled at Bethel College. It was there he met Bernie in the chapel. She was in a trio and sang solos. She asked him out on their first date, to the Sadie Hawkins Dance, in October. He proposed on Christmas Eve and they were married in August 1947.

Bill spent a year at Bethel, then went to the U of M for his BA degree, and then back to Bethel for 3 years in seminary. "I felt I had been called into ministry. And Bernie had been called to be a minister's wife. She was the BEST partner I could have had." Their first assignment was in Preston, WA, a small lumbertown east of Seattle, that lasted for 4 years. After serving at another suburban church in chaos, they left for Canada where Bill worked as a cowboy, tending cattle on the open range for a couple of years. They returned to Minneapolis with their three young children where Bill worked in the church office before being assigned to a new church home. Within the year they went to Mapleton where they served for 4 years. Then to Duluth for 13 years and then to Creek Valley Baptist in Edina for another 13 years. After retiring from Creek Valley in 1991, Bill served at the inner-city Calvary Baptist Church for more than 20 years, as a friend to the young minister and his congregation.

Before serving at his first Kairos weekend, "Uncle Bill" served as SD on several United Cursillo weekends in the Twin Cities. After working on the March 1987 Sandstone weekend, Bill estimates he served on "a couple dozen" teams at Sandstone, Rochester, Waseca, Shakopee, Yankton and Rush City over the next 20 years. He was part of the Board of Directors when Kairos became Charis in Minnesota. Bill shared a memory of the chapel at Sandstone. "The room was full and we began to sing an old hymn. When the men sang it was like we were singing together in paradise!" And he said, "When I went to prison, I always felt, that's where I belong. I am with my brothers. I am one of them."

Bill spends his time with friends and family at Sunrise. His children and grandchildren live nearby and visit often. He keeps busy maintaining relationships with fellow residents and staff at Sunrise, where he can be found lifting spirits and sharing laughs, hugs and God's love. If you'd like to send him a note (he turned 89 on July 14) he would love to hear from you.

Sunrise of Edina
7128 France Ave. So.
Edina, MN 55435
952-927-8000