Bernard Runser

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 11:00am

Bernard “Buck” Runser, of West Boothbay Harbor, Scarborough and Marco Island, Fla., died at home on November 9, 2015 after a short illness. He was 81 years old.

The only boy of 11 children, Buck’s early years were spent on a hardscrabble farm and in the town of Superior, Wisc. His family moved to Portsmouth, N.H. during World War II because his parents found work at the Naval Shipyard. From age 11 on, Buck worked - paper routes, shop clerk, Western Union delivery boy - he took on any job he could find to support himself and his family.

His older sisters teased him; his younger sisters hounded him, but he was devoted to them all. Fiercely protective, he babysat, cared for them when ill, and waited up for them after dates.

He played football at Portsmouth High and after graduation he enlisted in the Marines. He served a four-year active stint in Alaska and Korea but stayed a Marine for life. He always used to say, “There are no ex-Marines. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Buck attended the University of New Hampshire on the G.I. bill, where he met and married Mary Dundas and had two children, Michael and Leslie, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in geology. In the mid-'60s, Buck moved the family to Waterville, where he worked for Mary’s father at Kennebec Federal Savings Bank. Two more girls followed, Liza and Sara, and soon, the entrepreneurial spirit overtook him. In 1974, he purchased an Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship in Central Maine and the rest is history. He grew Valley Distributors into a very successful, thriving business over the next 41 years. His son, Michael, runs the company today.

Buck was quite active in his community and gave back in many ways. He was instrumental in establishing the Waterville Area Girls Club and supported the Special Olympics. He mentored in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program, coached Pop Warner football teams, and led a YMCA Indian Guide troop. He was a champion of girls and women rights as well as an advocate for underprivileged children. He believed education was the key to a successful life; he supported his alma mater and was a member of the Granite Cornerstone Society at UNH.

Buck could fix anything, was well versed on many topics, and was always up for a lively debate on any subject. A skeptic by nature, he was curious about everything under the sun and always eager to learn. He believed in science, evolution, and the separation of church and state. In his mid-70s, he traveled to the Galapagos Islands to follow the path of Charles Darwin. He had numerous, other around the world adventures.

Bucky adored his four grandchildren – Alex, Bridget, Stella and Ruby. He loved arriving in costume for their birthday parties. When he couldn’t find a Sponge Bob costume to rent, he painstakingly constructed one and wore it to multiple birthday parties throughout the years, to the delight of his grandchildren and their friends.

With a twinkle in his eye, a terrific grin and an even better laugh, Buck loved a celebration; he loved to cook, eat, drink and dance. He roasted the Thanksgiving turkey, read the “Night Before Christmas” to his kids and grandchildren, and bellowed out a rousing chorus of “Five Golden Rings” when we sang at Christmas. Buck always bought too many oysters, too many lobsters, too much sushi or too much take-out Chinese food when we got together. He gave us so many fun stories; we will miss and always love that spirit.

He is survived by his wife, Mary; four children; four grandchildren; five of his sisters, Audrey, Sandy, Denise, Cheri and Diana; as well as many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Buck’s life will be held on Saturday, Dec. 5 at C2 (Congress Squared) at the Westin Hotel, 157 High Street, in Portland from 1-4 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: Boothbay Sea and Science Center, P.O. Box 332, East Boothbay, ME 04544. To donate online, please visit