A Code-breaker’s Legacy at Trinity

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Have you ever looked at the Trinity Church prayer list? You can find it every week in our bulletin. In the list you will find the names of our church family members, loved ones and neighbors, and even people we’ve never met but know are in need of prayer (think: researchers for a Covid vaccine or front-line workers). If you haven’t, I invite you to include them in prayer. Each one makes the list for a reason. You can also join us on Wednesday morning’s at 10 a.m. for our Zoom prayer group. Check our weekly emails and bulletins on how to join the prayer group as well as Bible studies.

Last year, we had the name Dorothy “Dot” Bruce on our prayer list. We prayed for her on her 99th birthday and when she was ill before her death. Then we prayed for her family. If you’ve been a longtime member of Trinity, you probably know her son Jim Bruce and his wife Carol. What you probably don’t know is the remarkable life Dot lived. She was recruited by the U.S. military in World War II. She answered the call to serve in a top-secret group of code-breaking women. Dot and her colleagues were able to discover the locations of Japanese ships in the Pacific, as well as intercept enemy supply movements. There is likely no way to fully know the number of American servicemember lives that were saved, but it has been estimated their work shortened the war by two years.

Dot had been sworn to secrecy and she kept that oath for 70 years. It wasn’t until then that she discovered their work had been declassified. This allowed her to speak to an author about their code breaking and its impact on the war efforts. Liza Mundy wrote the book Code Girls in 2017; Dot is featured prominently as a central character. This amazing women was also an educator, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. I know Jim and the rest of his family miss her greatly.

Now, the U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed legislation to name a Chesterfield, VA, post office after Dorothy Bruce. She resided in an assisted living center near that post office. The legislation was authored by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents many of our Trinity members. If the bill makes it through the Senate, the new name for the post office will be the “Dorothy Braden Bruce Post Office Building.”

I tell you this story of Dot Bruce as we go into the Advent and Christmas seasons. I hope it serves as a reminder that those mentioned on our prayer list comprise more than an alphabetized recording of names. Each one represents a person—often a family—that is in need of, and is worthy of, all of our prayers. As we celebrate the coming birth of the Christ Child, may we honor his birth, life and teachings. After all, at the heart of most of Jesus’ teachings was the message to love and serve one another. Thanks to Dot Bruce, we are also reminded that each name carries a remarkable story of a loved child of God.

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Trinity United Methodist Church is located in McLean, VA. Our weekly worship services are on Sundays at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and on Wednesdays at noon. Sunday School is at 9:30 a.m. for children and adults. Children up to 6th grade are also invited to Children's Education during the 10:30 service. Adult Bible Study also occurs on Mondays at 10 a.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. Please visit our website for more information.

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