CRANBERRY ISLES — Bruce Henry Komusin, 66, passed away Feb. 14, 2015, Valentine’s Day, at a local health care facility after a long, very courageous battle with cancer. He was born in Queens, Long Island, N.Y., on March 26, 1948, the son of Henry and Margarite (Heimerle) Komusin.
An exceptional student, he graduated from Carle Place High School, Queens, in 1964 at age 16, having skipped two grades. He studied at the New York Institute of Technology for two years, before graduating from Hofstra University in 1969, with degrees in computer science and engineering. His career was spent in computer programming and design. He first worked for Ontel in New York. He subsequently started his own company with two friends at Freeport, Long Island, N.Y. After several years, he returned to Ontel. He then worked for several different computer companies, including contract work overseas in the Netherlands, Monaco, Italy and Moscow.
Bruce first came to Great Cranberry Island in the early 1990s, and was so impressed with the beauty and small town lifestyle of the island that he eventually purchased approximately 20 acres of land from close friends, Dot and Andy McSorley. During the next few years, he built an impressive cottage overlooking Preble Cove with beautiful views toward Southwest Harbor. He became deeply interested in the history of the Cranberry Isles and the year-round sustainability challenges facing the town, especially focusing on, at that time, the rapidly declining year-round population on Great Cranberry. In 1993, he became a founding member of the Great Cranberry Island Historical Society (GCIHS) and eventually became its vice president for many years. He immersed himself in historical research and preservation of historical artifacts and documents, even though the society initially had no museum to display these materials. When the Longfellow School ceased operations in 2000 due to lack of students, he joined forces with GCIHS President Wini Smart to establish the first museum on the island in rented, vacant school spaces.
In 2004, the possibility arose that the school might reopen and would need the museum rooms back. The GCIHS trustees began searching for a new museum home. Bruce seized the initiative and donated two valuable acres of land, fronting on the main Cranberry Road. That act of generosity led others to donate, enabling excavation of a full basement and the purchase by GCIHS of a large building of historical significance, the former Mountain View Inn Restaurant. Over the next four years, Bruce helped supervise moving the building to its present site, and renovating it as visionary ideas developed, to include the historical museum, cafe, upstairs program and arts center, public restroom, media and archiving center, landscaped lawns, gardens and woods, and a beautiful nature trail through the woods to Whistler Cove Beach.
With the encouragement of friends Phil and Karin Whitney, he moved to Cranberry Island in 2005 to make his permanent home there. This move enabled him to work continuously year-round on the renovations. The facility, known as Cranberry House, opened its doors in June 2008. Bruce, who was extremely detailed-oriented, knew every detail of construction and every operational aspect. The property quickly became a center of community activity with thousands of people visiting, and represented the beginning of a resurgence of the community as a vibrant place to live and work. Bruce was an everyday presence on the property over the next seven years, summer and winter, and thrived on greeting visitors while relating stories of island history, especially of noted local author Rachel Field and her fictional storybook doll, Hitty Preble. He especially enjoyed helping host the many programs and events held over the years at Cranberry House, and will be fondly remembered for providing technical support for movie nights at the “Seaside Playhouse” in the Arts Center.
His generosity, kindness and spirit of volunteerism extended well beyond the boundaries of Cranberry House. When he moved permanently to Maine, he bought and renovated a small house and adjoining cabin nearer the center of the island. He moved into the small house, and rented the shorefront house and cabin at lower affordable housing rental rates, to enable more people to live year-round on the island. He volunteered to serve as treasurer on the library board, was a member of the Town Planning Board, and the SWH Historical Society. In his spare time, he provided free assistance with computer problems to many frustrated island residents.
In 2012, recognizing that the sustainable future of Great Cranberry Island lay in having affordable housing available, he donated another acre of land behind Cranberry House to take advantage of bond money that the state had designated for constructing new affordable homes on the outer islands. Even though diagnosed with advanced stages of colon and liver cancer, he courageously oversaw the construction of two houses, and lived to see two families with four school-age children happily occupy these homes.
His final two seasons also saw him volunteering to drive the new Cranberry Explorer golf cart shuttle service, which GCIHS and Cranberry House operated. He was reported to be a wonderful tour guide, enthusiastically relating to first time visitors the wonders and history of the island paradise he loved.
Humorously nicknamed by some friends as the “Island Philanthropist,” he leaves behind a huge legacy of positive achievement in the community, and wonderful examples of good island neighborliness for others to follow. Bruce will be missed so very, very much.
Bruce is survived by: his sister, Mary Ellen Lewis of Venice, Fla.; niece Elizabeth Croce and husband, Drew, of Florida; niece Michelle Rigo, of Florida; nephew John Paul Rigo, of Florida; great-nephew, Connor Croce, of Florida; special friends, Phil and Karin Whitney of Cranberry Island; Wini and Fred Quackenbush of Southwest Harbor; and many, many Cranberry Isles friends.
The family wishes to express their sincerest thanks to the staff at Birch Bay Village, Dr. Brooks, and the Oncology Staff at MDI Hospital, and the volunteer hospice personnel for their outstanding support and kindness during Bruce’s illness.
Memorial services will be held next August on Cranberry Island, with interment at Preble Cemetery, which overlooks Cranberry House and the new affordable housing homes.
Those who desire may make contributions in Bruce’s memory to the Great Cranberry Historical Society (Cranberry House), P.O. Box 12, Cranberry Isles, ME 04625 or Cranberry Isles Realty Trust (CIRT), P.O. Box 4, Cranberry Isles, ME 04625.
Arrangements in care of Acadia Burial & Cremation Direct, 248 State St. Ellsworth.