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Thursday, 28 July 2016 14:21

Remembering Bruce Cermak

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I lost another best friend with the passing of Bruce Cermak. This photo was taken right before we opened the original offices of The Island Sand Paper, a local newspaper still publishing today. Bruce always came through for me and the paper was no exception. When I told him I was going to start a paper he looked at me and asked: "What can I do to help?" That was Big B (my nickname for him) in a nutshell. My heart is very, very sad today. I loved you brother I lost another best friend with the passing of Bruce Cermak. This photo was taken right before we opened the original offices of The Island Sand Paper, a local newspaper still publishing today. Bruce always came through for me and the paper was no exception. When I told him I was going to start a paper he looked at me and asked: "What can I do to help?" That was Big B (my nickname for him) in a nutshell. My heart is very, very sad today. I loved you brother

It's been almost two years
since I've felt compelled to write
about something sad. For it was
two years almost to the day when
my life-long mentor and friend
Gene "King Sax" Walker passed
from this Earth. But the loss of my
closely cherished friend Bruce Cermak
on July 2nd changed that for
me. It's no mere coincidence to me
that Gene and Bruce were also
friends. May the circle be unbroken.
Most of the old-timers on
Fort Myers Beach know that Bruce
and I started The Island Sand Paper
together in 1999. We didn't get the
first issue on the street until the
following year, but the conception
occurred during one of our frequent
heart-to-heart talks bellied
up to the bar back when Bruce was
the owner of the Surf Club. Many
was the day when we'd talk about
life and good fortune over a bottle
of Moet & Chandon. Bruce and I
both loved champagne and "Big B"
- as I liked to call him - was a bon
vivant; a lover of the good life and
good times. We shared a lot of
them over the years.
Our friendship, however,
goes back even further to 1992
when we first met. Bruce was
working the bar and I was running
an island based apartment building
on Mango Street and living as
Captain Carl on my 32' foot sailboat
Chelsea in the back bay. I also
played sax at the Gulfshore when
John Wendel owned it, Bruce
loved jazz so he would frequently
show up at my gigs and in between
sets we'd talk music and of New Orleans - a city we
both loved and frequently met up
in to enjoy the music and food festivals
the Big Easy is so famous for
hosting.
Over the years I learned a
lot about Bruce's family. He was
extremely proud of them and loved
it when they came to visit him.
Nothing was more important to
Bruce than his family.
Bruce also tried to take
good care of his friendships and
community associations. He was
legendary for giving to local
causes. I will never forget the time
we hosted the Santone auction together.
Bruce put up the Surf Club,
I did the auctioneering, Errol Barret
put up a car and Lorraine Albino-
Hinckley helped us organize
the event. We raised thousands of
dollars for a family in need. It was
one of many such endeavors.
Every year when Christmas
came around I
would go to
Bruce with my
hand out on behalf
of the Spirit
of the Holidays
that helped so
many needy children
on Fort
Myers Beach
have a bountiful
Holiday season.
Dressed as Santa
Clause riding the
Fire Truck my
bag was never
empty due to
Bruce and others
like him. He had a soft touch and
many received it over the years.
Bruce also had a wiser,
street-smart side. Trust was very
important to him. He'd help you,
but if you burned him, then that
was a bridge too far. I remember
asking him why he choose to get
involved with me starting the Sand
Paper and his answer was direct
just like he was: "I trust you Carl,
you always pay those you owe and
your word's good and that's all I
need from someone."
So many people on the
beach came to know this about
Big B and most respected it. I remember
when he would cash
checks for the Shrimpers who
came into the bar. Most of them
didn't have an account and many
were pretty transitory but Bruce
said he was rarely burned.
"Sometimes people just
need a little trust and a hand up,"
he told me once when I questioned
why he cashed so many checks
from virtual strangers.
Years later when I sold the
Sand Paper and gave Bruce his
share of the proceeds, he told me
investing in the paper and watching
it grow to a fat 48 pager during the
ten years we owned it together was
one of the proudest accomplishments
during his time on the
Beach.
Not many people know this
that have no connection to the
Windy City, but Bruce' s last name
is on one of Chicago's main thoroughfares
- Cermak Street. It goes
all the way back to when one of
Bruce's relatives - Anton Cermak -
was mayor of Chicago. Anton
would have been proud to see how
Bruce turned out for though he was
never elected, he was in the eyes of
many the honorary Mayor of Fort
Myers Beach. A man beloved by
many who will live on in the hearts

of those who knew him
well.
Here are a few
comments from some locals
that also cared about
Bruce.
Dr. Sherwood
Cooper, a well-known and
well-liked veterinarian
called him the "Salt of the
Earth.”
Karen Stott, wife
of Paul Stott last of three
brothers that owned the
legendary Casey's Alley,
told us that: "He was one
of the first to reach out to
us after Greg and Pat
(Stott) passed. He has a
big heart..sad day?
Bruce was a dedicated
friend of Greg Stott
and the three of us spent a
lot of time just hanging
out. It may be no coincidence
but Greg died right
when I was putting out
the first issue of the Sand
Paper and that issue -
number 1 - also had a sad
tale of loss.
Thomas Van
Oyen, knew Bruce personally
and also through
his wife who worked several
years for Bruce after
he renovated the old Waffle
House and moved the
Surf Club across the street
to its current location,.
"He was such a
great guy. He gave my
wife her first job on the
beach." said Thomas.
And another lifelong
friend who goes all
the way back to my college
years, Andy Lutkoff,
a local Real Estate Broker
and Artist, wrote to us
saying:
"Sorry to hear
about Bruce... (he)Was always
a nice guy to me
and great supporter of you
Carl! A loss to the human
brotherhood for sure."
As those we love
pass from us in this life,
somewhere in the ethereal
twilight, they wait for us.
In the oft-quoted words of
Thomas Dunne:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the
continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by
the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory
were.
As well as if a manor of thy
friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes
me,
Because I am involved in
mankind,
And therefore never send to
know for whom the bell
tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Read 2979 times Last modified on Thursday, 28 July 2016 16:23

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