When he was on his boat, Wilfred Bruce Kleisler was home.
Known as Bruce to everyone he knew, the longtime Babylon resident loved setting sail in the Great South Bay and seeing where the waves would take him. Summer vacations for the Kleislers were spent together sailing around Long Island and the surrounding waters.
“None of us went to Disney World,” said daughter Diane Pannizzo, 59, of Farmingville. “We spent two weeks on a boat when my father got the chance. It was five kids and a golden retriever on a 30-foot sailboat. We would do all of Eastern Long Island. It was wonderful.”
Kleisler, who spent the past year and a half of his life at Sunrise Manor Center for Nursing in Bay Shore, died May 5 from complications of COVID-19 at Southside Hospital, his family said. He was 84.
As the years went by, Kleisler still held on to his love of sailing, setting out by himself into his early 70s. He was a longtime member of the South Bay Cruising Club and, in the late 1980s, he sailed back and forth to Florida on his own.
“He loved it,” Pannizzo said. “There was no place he’d rather be.”
Born March 24, 1936, at Southampton Hospital, Kleisler went to the LaGuardia Academy of Aeronautics, now Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, in Queens after graduating from Southampton High School. He worked as a flight test safety engineer at Grumman in Bethpage for 35 years and then worked part-time aiding in the design of retail clothing displays, Pannizzo said.
Kleisler loved dogs and had one at his side for most of his adult life. He also was a talented painter and photographer.
“He was even in a couple of shows and got honorable mention for a couple of his pieces,” said daughter Margaret Rohl, 56, of Babylon. “He was good.”
In addition to Rohl and Pannizzo, Kleisler is survived by sons Michael of Florida, Matthew of Patchogue, and David of Babylon, and five grandchildren. He is predeceased by his wife of 56 years, Kathleen. Kleisler was buried at St. Joseph Cemetery in Babylon Village. The family will hold a celebration of life at a later date, Pannizzo said.