An American teenager who played the trumpet, swam competitively and had a “love for learning” was mourned by his hometown Tuesday as word spread that the first-year student was found dead outside a Queen’s University residence. The bedroom community of Westport, Conn., was left stunned after hearing that Cameron Bruce, 18, died at the eastern Ontario school.
Any adult would “love to have a son just like him,” said John Dodig, principal of Staples High School, where Bruce graduated from. Dodig said he informed the teachers at the school of Bruce’s death and showed them a photo of Bruce from a musical performance, wearing a tie and sporting slicked-back hair. “He looked like he belonged on the cover of GQ magazine, but the Cameron I saw every day always had dishevelled, spiky hair because he spent half his life in a chlorine-filled pool.”
Bruce had swam with the Water Rat Swim Team since he was 7 years old, said coach Ellen Johnston. “The whole thing is just so shocking,” Johnston said. “He’s just a terrific person,” she said, sounding stunned as she added that he had grown up on the team.
Police in Kingston, Ont., said students discovered a body outside the residence hall early Monday, the first day of classes at Queen’s following orientation week for new students. In a release Tuesday night, Kingston police said foul play was not suspected in Bruce’s death, but did not reveal a cause of death. “The investigation is ongoing and police detectives are asking anyone who knows Cameron Bruce or had contact with him during the evening of Sunday Sept. 12,” to contact investigators, the release said.
The multi-talented teen was an inspiration to the school, said Dodig. He played in the jazz ensemble, acted in school plays, and excelled in the school’s most demanding courses. Dodig said when he broke the news to Bruce’s former music teacher, the man could barely stand up.
Bruce’s economics teacher told the principal that after the final school tests last May most students lost interest in school, but not Bruce. “In his case, he showed up after the exam, bright eyed and bushy-tailed and eager for three more months of learning about economics,” said Dodig. More than 1,800 people attended Staples High School, and most knew Bruce, he added.
A page mourning the teen’s death was created on Facebook, and Staples High School’s theatre group, the Staples Players, also created a memorial to Bruce on its blog. Along with his success as a trumpet player with the jazz band, Bruce also performed in a one-act play. “I honestly never saw Cam without a smile on his face. His enthusiasm for life was incredible,” Alan Southworth, a friend, said in an email.
Along with playing in the school band, Southworth and Bruce played in a jazz quartet at local nursing homes. “His willingness to give back to his community with music was inspirational to me and so many others,” said Southworth. Bruce arrived at Queen’s to begin orientation last week, according to people in the community who spoke to Dodig.
The teenager’s father was an alumnus of Queen’s, said Dodig, adding that was one of the main reasons drawing the ambitious teenager to the Ontario school. Bruce’s father was in Kingston during orientation week, helping his son prepare for his first year, and was still in town on Monday, Dodig added. A family friend who answered the phone at the Bruce home in Westport said they did not want to talk.
Dodig said he has heard from the people in the town that the family will postpone a memorial service for their son until Thanksgiving, so his many friends can attend the service.
The Canadian Press