Bruce Thomas Hall, missionary, dies at 88

Decorated World War II veteran was Ethiopian missionary in 1950s who became a BGE engineer

November 11, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Bruce Thomas Hall, a retired utilities engineer and decorated World War II veteran, died of pneumonia Saturday at a Sebring, Fla., hospital. He was 88 and lived in Rodgers Forge.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Edgemere Avenue in Park Heights, he was the son of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad engineer and a homemaker. He was a 1940 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and trained as a lineman and installer with the old Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co.

Mr. Hall was drafted into the Army In September 1942 and took additional training in telecommunication. He was sent to Belfast, Ireland, and was later promoted to sergeant. He was sent to Wales and then to Normandy, where he landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944.

He was made an Army Ranger and fought as a combat infantryman. According to his Army discharge papers, he fought in Northern France, the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge and the Rhineland. He supervised 35 field radio operators and sent and received 18 five-letter code messages per minute. He was often assigned to a jeep that followed officers in combat.

After the war he was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery.

On Oct. 1, 1945, Mr. Hall entered Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Farm School, now Virginia Tech, under the GI Bill of Rights. He completed the four-year program in three years, graduating with honors with a degree in electrical engineering.

Family members said that Mr. Hall felt the call to more service. In the fall of 1949 he attended Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada, where he went on to earn a certificate in Bible studies and missionary training. He then applied to the Sudan Interior Mission for work in Africa.

He was ordained in the Community Evangelical Church of North Baltimore in 1953. He applied for a visa and waited three months before he was permitted to sail on a Dutch freighter across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and then to the Arabian Sea. He docked in Aden and flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he began his service.

While in missionary service, he met his future wife, Agnes Elizabeth Houston, who was also a missionary working in Ethiopia and Somaliland.

"He did not pamper himself. He thought of others," said a daughter, Barbara Tillman of Rockville. "He was also fiercely independent. He was a man of wisdom and character."

Working together, the Halls established mission stations and built homes, clinics and schools while preaching the Gospel and taking medical care to remote villages. Mr. Hall was a district superintendent for the Sudan Interior Mission. His two daughters were born in Africa, and the family remained there until 1969, when he returned to Baltimore.

Mr. Hall then became a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. electrical engineer and retired in 1986. He worked in downtown Baltimore.

He enjoyed camping, woodworking and photography. He also enjoyed trips to the Eastern Shore and liked crab cakes and Maryland tomatoes.

After his wife suffered a stroke in 2007, Mr. Hall brought her home from a nursing facility and cared for her with the help of nurses for another year.

"Up to this time, my mother had done the cooking," said his daughter. "At this point, he learned and could make a fantastic Western omelet."

She said her father could fix anything around the house. He also bought secondhand Fords and Volkswagens, which he fixed and drove.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21, at Timonium Presbyterian Church, 303 W. Timonium Road, where he had been a member and Sunday school teacher.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include another daughter, Rhoda Wolfe of Sebring, Fla.; a brother, Jack Hall of Ellicott City; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His wife of 55 years died in 2008.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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