I met Bruce Cermak 20 years ago. He had decided to have the Surf Club painted with a mural of a ship in art deco fashion. One day as I was driving to work I saw him outside admiring the artists’ work, (or maybe the artist!) and I pulled into the gravel lot, got out of the car and shouted “I LOVE what you’re doing to this building!” It was 1996, the Town had recently incorporated and changes were taking place all over the island. There was a renewed sense of pride and Bruce was one of the first to show visible signs of it. He said, “Aren’t you the Mayor”? I remember like it was yesterday that I had on one of my signature tie dyed t-shirts, jeans and purple Birkenstock sandals. Not terribly “mayoral” but as he laughed, and we talked, there was a connection that would last for the rest of his life and certainly mine.
There’s probably not a woman alive who ever met him that didn’t fall somewhat in love with him. There was something about Bruce. He had a way of zeroing in on you without ever making you feel threatened or intimidated but rather loved and cherished. He had a sly, sideways sort of smile…a rumbling laugh that percolated up through his manicured moustache. He could talk about most anything. As much as women loved him and he loved women, his friends were everything to him. He’d give a stranger the shirt off his back. I saw it many times. He fed people who were hungry, called cabs for those who enjoyed themselves too much at the bar and never ever passed judgement. He was probably the most non-judgmental man I’ve ever known. He had friends who were multimillionaires and friends who couldn’t scrape together change for a beer and he treated them all with the same grace and kindness with which he treated me.
Bruce loved his family and absolutely adored his son Kyle. He loved to travel and drink Moet champagne. New Orleans was his favorite place but France and of course his south side Chicago would always have his heart. He was a masterful chef and was famous for bringing the Turkey Testicle festival to our community! Bruce had more fundraisers for more people and causes than I think anyone could number. He was at the top of the list for every organizer on this island who needed something because we all knew he would always come through. Bruce made the best Bloody Mary mix known to man and his Sunday “church” services at the Surf Club gave testimony to its popularity. He was funny, smart, kind, and had an adventurous spirit. Most of all he was loved.
They say evidence of a well-lived life is being well-loved….no truer words were ever spoken about our friend Bruce. Cheers my friend. Thank you for everything…
Fort Myers Beach