KEWADIN — Bruce McLachlan, 83, of Kewadin, passed away surrounded by his family on Christmas Eve. He fought an autumn-long battle with a vicious strain of leukemia and was active, plowing snow and playing cards right up until the last week.
Donald Bruce McLachlan was born on Dec. 23, 1930, into a farming family during the Great Depression. Times were hard and a lot of people lived on potatoes, but he was lucky and liked potatoes. Bruce grew up 10 miles north of Elk Rapids and worked on the family farm most of his life.
He attended the Creswell School, a one-room schoolhouse. Both his dad and grandmother had attended the same building. Bruce didn’t particularly like school, but didn’t dislike the teachers. He said he had a hard time concentrating, especially when his dad was dynamiting stumps out east of the school for an apple and cherry orchard. Bruce said, “Boom! Pretty quick things would start dropping. Rocks would fall out of the sky. It’s surprising how far a rock will fly before it falls down.” He liked the outdoors and was more suited for farming. After his seventh grade year Creswell School closed, and he transferred to Elk Rapids. Later in life Bruce would own the Creswell School building.
Bruce met his future wife, Lillian Miller, while attending a Bingo game at the Elk Rapids Town Hall with his mother. He said after seeing her he couldn’t concentrate on his Bingo cards. They were married soon after graduation. Bruce claimed she was the major event of his life. They had four children, Vicki (Mick) Fulkerson, Christi (Joe) Gurnoe, Bruce (Carol) McLachlan and Wendi (Terry) Wooten.
At its height McLachlan Orchards was one of the largest cherry farms in the area. In 1959 they bought their first cherry shaker. The farm shut down in the early 1990s, but Bruce never retired. He spent the next two decades digging ponds, clearing land and hauling sand, topsoil, gravel, pea-stone and boulders around with his heavy equipment and dump trucks.