Bruce Pitcairn Strachan

Bruce Pitcairn Strachan, painter, pianist, writer, actor, and dancer died of old age at 1:27 p.m. Thursday, December 1, 2011 in the company of family at University Hospital. A complex mercurial Renaissance man of many talents Bruce left a legacy of multi-color paintings that “splash colors of floral intrigue” in many northwest living rooms.

Born April 23, 1931 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the second of three children and the eldest son of Engineer John E. (Jack) Strachan, Jr. and writer Margaret (Peg) Pitcairn Strachan, Bruce moved with family several times during the Depression ‘30’s. Though a Cornell Graduate father Jack had to build a cabin in the Bucks County woods and sell eggs door to door to survive. The three children thought it a grand place to live.

At eight years of age while living in Hartford, Connecticut Bruce was given a banjo. He was playing it like “Al Jolson” within a week but it was a limiting instrument and Bruce then discovered the piano when the family moved to Seattle in 1941 for father Jack to act as Norton Company consultant to Boeing Company.

Bruce could not read a note but within a week he could play “Onward Christian Soldiers.” A few months and he could sit at the piano and family guests would name a song (and hum it if Bruce didn’t know it) and Bruce would instantly play “Stardust” or “Begin the Beguine” or “In the Mood.” Not just the melody. A full blown Bruce arrangement with the subtle, minor chord flourishes. He was twelve.

During his years at Bothell High Bruce discovered the dance. He would drive the family Packard into Seattle with friend Marilyn Peppin and attend the All City Dances. The popular dance of those late ‘40’s was The Avalon, and Bruce and Marilyn were the winners of several city-wide, slow sliding, long dipping Avalon competitions.

Bruce entered UW in 1949 and later declared as a Drama Major. He played the lead in plays ranging from Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” to climbing the beanstalk and fighting the giant as Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk.” He was awarded “Male Actor of the Year – 1951/52” and decided “it’s time to move on to Hollywood!”

In the spring of 1953 Bruce was living “on the hottest corner in Manhattan Beach, California” working as a waiter (actor to be) at a trendy The Hut and playing occasional piano gigs for bars or private parties. He was having a fine time but only getting cameo and minor roles while “Tab Hunter is getting all the leads.” Bruce was also blond, blue eyed and quite handsome but it wasn’t “happening” in the film business.

So he became an agent and tour guide for major travel agencies in Westwood, California then Scottsdale, Arizona. For six years he put together tour groups and hosted them on travels to The Caribbean and Mexico. A friend in Phoenix owned a picture framing shop and Bruce spent time there watching the work and hanging out with the art. When he had seen enough deserts he decided to move home to Seattle.

During the early ‘60’s Bruce opened Pitcairn-Strachan Framing gallery on Capitol Hill and through unique design concepts became the framing source for Seattle’s leading Interior Designers. Clients included The Olympic Hotel, The Westin, The Mayflower Hotel and many Seattle area country clubs and private homes.

As PS Framing grew, Bruce spent time developing his skills with oils and acrylics. He’d found his lifelong passion and would paint daily for the next forty years including the writing and design for a young adult story/animation piece entitled “The Adventures of Little Billy,” and his last major painting “Seattle Blizzard – 1937” depicting a snowbound 1st Avenue with swirling snow and one lonely, plodding man.

Bruce was The Jack of All Trades and The Master of Most. If it took talent – he could do it. He left behind a sister and brother-in-law Jackie & Jack McCarthy, and brother Johnny Strachan, and four nieces/nephews and seven grand nieces/grand nephews. One descendent has his graphic talent! Several more are young but promising.

To his friends Larry, Don, Catherine, Louise, and those we don’t know – Bruce is at peace. You can send donations in his name to Lifelong Aids Alliance – LLAA.Org.

3 Responses to “Bruce Pitcairn Strachan”

  • Rose Magee says:

    I have a large Bruce Strahan screen, six panels joined, dated 1972. I just now read that he died, sorry.

  • Marc Cole says:

    I have a large 4’X4′ painting in oil; a portrait of my father Fred Cole. We knew Bruce back in the 70’s when we sponsored him in our gallery on Alaskan Way between Yesler and Washington Streets. A very talented man.

  • Johnny Strachan says:

    I miss you Bruce!

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