April 7, 2022
Editor’s Note: We mourn the loss of the former Mayor of the City of Fernandina Beach Bruce Malcolm. Since moving to Fernandina Beach, Bruce devoted a considerable amount of his time to public service. Bruce knew the value of preservation and served on the Historic District Council when some hotly contested issues came before the council. Bruce later became a Fernandina Beach City Commissioner and held the position of Mayor. He had a way with words and often his perfectly timed colloquialisms brought a smile to many a commissioners’ face; even those who often disagreed with him. We are grateful for Bruce’s many years of service to our community and extend our condolences to his wife Jane and the Malcolm family.
Roy Bruce Malcolm
“My involvement in our community’s issues spans the beach to the waterfront, downtown to Old Town and the neighborhoods in between. Failure to prepare has created unbridled growth and the problems we now face. To preserve our way of life, we must manage today’s growth with smart planning. My respect for the beauty of our hometown has been proven by my willingness to stand firm when needed, compromise when necessary, and maintain a vision that will protect the unique traits for which Fernandina Beach is recognized nationally. I will accept the responsibility of service to all, reverence for our past and shepherding our future. Let me do what needs to be done, especially for your children, grandchildren, and mine.”
– Bruce Malcolm, Vote Malcolm, He’ll Keep an Eye Out for You, taken from his run for Fernandina Beach City Commission campaign
I am proud to be Mrs. Bruce Malcolm. You know my husband as the former mayor of Fernandina Beach and the American Legion Post 54 Chaplain. Add to that his 15-year stint on our Historic District Council as well as substitute high school teacher. He was deeply involved in and about Fernandina for the 34 years we lived together in our seaside community, on the edge of the world, as he used to say.
Bruce was a master raconteur, his storytelling legendary. You hear about people who light up a room. That was him. He could make everyone laugh but would knock you to your knees with his words if he felt it necessary. He never started a fight yet being a Marine, he stood solidly for what he believed was right. His humor was clever. Bruce was the smartest man I ever met.
A self-proclaimed Ozark hillbilly, Bruce was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1939, the same year Hitler marched into Poland, as he always told me. He was a patrol boy on Route 66. I can see him with his little white safety belt and gloves, holding up his stop sign to halt the big trucks.
His grandmother, Nina, said, “Bruce Malcolm, the devil’s got his book and he’s awritin’ your name in it.” She knew he hung dead snakes from tree branches over the road to frighten old ladies. But he took the blame for his misdeeds and those of his baby sister, Suzanne.
Bruce slept in a dead man’s bed on the screened-in back porch year-round so he could have his own room. In winter, his dog helped keep him warm. The dog’s water froze in the bowl. He never slept on sheets until he became a Marine.
He played the drums in college or so I’m told. The only thing I ever heard him play was a coffee can with the lid on. He dabbled with the harmonica, ukulele and violin, to the best of his limited ability. He had perfect pitch with a basso profundo rich voice. He was a member of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and periodically would sing with the choir. He particularly enjoyed napping during choir practice.
He could do a back flip off the side of the pool.
Bruce was afraid of heights, but did a solo parachute jump somewhere in North Carolina, just to conquer his fear. I didn’t know until after the fact, but he assured me he had taken a half-hour lesson beforehand and bought a special life insurance policy, just in case.
Folks felt sorry for him being married to wacky me. They would say poor Bruce and shake their heads, smiling. He was a mostly willing participant with just about anything. So there we were, taking a musical saw lesson. Why? Because it was free. Bruce found his grandfather’s saw in the garage and spent a couple evenings removing the rust and polishing it to a bright Fare Thee Well. The first thing the instructor told him when he inspected the shining saw was it was too high quality The instructor gave each of us a thin bladed old saw that would vibrate more and produce a better sound. By jingo, it did. Between us, we managed to make three squeaks. We were so proud. He would say, “Don’t worry. You’ll never see these people again.” That worked when we were out of town, but not so much in Fernandina.
He didn’t complain during Covid when there was a run on toilet paper and paper towels. I would and still do, tear the single select-a-size towels in half, leaving approximately a four-inch square to dab his chin. Displaying his bravery, he sometimes requested a second square. Poor Bruce.
He was asked by youngest son, Mike, “Dad, how much space do you actually have in the house for your stuff?” Bruce looked around and said, “The top of the dresser in the guest room. What’s that? About 24 x 18?” Poor Bruce
He annoyingly shook a few pennies in a plastic milk jug during our Barbra’s softball game, while shouting, “Make your mother proud!” About the same then spoiled teenage daughter and me, “If she’s a snot, Jane, then you’re at least a sniffle.” He spoiled me, too.
Bruce and I fought now and again. I knew he was no longer mad when he started talking baby talk to the cats and dog. He fed our cockatiel, Bird, every morning for 20 years despite her biting him nearly each day. We had to catch a plane so when Bird died, he put her in a box in the freezer. Upon our return, we gave her a proper burial.
When I discovered our very own geyser in the front yard, I ran inside to tell Bruce. He came out, looked and said, “Call the plumber. It’s a broken sprinkler pipe.” He was always so calm in a crisis. Poor Bruce.
