Charles Thomas Bruce, 73, Parks Sausage official who helped buy company

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Charles Thomas Bruce, a longtime official with the old Parks Sausage Co., died of congestive heart failure Saturday at Sinai Hospital. The Ashburton resident was 73.

Mr. Bruce was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he attended public schools, and served from 1945 to 1947 with an Army ordnance company. He also studied business at the University of Baltimore.

After working at several jobs in Philadelphia, he moved to Baltimore in 1954 to join Parks Sausage. The company, founded four years earlier by Henry G. Parks Jr., grew into the nation's 35th-largest black-owned business and the first to sell stock to the public.

Mr. Bruce served as the company's materials manager and purchasing agent for 36 years until retiring in 1990.

"He was the kind of man you wanted on a business team. He was very able and totally focused. He paid attention to the smallest details," said Raymond V. Haysbert, former chairman and chief executive officer of Parks, who began working for the company in 1952.

"His greatest role was as materials manager. He controlled everything we bought and always negotiated the best price," Mr. Haysbert aid. "He also had to arrange for purchasing, storage and transportation. And when you're dealing with a fresh product, that's always very important."

Mr. Bruce was highly respected and well-liked throughout the company.

"He would have made an excellent salesman. He smiled easily, and I never heard a negative word about him from his colleagues. However, he could still be a no-nonsense person when the situation required him to be," Mr. Haysbert said.

In 1977, the company was sold to Norin Corp., a food conglomerate, which in turn was sold to Cannellus Corp., a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific Railway

In 1980, Mr. Bruce joined other Parks Sausage executives in purchasing the company from Cannellus, with the aid of $2.5 million in industrial revenue bonds approved by the City Council.

"He was a stalwart and played a very important role in that historic move. He liked investing and was one of the four top people in the company that took a risk in buying it back," Mr. Haysbert said.

Since 1999, the company has been owned by the Philadelphia-based Dietz & Watson Inc.

Mr. Bruce enjoyed spending time with his family.

"He was a strong, generous and supportive family man," said a stepdaughter, Jeannette L. Hall of Ashburton. "He was our pillar of strength. He recognized the numerous strains that people face in life, and was always willing to assist anyone who asked for help."

Mr. Bruce established a family circle that aided family members and planned social gatherings and vacations. Ms. Hall said it "uplifts the spiritual, financial, emotional and physical well-being of our entire family."

Services were held yesterday.

Mr. Bruce also is survived by his wife of 37 years, the former Marion E. Matthews; a son, Charles T. Bruce Jr. of Columbia; three daughters, Renee T. Matthews, Beverly Ebb and Cheryl B. Watts, all of Baltimore; his mother and stepfather, Floscelia Thomas McIntosh and Hamp McIntosh of Danville, Va.; two stepsons, Walter M. Matthews of Martinsburg, W.Va., and Robert E. Matthews of Ashburton; two other stepdaughters, Dorothy M. Taylor of Columbia and Sandra P. Fowlks of Ashburton; 19 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren. His marriage to the former Evelyn Moore ended in divorce.

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