Bruce MacRae, pictured with (from left): LA Sheriff and former Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, Long Beach State Women's Soccer Team members Ashton, Mimi and Mimi and Long Beach Memorial Security. Photos courtesy of Bruce MacRae.
Just about a month ago, Long Beach resident Bruce MacRae had an encounter with his own mortality.
He was in Phoenix, Arizona, where his job as the vice president of State Government Affairs for the West Region of UPS often takes him.
“I got back walking to my room, and I experienced the usual [heart attack] signs—sweat, shortness of breath, pain in the chest,” said MacRae. “I dropped and took a knee.”
MacRae, who insists that all “people over the age of 50 should carry an Aspirin,” popped an Aspirin and waited an uneasy amount of time before could receive a CT scan at home in Long Beach.
The results of the scan were serious: MacRae found he would need “full-blown open heart surgery” to deal with numerous clogged arteries.
Many a Long Beach resident holds MacRae near and dear to their heart.
MacRae with Long Beach Fire Department chiefs.
MacRae grew up in the city, graduating from Wilson High School. He began his tenure at UPS as an un-loader at an Anaheim package facility in 1979, working his way up to a full-time driver and Teamster Union Shop Steward before entering management in 1987. He’s worked in many positions at UPS, gradually rising to his current executive position.
Beyond that, he’s a hearty man with a zest for life that comes across in colorful anecdotes (including one, jokingly, about the “Dr. McDreamy” who conducted the heart surgery), and charming advice. His engaging personality captures the attention of anyone in his vicinity. But it doesn’t end there.
MacRae’s a Long Beach City College (LBCC) Board member. He’s a Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) alumnus. He’s the Long Beach Police Foundation president. He gives generously to the CSULB Athletic Department and is president of the Athletics Board of Directors at his alma mater.
MacRae with State Senator Isadore Hall and friends.
MacRae, a product of Long Beach, actively serves the city. And those he works with could not forget that.
When MacRae entered the hospital on Friday, October 9, groups of community members wished him well in waves upon waves.
CSULB President Jane Close Conoley visited. Members from the CSULB basketball team visited. Macrae estimates he received “1,000 emails” from his UPS colleagues.
“Bruce is really positive,” said Denise Porrazzo, the Long Beach Police Foundation’s administrative director. “He’s well-known in the community and well-liked in the community. He really helps get the word out about who we are. Everyone is just so supportive of him.”
“He’s incredibly involved—he’s so passionate about our teams,” said Roger Kirk, assistant athletic director for Long Beach State. “Nobody even thought twice about it. It was ‘what can we do to help Bruce’? People who felt strongly about Bruce took the opportunity to see him and wish him well.”
MacRae with the Long Beach State Men's Volleyball team.
“The outpouring of love was just...it blew me out of the water,” said MacRae. He said he didn’t experience much fear during his 12-day hospital stay, despite the severity of the surgery, because of the constant stream of support from the community.
He said he was constantly surprised by the number of people who came to see him. Take, for example, his third day in the ICU.
“I hear this noise and all of a sudden, the entire [Long Beach State] women’s basketball team was there,” he said. The Orange County Sheriff, the Los Angeles County Sheriff, and Long Beach fire chiefs followed.
The Long Beach State Women's Basketball team.
Wayne Stickney, senior associate athletics director for Major Gifts and Resource Acquisition at Long Beach State Athletics, has known Macrae for years, and spoke with admiration of the Long Beach stalwart.
“He has accrued a lot of personal wealth, and he likes to give a lot of it away,” said Stickney, explaining MacRae's legendary status among Long Beach State students. “A lot of student-athletes work really hard and they don’t have positive reinforcement.”
Stickney said MacRae’s constant presence at games and genuine interest in the well-being of the teams is irreplaceable, and students individually and in groups took the time to wish him well during his stay because of the personal bond they feel with him.
“When I went to see him, I gave him a Hulk Hogan figurine,” said Stickney. “He has so many people that are in his life—I just wanted to pop in and give him a hug and spend time with him. He was very courageous in many ways."
However, just because MacRae was courageous didn't mean the Long Beach community wasn't anxious.
"I think there’s an insane fear of losing one of the great men of our time in our community,” said Stickney. “All I’ll say about Bruce is that he’s a person who makes those better around him, and I hope he keeps doing that for a long time.”
Thanks to the support, MacRae is back at home, with his daughter Megan on hand to take care of him.
“She’s everything,” said MacRae. “I’ve become no bacon and it’s health-[first].”
And he’ll actually remember his time in the hospital fondly, thanks to his caring visitors.
“When you do something from your heart, you don’t expect anything,” MacRae said. With the support he received, he reflected, “How can you not be positive? How can you not be happy?”
MacRae, center, sports his new scar with his doctors, nurse and family.