Former Detroit Lions team MVP Bruce Maher dies
Former Detroit Lion Bruce Maher will be remembered as a talented, humble and friendly person on and off the field.
Mr. Maher died at his home in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, at the age of 80 on Friday, July 6, 2018, after battling cancer for nearly 20 years.
"He was a guy who was very passionate about his family and very passionate about athletics and sports but also enjoyed life and he got a lot out of his lifetime," said John Maher, his son.
Mr. Maher was drafted by the Lions in the 15th round of the 1959 NFL Draft. During his 10-year professional career, he played for the Lions from 1960-67, then played two seasons for the New York Giants from 1968-69. He was named MVP for the Lions in 1965 and the Giants in 1968, according to his family.
Mr. Maher played with Dick LeBeau, an NFL Hall of Fame player and later coach, throughout his time with the Lions.
"He was as good a teammate as you could ever hope to have," LeBeau said. "He was a great guy."
After his rookie season with the Lions, he played a season of minor league baseball for the Detroit Tigers Class B affiliate in Durham, North Carolina, before fully committing to professional football, according to his granddaughter, Kit Maher.
Mr. Maher played 136 games, collected 22 interceptions, recovered four fumbles and caused three safeties during his 10 seasons in the NFL, according to the Pro Football Archives.
He was a defensive back, playing the strong safety position. His signature move was tackling low.
"He wasn’t a very big person, and he would come up and make some fantastic tackles," said Joe Schmidt, a former player and coach for the Lions. "He was very good at that and a very good defensive back. A lot of the guys enjoyed being around him so he contributed quite a bit to the Lions."
John Maher recalled his father's love of sports even in his later years.
"We played in these three-on-three basketball tournaments," he said. "Up until he was 70 years old, he played with us. So we won a couple of these tournaments and that was his enjoyment. He had a love for basketball and playing with his sons."
Born on July 25, 1937, he was one of three siblings John and Jean Maher raised on Detroit's west side.
Mr. Maher's love of football began as a child while playing with friends, according to his family.
He attended the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, where he was a star in two sports: baseball and football. He was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2015.
Mr. Maher attended the University of Detroit Mercy, where he majored in philosophy and graduated in 1960. He was inducted into the university's Hall of Fame in 1979.
After his time in the NFL, he moved to Milwaukee and worked for eight years with National Telecom, a telecommunication company working in security, electrical, telephone and local area network solutions, before leaving to create his own telecommunications consulting company, LITS, which specialized in providing communication systems for hotels. He never retired and worked there for almost 25 years, according to family.
His granddaughter, Kit Maher, said he had always been the rock of the family.
"At family parties, I was always the one who would go up and talk to him because he had such great advice," Kit Maher said. "I’ll remember him by his resilience, his toughness, his strength."
She also remembers her grandfather in the center of his living room, playing guitar and singing the blues.
"As well as being an athlete, he was a musical talent, too," Kit Maher said. "My family gatherings, they always ended in a dance party or music somehow."
According to his family, Mr. Maher's personal mantra was always "Keep the faith."
"He accomplished many, many things, and his legacy is the family that is carrying on his mantra going forward," John said.
In addition to his son and grand-daughter, Mr. Maher is survived by his wife, Gerda Marie Maher; children Shelia, Sharon Lee, Luke, Matthew and Jesalyn; and 12 other grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Aug. 3 at Gesu Catholic Church in Milwaukee.