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Lasting legacy of public service

West Fargo truly lost one of its finest last week with the death of David Bruckner, retired West Fargo Police Department official who stepped down reluctantly two years ago from his position as Captain, due to a recurring bout with cancer.

Bruckner was a true professional in every sense of the word, with his humble and caring side always showing through, both for the people he worked with and the people he dealt with on a daily basis through his position.

A calm demeanor was his typical nature, driven by a passion for certain elements in his life.

It was apparent that he loved his work and the people he worked with, but first and foremost he was a family man.

Everyone at our office got to know him well when Desert Storm was brewing. His son, David, had been deployed and Bruckner stopped by the office often to provide us with updates on where his son was stationed and how he was doing and to bring in some of the best homemade peanut brittle you'll find anywhere.

Bruckner was extremely proud of his son, beaming as he spoke of him, all the while with that fearful look of concern in his eyes for his safety.

He also spoke glowingly and often of his daughter RaShelle and his grandchildren and their visits, and of his wife of almost four decades, Marilyn.

Bruckner seemed to accept everything matter-of-factly, so when he was diagnosed with his illness the second time he viewed it as simply another twist in the road and was determined to fight, just as he had done the first time. However, the fight became too great and he decided to step down from the position that had been his life for so many years. He still managed to stop by the Police Department as often as he could to visit and reflect about the times he so enjoyed.

He also shared a brief history of the West Fargo Police Department compiled through 'his own eyes.' Some of you 'old-timers' in the community will be able to relate and might even be amused, while some of you newer residents unaware of the community's early days might be amazed that such was really the case.

The following are the points he touched on in 'his own words':

"When I started working for the West Fargo Police Department in 1968, there were only two other sworn members on the department which were Chief Les Lindblad and Sgt. Roger Whitehead."

"The population was just under 5,000 people in the City at that time."

"The City had only one marked squad car and one unmarked squad car. Neither vehicle had air conditioning or an AM radio."

"Officers worked alone, so if we needed help we relied on a deputy or a N.D. Highway Patrolman if they were even in the area. We only patrolled the City until 2 a.m. The officer who worked the night shift took the squad car home and was on call until 6 a.m.

"With the Armour Plant and the Stockyards in full operation, West Fargo had a reputation as being a rough town. If we didn't respond to at least two bar fights a night, it was a slow night.'

"Helen Crawford was hired as our first full-time dispatcher. Helen also obtained additional training while working for West Fargo to become the first female in the state of North Dakota to be licensed as a full-time Peace Officer."

Little did Bruckner know that when he committed to the department in 1967, he would play a pivotal role in transforming the department into what it is today, as one of their longest serving officers in history, devoting 37 years.

Present Police Chief Arland Rasmussen perhaps summed it up best when he said: "Dave was a gentleman who treated people with respect. Mild mannered and thoughtful, he was always watchful for the best for the citizens and for his fellow workers. He enjoyed the community, the department and his family...and was the working officer's friend. Although he obtained the rank of Captain, he never forgot his roots and the time he spent working the streets as a patrol officer. He had great influence on many, many officers he had the privilege of welcoming into the West Fargo Police Dept. He was a friendly, caring leader and friend who will be missed by all."

That was evidenced again in reality and finality last Friday as a packed house of family, friends and colleagues gathered to pay their last respects to the man who had left his indelible mark. His one last processional trip down Sheyenne Street was the fitting conclusion to a life that had often traveled the same street on a mission to serve.

Captain David Bruckner was indeed a gentleman and a gentle man who will be sorely missed. Fortunately, his legacy will live on through his family and his countless, lasting, contributions to the West Fargo Police Department.