OTTO PERRONE was groping for words to describe his longtime partner, Bruce W. Flannery.

He came up with "caring," "sweet," "intelligent," "humble," "funny," "whimsical," "irreverent."

Then he hit upon the one word that he said described his friend the best: "activist."

Because Bruce was nothing if not an activist. Ask the lawmakers and government officials he buttonholed in the corridors of the state Capitol, pushing hard for legislation and policies to help the victims of HIV/AIDS, his major - but not only - cause.

"Bruce became a familiar face and trusted adviser among lawmakers and state policymakers as he'd make his rounds in the halls of the state Capitol," friends wrote in a tribute to him.

Bruce Flannery, who was associated with and ran numerous organizations devoted to helping people in need, died Friday of complications of open-heart surgery. He was 54 and lived in Exton.

Most recently, Bruce was director of fund development and marketing for the Maternity Care Coalition, in Philadelphia.

"Bruce made significant contributions with his work on many proposals," said Bette Begleiter, deputy executive director of the coalition.

"These included several federal grants, and our successful application to become the Early Head Start grantee in South Philadelphia.

"We will miss Bruce's humor, passion for politics and people, and his commitment to MCC."

Bruce grew up on Long Island, New York, where he enjoyed sailing on the Long Island Sound. He graduated in 1977 from Columbia University with a degree in political philosophy.

Bruce is probably best known for his work with HIV/AIDS issues. He was a founding member and president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of AIDS Service Organizations. He worked hard to convince legislators and policymakers to direct more than $20 million of state funding toward better medical care of HIV/AIDS patients.

He succeeded in expanding more than tenfold the number of medications made available through the state Department of Public Welfare to those who couldn't afford lifesaving drugs.

Through his tireless lobbying, Pennsylvania became the first state in the nation to add new therapies to its list of medications offered to HIV/AIDS patients.

Governors sought his expertise in the health field. Gov. Tom Ridge named him to the Inter-Governmental Council on Long-Term Care, and Gov. Rendell appointed him to the Department of Health Transition Team.

He also was named to the state's HIV Planning Council, which he served as co-chairman for six years.

Bruce was a technical adviser on the 1993 film "Philadelphia," directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Tom Hanks. It was the story of a lawyer with AIDS who files a wrongful dismissal suit after being fired by a conservative Philadelphia law firm.

Bruce helped develop and produce HIV/AIDS segments for CBS News, "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw," the "Today" show and "CBS Sunday Morning," as well as for Japan's Fuji Television and Germany's Spiegel TV.

"Reporters throughout Pennsylvania frequently sought out Bruce Flannery's expertise and opinion when covering stories on HIV/AIDS," his friends wrote.

Bruce created a consulting practice assisting nonprofits in fundraising, grant writing and creating public-awareness campaigns.

Among those that benefited from his expertise were the city Department of Public Welfare; Family First Health, of York; the Dorothy Rider Pool Healthcare Trust, of Allentown; and Planned Parenthood of Chester County.

He also served as director of development for Calcutta House, in Philadelphia, which provides housing and support for people with AIDS.

Bruce was also active with the Democratic Party of Chester County and in 1995 ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Supervisors of West Whiteland Township.

He was also interested in historic preservation and served as chairman of the West Whiteland Historical Commission, saving a number of historically significant buildings.

Bruce's earlier career after college was as a copywriter, copy reader and marketing and public-relations consultant for a number of companies in New York and Philadelphia.

"His friends will remember his humor, love of conversation over a great meal, and caring soul enveloping all that was Bruce," his friends wrote.

He had no other survivors. Funeral services and interment will be private.