Bruce Pfeufer: A CAMP Angel
It’s easy to lose sight of how far we’ve come. We often take for granted the fact that we can walk hand-in-hand on the boardwalk or show a bit of affection in a restaurant with no consequence other than maybe an uncomfortable teenage giggle or a curious stare from the uninformed (or genuinely curious). Things aren’t perfect, of course, but we all enjoy relatively bigot-free lives here at the beach.
This did not happen overnight. I wrote earlier this year about the late gay activist Frank Kameny who spent the second half of his life campaigning full-time for all of us. On a more local level, similar efforts on the part of CAMP Rehoboth continue to make Rehoboth Beach the welcoming destination that it is.
Nobody believes this more than one of CAMP Rehoboth’s greatest advocates and fund raisers, local resident Bruce Pfeufer.
Bruce was born and raised in Baltimore, receiving his certification in drafting from the Maryland Institute of Art. He worked his way through school as a caddy at Turf Valley Country Club in Ellicott City, Maryland. “I liked to watch the golfers play,” he smiles, and proceeds to tell me about his caddying for the 1964 Kelly Girl International Golf Tournament. He finally left the greens behind—but not the grass; spending time mowing the lawns at Curtis Bay Coast Guard Station in Baltimore, where his dad was the Chief of Public Works.
In the early ‘70s, Bruce finally put his degree to good use by joining Western Electric, creating and modifying blueprints and schematics for central-station equipment. As government intrusion morphed Western Electric into ATT and eventually Lucent Technologies, Bruce morphed right along with them. “The people I worked with made a big difference in my life,” he says, and at 49 years old, he finally felt comfortable coming out to his fellow workers. When I asked him how long he worked there, he didn’t miss a beat: “29 years, 7 months, 4 days and 69 minutes.” Apparently he was anxious to get to the beach.
He met his partner in ’97, and though they didn’t live together, they both worked hard on many projects including the Montgomery Gay Men’s Community annual picnic in Cabin John Park in Potomac, Maryland. His partner had been a medical imaging technician and was semi-retired when he passed away in early 2003. Bruce is not without medical issues of his own, proudly referring to himself as “Titanium Man” in honor of the metalwork in his hip. Heart surgery in ’92 at Johns Hopkins followed by a successful battle with cancer left him with an even more positive outlook. “I made up my mind that I was not going to let this get me down.”
Pfeufer channels that upbeat attitude into generous donations to Beebe Hospital, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia (for lymphoma research), Howard County Community College and Howard County General Hospital in Columbia, Maryland. But his first love is CAMP Rehoboth. I asked him why. “I support the charities of my choice,” he emphasized. “I believe 100% in what CAMP does for the community. They do a lot more than people realize. They work both sides of the fence,” he continues, “like helping to inform and enlighten local government and the local police force.” And in the process of helping CAMP Rehoboth, he provides great entertainment for everybody in Rehoboth Beach.
Bruce was responsible for bringing the D.C. Cowboys Dance Company to Rehoboth in 2010 and 2011, and both shows were big successes. As underwriter of the events, he wastes no time giving credit to his friend Jeff Kiley at Mini Bear Graphics. (“Without whom I couldn’t have done it.”) Pfeufer’s poised to outdo even himself this year when, on Saturday, July 28th, the Rehoboth Convention Center will light up for a one-time performance of Typhoon Judy—starring none other than our very own Christopher Peterson as the immortal Judy Garland.
Delaware entertainment lovers have mourned Peterson’s move to greener pastures (venue-wise), and Bruce is working tirelessly to give us a second chance to revel in Christopher’s uncanny impersonation of the legendary actress and chanteuse. Now a Key West resident, Peterson’s homecoming is the result of intense collaboration among his staff, Bruce, Mini Bear Graphics, and CAMP Rehoboth itself.
“Ticket sales so far represent a cross-section of Delaware,” beams Pfeufer. “Straight, gay, young, old, locals, vacationers—they all want to see Christopher do what he does best.”
Those who know Bruce know that he’s nothing if not enthusiastic. He’s constantly thinking (often out loud) about how to maximize the benefit of his efforts for CAMP Rehoboth. He literally bubbles over with excitement, and the quotes in this article represent only a tiny fraction of his animated promotion of the upcoming event.
I was a casual acquaintance of the late Frank Kameny (no slouch in the enthusiasm department himself), and I wish he were alive to witness the conglomeration of ages, genders and sexual proclivities that will pack our municipal convention center this coming 28th of July—to celebrate a man performing a flawless tribute to Judy Garland.
Yes, indeed. We have come a long way.
Bob Yesbek is a Rehoboth Beach resident. Email Bob Yesbek