Bruce “Big Bear” Albert Semler, 60, of Yukon, Oklahoma, finally got that perfect pair of legs on Monday, May 1, 2023. He leaves a huge hole in the hearts of his family and friends who were always entertained by his stories, sense of humor and sometimes “cantankerous” disposition, but knowing that at a moment’s notice, he would drop whatever he was doing to help with whatever you needed.
Bruce was born on March 20, 1963, but many would say his life actually began the following day. After driving all night, following “the call,” a man named Al, his wife Janice and their baby girl, Michelle, arrived at a hospital in Ft Worth, Texas, to take their baby boy home from the hospital. The Semler family lived for a short time in Alamogordo, New Mexico, then moved to Yukon, Oklahoma, in 1964.
Growing up on Kingston Drive was the best life a kid could hope for, with many great neighbors that are still close friends today. Yukon was still small back then, and Interstate 40 wasn’t even there until a few years later. You knew everyone in town and couldn’t go to Snyder’s, T G & Y, Conrad Marr or the Ben Franklin without running into someone you knew – however, having a mom for a schoolteacher and a dad for a principal in a small town brought its own challenges.
From the beginning of Bruce’s life, many enjoyable summers were spent in the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado, not only with mom, dad and sister, but also with Al’s parents, George and Myrtle Semler of Raton, New Mexico, and Janice’s parents, Richard and Eunice Bowlware of Yukon, Yukon. This sparked a love of the mountains and the outdoors in Bruce and Michelle both, and their families enjoyed a trip back not long ago to ride 4-wheelers in the mountains.
Bruce and Michelle threw the Yukon Review together for years before they turned 16. During high school, he worked for McDonald’s and picked up extra work during the summer at Yukon Public Schools. He graduated from Yukon High School in 1981 with many friends that are still close today. His early interests included photography, hunting, fishing, motorcycles and his truck.
He joined the United States Army and left for basic training in Georgia the day after high school graduation. He injured his knee and was sent home the day before he started college at SWOSU in Weatherford, Oklahoma. He had planned on becoming an industrial arts teacher someday like his father, but was bit by the car racing bug, moved back to Yukon and went to work for Wilsey Bennett to “support his hobby.” Bruce loved to race cars, racing in street stock, and won Rookie of the Year in 1984. On July 31, 1987, Bruce, working as a pit crewman for Stan Constant at the Kansas State Fairgrounds, had his legs crushed when he was hit by a skidding race car. He spent months in hospitals in Kansas and Oklahoma City, had multiple surgeries in the years since and spent months in rehabs throughout his life.
Bruce worked at the farm on County Line Road for 14 years and then moved to the family farm on Frisco Road and worked as a Pilot Car driver until his death. Bruce has remained fiercely independent through it all, though it had become more of a struggle in the last few months. Bruce had a love for kids. Even though he never married and never had any of his own, he loved his nieces and nephews and so many others. They all loved their “Uncle Buck.”
Bruce is survived by his mother, Janice Lee Semler of Yukon; his sister, Michelle Ellison and husband Dale of Yukon; nieces, Christi Cina and husband Shawn of Yukon and Heather Ellison of Oklahoma City; nephews, Bryan Ellison and wife Paige of Yukon and Colby Ellison and wife Savanah of Yukon; great nephews, Ashton, Harper and Noah; great niece, Rhye; and many other family members and close friends. Bruce is now at peace, preceded in death by his father, Albert George Semler. Can you imagine the stories they are catching up on?
A memorial service for Bruce will be held on Monday, May 8 at 2 p.m. at The Yukon Church, located at 11715 NW 10th Street, Yukon, Oklahoma, 73099. If you wish to make a donation in lieu of flowers, please consider the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. There are multiple programs for youth education in hunting, fishing, archery and multiple outdoor activities that Bruce loved.
Online condolences may be signed at www.yandafuneral.com. Arrangements are under the direction of Yanda & Son Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Yukon, Oklahoma.