James Bruce Shutts II

05 January 1951 – 02 January 2015

Bruce’s sister, Christine (Chris), called me early this morning to tell me that Bruce had passed away after a few days of hospice care. We’d been divorced for a couple of years but she was kind enough to let me know personally. This is just a small post to let people learn a little bit about him.

Bruce as baby with dad

Bruce as a baby with his dad

He was born James Bruce Shutts II in Biloxi, Mississippi, at the Air Forse Base Hospital to parents James Leslie and Barbara Jean (Gilroy) Shutts. Everyone called him Bruce. He was the oldest of five siblings who came along in various places. Sister Karen was born next in Elmira, NY; sister Paula was born in Springfield, OH; brother Jim was born in San Antonio, TX and sister Christine was born in Elmira, NY.  So when you asked Bruce what his hometown was he would say, “I don’t really have one, we moved so much. But probably Elmira.”

Barb's Bunch

Bruce (in the back) with his mom and siblings

He was a chef by training and worked for years in the restaurant/food service industry. Even when it was just the two of us, he cooked like there were 42 people coming to dinner.

Bruce with his daughters

Bruce with his daughters

Bruce met and married Cathy Peelle. They had three girls together: Felicity, Cecelia and Adelle. Christmas at his mom Barb’s house was quite an occasion.

After Bruce and Cathy parted ways, he met and married Mary Biroscak in Elmira, New York.  Mary already had two young boys, Mike and Steve, both of whom he adopted as his own.  Bruce and Mary had two boys of their own, Paul and James (Gil).

Paul and Gil at Gettysburg

Paul and Gil at Gettysburg

Bruce and I were married in 2001.  We didn’t have any children together but had eleven years together. We traveled all over Arizona from the Chiricahuas to the Grand Canyon and Canyon De Chelly.

Bruce loved crossword puzzles and was quite good at them. The Sunday Times crossword was his favorite but all the daily ones got finished too. He could also whoop just about anyone at Trivial Pursuit. He was so good his sister Karen would often accuse him of cheating.

Over the years, he got to see his children get married (Paul as recently as 2014) and start their own families. There are a passel of grandchildren already here and I’m sure more that he won’t get to meet. He lost his dad, James Leslie Shutts, in 1989. He lost his mom, Barbara Jean Gilroy, in 2011.

He was a long-time car-racing fan, especially the open-wheeled cars like Formula One and Indy. Bruce met two prominent figures on the racing scene, race car driver Mario Andretti and racing team owner Paul Newman.

Bruce’s Mario Andretti Story:

Scenic Watkins Glen is located just south of Seneca Lake in the New York Finger Lakes region. The Watkins Glen International Racetrack is located nearby. The beautiful road course hosts NASCAR races along with vintage car races. Bruce met Mario Andretti in 1979, the year after Mario won the Formula One World Championship. Bruce, his brother Jimmy, and Jimmy’s friend Scott were camping at Watkins Glen and enjoying the racing. Bruce and Scott were walking around with a bottle of bourbon when an angry Mario walked by after being eliminated from the race. They asked him if he wanted a swig. Mario took a sip and promptly announced he had better bourbon in his trailer. So off to Mario’s trailer they went!

Boys with RX7 and Mary 2

Paul and Gil with Bruce’s RX7

Bruce’s Paul Newman Story:

Tucked in the far western corner of Massachusetts, where Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York meet, is the beautiful village of Williamstown. It was there that Bruce met Paul Newman in 1982 at the top-rated hotel called the Orchards where he was working as the Director of Food and Beverage Services.  Paul was staying at the Orchards during a visit to Williamstown to see his wife, Joanne Woodward, who was starring in the Glass Menagerie at a local theatre. Paul had called down to the kitchen for room service to order some beer. Bruce took the beer up to the room and asked Paul if he could ask him a question.  Paul responded that he didn’t want to talk about movies. Bruce said no, he wanted to talk to him about his car racing.  That was the right thing to say. Paul invited him to sit down and they chatted about racing while having a beer together.


Bruce’s Saabrina

Bruce also enjoyed his own cars and owned any number of Saabs, pickups, a VW bus, and assorted others during his lifetime.

Boxer dogs were another of his favorites. They weren’t the only kind he owned but definitely his favorite breed.

Trooper with puppy Ilsa

Trooper with puppy Ilsa

He wasn’t faultless. He like his cigarettes and vodka. Sometimes, a bit too much. He started smoking when he was 16 and tried to quit any number of times.

Bruce had a kind heart and great sense of humor. He leaves behind his siblings: Karen, Paula, Jimmy and Chris; his daughters: Felicity, Cecelia, and Adelle; his sons: Mike, Steve, Paul and Gil; and many grandchildren.Barbs older bunch 2

With that, I’d like say to Bruce tonight, “Say hello to your mom for me. Hug your dad. Pet Trooper, Tegan and Lola for me. Just know that I loved you.”


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