With a business degree from Wichita State, Bruce sold O’Brien water skis and had an inboard company ski boat with R. B. Malcolm, Driver, painted on the side. We skied all summer with alligators on the banks and a sea monster in the Arlington River in Jacksonville.
Bruce was a great salesperson for the Coleman Company and won two trips anywhere in the world. We got out the globe to look for a place we could never afford to go. Halfway across the earth from Jacksonville is Hong Kong. Bruce sent home a postcard “The Far East is Far Out!” The second trip was to the British Isles. This time his postcards read: “The UK is OK!”
He dressed a couple of his college buddies up in white smocks borrowed from a science lab. When his good friend, Gary, arrived at the airport, the buddies dragged him into a waiting white van belonging to the local insane asylum.
He refinished our now beautiful antique pump organ that was covered with layers of black paint. Six months later, Bruce said, “I’m just now sobering up from the stripper I used.” He, along with his three sons, volunteered as a class host for the annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance for 20 years. Talk about your funny guys all in one pile.
Bruce had an alter ego named Captain Fancy Patch who can be seen on YouTube reading one of my Martha Bear teddy bear stories. Fifteen minutes of the kindly Captain for the kids, what fun!
It was love at first sight for both of us. We agreed on religion, politics, the handling of money and raising kids. Those are the big chunks and explain our long marriage. I was his bride of 45 years, yes bride, because our honeymoon continued during all that time, in mind, manner and spirit. “In every relationship, there is a lover and a beloved, and you are my beloved,” he would tell me. We never did settle who loved the other more. We were married seven times by way of renewing our vows. During our 25th anniversary vow renewal, he presented me with a diamond engagement ring, something I never requested.
When I first met him, he kept has apartment at 66 degrees. It was cold. When I complained, he said, “I don’t care if you have to wear a parka and drink anti-freeze, don’t touch the thermostat.” It’s a wonder a married the man. Actually, that didn’t last long when he saw my lips were blue.
For our 20th anniversary, he had the sonnet How Do I Love Thee, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, handwritten by a local calligrapher. It was so well done, I thought it was a poster at first. Along with his name, Bruce signed it answered prayer. He told me he would come home from work during lunch to practice his signature, not wanting to mess up this beautiful masterpiece. It is framed and hanging in our bedroom.
One day, Bruce called and told me to pack a fancy dress, telling me there was a ticket waiting at the Jacksonville airport. He picked me up in Atlanta and on the car seat I found a bottle of perfume and a pink leather-encased compact bearing my initials. After a romantic dinner, we went to the fabulous Fox Theatre and enjoyed Richard Harris in Camelot. When the show was over, we waited at the stage door and even got King Arthur’s autograph.
Bruce knew I was a Windy, a Gone With The Wind fan. When he saw there was to be a 50th anniversary costume ball in Atlanta for the novel’s publication, he said simply, “Let’s go.” I wore a period gown with hoop skirt. He dressed in black tie and tails like Rhett Butler in the movie. He was so handsome. Three years later, we attended the 50th anniversary costume ball, again in Atlanta, for the premiere of the film. This time he wore a Confederate officer’s uniform, complete with golden-feathered hat. We saw two fellas dressed as privates and Bruce remarked that they looked like they were stealing food from the buffet. I wore another historically correct gown and was on Entertainment Tonight for three seconds, for true, as our little granddaughter used to say.
Once, we flew to Nassau, Bahamas in a private sea plane just for lunch. This is the stuff in romance novels. Wink, wink. My girlfriends often asked if they could hire Bruce to give romance lessons to their husbands.
Someone wrote to me that Bruce now knows the secret of infinity. Until we each discover that wonderful knowledge in Heaven, he leaves behind sons Jeffrey, Andrew and Michael and daughter-in-law Rachel Malcolm of Wichita, Kansas; daughter Barbra, granddaughter Blair and son-in-law Mark Boutin of Tallahassee, Florida; numerous and wonderful in-laws, nieces, great nieces and a nephew from Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and California.
If you wish to donate in Bruce’s name, I know he would suggest the American Legion, Post 54, 626 South 3rd Street, Fernandina Beach, Florida 32034. He nearly burst with pride as the American Legion’s Grand Marshall in a parade in Fernandina. When Bruce was mayor, it was his idea to have Gum Street informally changed to American Legion Way. Look for the street signs on Gum from 8th to 3rd. Bruce also enjoyed time at the Nassau County Council on Aging, 1901 Island Walkway, Fernandina Beach, Florida 32034.
We will have a Jubilation Celebration on April 30th at 2 pm at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Atlantic Avenue in Fernandina Beach, Florida, where he was a faith-filled member for over 30 years. There will be a dessert reception following the service. We will toast Bruce Malcolm with a cookie. He would love that since I was the food warden in our relationship per doctor’s orders and cookies were a real treat to him. Please wear either red, white and blue or happy colors.
He loved our God, he loved our country and he loved our family and friends with his whole being. Bruce Malcolm is my definition of an honorable all-American man, and I will adore him forever. – Jane Marie, his wife
Please share your memories and condolences at www.oxleyheard.com