March 18, 2010

Daughter of 'Bruce Roberts' thrilled with his legacy



Staff Writer

Brucine Wilbur always had a special place in her heart for the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund. Not only has the fund provided holiday gifts to thousands of needy Maine youngsters for more than half a century, but it was co-founded by the father she adored.

Wilbur, a lifelong Cape Elizabeth resident, died in April at age 79. At that time, her family requested that those who wished to remember her send not flowers but a donation to the toy fund in her name. Now, as another Christmas approaches, those generous donations in her memory will help continue the tradition that her father began in 1949: ensuring a happy holiday each year for needy children.

''My mother would just be so pleased,'' said Susan Collier, one of Wilbur's two daughters. ''I think that's what she would choose.''

The fund is sponsored by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. It was started in 1949 by Wilbur's father, Robert Bruce Beith, then an editor for the Portland Evening Express, and Matthew Barron, Portland's assistant welfare director at the time.

In a column that Beith wrote under the pseudonym Bruce Roberts, which were his first and middle names transposed, he announced a drive to meet a goal of raising $1,000 to provide toys for 100 children.

The goal was exceeded that year, with nearly $4,000 raised by the appeal. The fund has continued to grow throughout the decades.

Today, it provides toys and other gifts to needy youngsters throughout York, Cumberland, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Knox counties. Last year, the fund helped 7,200 children.

It relies on donations from readers, with all the money going to purchase new toys and other useful gifts.

Wilbur regularly contributed to the fund and her daughter said she spoke of it often. ''She was very proud of it,'' said Collier, who lives in Massachusetts.

Collier said that when her mother was born, her parents were expecting a son they planned to name Bruce. They named her Brucine instead.

In an interview with the Press Herald/Telegram last year, Wilbur said she greatly admired her father, who died in 1990.

''He was a wonderful, marvelous man,'' she said. ''Look what he left now, with all the children that are enjoying and benefitting from what he started, he and Mr. Barron.''

Wilbur, who said she was a college student when the fund started, also fondly recalled her childhood Christmases with her parents and siblings. Wilbur's younger brother is Robert B. Beith III, a Cape Elizabeth resident. A third sibling, Marla Houghton, is deceased.

''We didn't have an awful lot of money but my father was an only child and his parents loved him a great deal and made a lot of us,'' Wilbur said last year.

In fact, Collier said that the elder Robert Beith, her mother's father, was an orphan who was adopted by Alexander and Charlotte Beith. Collier believes that a major reason her grandfather was so concerned about needy children was that he wanted to help others as he had been helped.

In recent years, Wilbur and her brother toured the Congress Street building from which volunteers run the toy fund and were impressed with how it had grown, said Kathleen Meade, the fund's project director.

Meade said Wilbur spoke fondly of her father and said he would be gratified to see the toy fund as it is today. Meade said Wilbur said: ''He'd be amazed. He'd love it.''

Collier said, ''It was so nice she got to actually see it.''

Staff Writer Tess Nacelewicz can be contacted at 791-6367 or at:


Previous $17,765.68

In memory of Joseph & Stefanina Germani Anthony Chiasson $250

In memory of Laura and Britt Moir...David Abbiati $25

In memory of Merton Sargent ... Lisa Sargent $50

Dorothy Kelleher $50

In memory of Edith Murchie ... Donald Murchie $200

In memory of Joan & Peter Carpenter ... Peter Carpenter $200

Richard & Nancy Lemieux $200

In memory of Janice Sabettini ... Mr. & Mrs. James Osterrieder $25

In memory of Clarence Osterrie-der...Mr. & Mrs. James Osterrieder $25

Lois Lupica $210

In memory of Lester S. Emerson Jr. Priscilla Emerson $100

Patricia Born $50

In memory of Tony Richards ... Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Leeman $100

In honor of Colleen Morschauser from one of the gang, Beth Goodrich $5

In memory of Robert P. & Carolyn B. Snyder ... Robert Snyder $100

Charles Horstmann $20

Frank & Nancy Fowles $100

In memory of Mary & Margaret Shapazian with love from Patti $20

Barbara Connolly $75

In memory of Brucine Wilbur ... Betty & James Carpentier $20

In memory of Brucine Wilbur ... Meridith Caiati $20

In memory of Ruth Hunderson Paula M. Norton $10

Warren Roos Photography $100

Woman's Woodfords Club $25

J O C I J I A N N A (57 Yr) $500

In memory of loved ones from the Randalls $100

Anonymous $1,000

In memory of Brucine Wilbur (mother of Susan Collier)Robin & Kevin Shea $25

Winnegance Chapter 119 O E S $50

Women's Fellowship, First Congregational Church, North Yarmouth $250

In memory of Brucine Wilbur ... Rita Dean $10

In memory of Brucine Wilbur ... Edward & Audrey Feigenbaum $10

In memory of Brucine Beith Wilbur, daughter of the founder of the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund Mr. & Mrs. Amory Houghton III $50

In memory of Brucine Wilbur ... Richard & Kimberly Brooks $50

In memory of Brucine B. Wilbur Mrs. Jimmie R. Gordon $25

In memory of Brucine Wilbur Craig & Diane Alie $50

In memory of Brucine B. Wilbur Ellen Lemaistre $25

In memory of Brucine B. Wilbur Diane & Joel Corriveau Sr. $20

Teresa & Donald Holden $200

William H. Johnson $500

Anonymous $100

In memory of Granna Hilly & Woodie $100

The staff of Cape Arundel Inn hopes this helps $750

Ralph Vance Land Development $500

In memory of Marthann Hartford by Buzz & Sandra Hartford $50

Paul & Ellen Regan $100

In memory of James & Eleanor Kehoe & Raymond L. Davignon Scott & Dolores Kehoe $50

Barbara A. Henckel $300

In memory of my wife, Joyce S. Freeman E.W. Freeman $200

Anonymous $200

Richard & Doris Littlefield $5

Anonymous $250

Lorelle J. Pelletier $20

Today's Total $7,505.00

Total to Date $25,270.68

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