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Thornbury, Clarksburg communities mourn Bruce Osborne

The well-known local businessman, firefighter and community volunteer died on Sept. 16 at the Meaford Long-Term Care Centre in his 87th year

The Town of The Blue Mountains is mourning the passing of long-time resident Bruce Osborne.

Flags at the town hall in Thornbury were at half-staff to recognize Osborne’s contribution to the community over many years. Osborne, a well-known local businessman, firefighter and community volunteer died on Sept. 16 at the Meaford Long-Term Care Centre in his 87th year.

For more than 60 years the Osborne family operated Osborne’s Appliances and later Osborne’s TV on the main street in Thornbury.

“He was at everybody's house, I have people tell me: 'I knew Bruce Osborne, when I was a little kid he fixed our TV and made everything better.' He was a hero to many kids, who were able to watch their cartoons,” Osborne's son Randy said in an interview. “He was a good community guy. He would always help someone out. He loved to fish. He loved to play golf. He had a dry wit and he was fun to be around.”

Daughter Sharon Owen remembers her father as a “stickler for rules” who had a heart of gold.

“He believed in all of us working together as a team. I remember that as a child, he would have family meetings and stress that. When we went on family camping trips, everybody had a job,” she said.

She remembers her mother Betty regularly had to set an extra spot at the dinner table because her father would often bring home a travelling salesman or somebody he had met that day for an evening meal.

“I remember my dad found a homeless man under the Clarksburg bridge. He brought him home for a hot meal and we put him in our trailer overnight. Dad found him a job at the apple plant,” she said. “He helped get this man back on his feet. He was one of a kind for sure, he was a humanitarian and was good at everything he did.”

Bruce served 18 years as a volunteer firefighter with the Thornbury Fire Department. When he retired in 1998, he was deputy chief.

Son Randy followed in his father’s footsteps and spent 34 years as a volunteer firefighter.

“It was a commitment, it was a family commitment. Sometimes you would leave at Christmas dinner or miss family events,” he said.

Randy said his father took his role as deputy chief very seriously.

“In those command roles, you’re responsible for everyone's safety. You’re responsible to a lot of people,” he said. “It was rewarding to know he was helping people out and there is nothing cooler than driving the big red truck.”

Sharon said her dad was a real inventor and was capable of building or fixing just about anything.

“When you walk into dad’s shed the lights come on, the TVs all come on. It was all set up,” she said. “He was very innovative.”

Bruce played trumpet in the Valley Concert Band for many years and played the Last Post at Remembrance Day ceremonies in Thornbury in Clarksburg for decades.

“He started (playing the Last Post) at 13 years old. His mom drove him to Ravenna,” said Randy. “He played for over 70 years. We always observed Remembrance Day. He was always there, the last few years were difficult for him. The Legion honoured him for his dedication to the role.”

One of Bruce’s more legendary hobbies was caring for his famous Christmas tree. No doubt, over the years thousands of people have stopped by during the festive season to see the beautifully lit tree at the Osborne house on Bruce Street. Randy explained the tree was initially an anniversary gift from the children to their parents.

“It got really tall. On a whim, he put a lot of lights on it one year. Over the years it has a lot more lights,” he said. “He had to build a special power grid in his basement.”

The tree can be seen from miles away and Randy estimated there are now between 800-1,000 lights on it.

Sharon said her dad was a terrific athlete. He was an avid golfer, who once scored a hole-in-one, and a great badminton player. He was also an expert fisherman.

“I always said: if dad wasn’t catching fish out on Georgian Bay, nobody was," said Sharon. 

He was also a good dancer, and joined his daughter at her pre-wedding ballroom dancing lessons. 

“My husband-to-be was working shift work and dad went ballroom dancing and stood in for him,” she said.

A public celebration of Bruce’s life will be held at the Marsh Street Centre in Clarksburg on Sunday, September 25, 2022 from 5 to 8 p.m. Tributes will be shared at 6 p.m., all are welcome to attend.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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