Durango lost one of its most visionary community organizers Tuesday morning when Bliss Bruen died after a brief fight with aggressive cancer.
The suddenness of her passing has us collectively grieving a woman whose work during her three decades of living here was so impressive that we feel urgently that we need to pick up where she left off, in case we let her legacy flicker.
Bliss was a convener. A connector, a do-er, a unifier.
Her wide-open view of the world made her a masterly community organizer who started at the grass roots and worked up to mobilize us when we didn’t even know where to start.
One of Bliss’ greatest skills was to find out what your interests were and then connect you with someone who shared them. She knew the meaning of strength in numbers. Since her death, numerous stories already have been shared by those who said they had a small idea that Bliss helped to make a reality – often because she was the connection they needed to act.
She knew that organizing, mobilizing and educating people was how we create a sense of community. She was keen to hear about all the parts that make us do our jobs, educate our children, teach our neighbors, grow our shared gardens.
After her own children were grown and out of school, she remained deeply involved in ensuring students had the best education this community could provide.
She was a documentary filmmaker, and she shared with us films from all over the world that made us feel connected to something beyond our small corner of Colorado.
She had persuasive leadership ability, she was full of empathy, and she made you feel like your job was the most important one in the world – and then she asked how she could help you.
Bliss was also a loyal friend and tremendous supporter of this newspaper. She believed deeply in our role to hold power to account and that a free press is the lifeblood of democracy. She was a champion and defender of our work, and was always prepared to convene stakeholders to help sustain us.
Her devotion was just as deep in public media.
Among her last acts to ensure that our community stays informed was bringing to fruition her vision for collaboration and innovation between media and educators.
The new Rocky Mountain PBS Regional Innovation Center at Fort Lewis College was the latest to open based on the groundwork Bliss laid during her years-long volunteer service to the public television station.
The swiftness of her death – only weeks since her diagnosis – leaves us stunned and searching for a soft place to land.
We may never fill the hole she left, but Bliss left us well-connected. And the most honorable thing we can do is convene in the ways that she showed us and set about together to continue her work.