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Published: Thursday, 11/5/2009

Bus driver helped in rescue of 2 from fire

LYONS, Ohio - Bruce E. Nelson, 63, a TARTA bus driver who helped rescue a couple from their burning apartment, died of nonalcoholic cirrhosis Saturday in Ebeid Hospice Residence, Sylvania.

Mr. Nelson, of Fulton County's Royalton Township the last 11 years, drove for the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority about 23 years. A fall on the job caused his disability retirement in 1994.

On Dec. 12, 1990, as he drove his bus in North Toledo, passengers alerted him to a woman screaming from an upstairs window. He radioed in the fire, stopped his bus, and ran to help.

"My only thought was to get [the couple] out," Mr. Nelson told The Blade then.

He and two other men used a ladder to help the couple from their second-floor apartment at 712 Elm St. Before the husband descended, he dropped the couple's dog from the window into Mr. Nelson's outstretched arms.

His wife, Mary, only learned of his heroism when a reporter called. He later explained to her that he didn't say anything because it was no big deal, he said. Anyone would have done it. He told The Blade: "I was just following my instincts."

He received a Good Samaritan Award from what is now the Safety Council of Northwest Ohio. TARTA trustees honored him for "citizenship and concern for others."

Mr. Nelson was a graduate of Start High School. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in the Vietnam War. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

"He was a Marine all the way," his wife said. "He was just an all-American guy. Obviously that's why I married him. He was kind. He was considerate. He was a good father. He was an excellent husband."

Stained glass was his hobby, and from his home workshop, he fashioned pieces he gave to family and friends.

His fawn pug, Buddy, was with him everywhere and "was the joy of his life," his wife said.

Surviving are his wife, Mary, whom he married May 4, 1968; daughters, Wendy Tanner and Amanda Osborn, and a grandson.

Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Newcomer Funeral Home, Toledo, where the family will receive friends after noon.

The family suggests tributes to the Ebeid Hospice Residence, Sylvania, or Wounded Warrior Project, Jacksonville, Fla.

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