Bruce Capitain, a local painting contractor, snowmobiler and hale fellow well met, died this week due to complications from injuries sustained in a one-car accident which occurred Monday, Sept. 28. He was 52.
A much-beloved local figure, Bruce was described this week as the kind of guy who’d not only be the first one out to rescue someone broken down in the middle of the desert, but along the way, he’d stop to bring you your favorite beer.
And as friend Greg Eckert said, Bruce never had a negative thing to say about anybody.
Fred Kukulus added, “He’ll be sorely missed. He touched a lot of people.”
Kukulus said Capitain came out to Mammoth Lakes from Massachusetts for a ski trip in 1984 and never left.
A celebration of Capitain’s life is scheduled for this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at Bruce’s airport hangar at Mammoth/Yosemite Airport.
According to the California Highway Patrol report, Capitain was driving southbound on State Route 14, near Red Rock Canyon, when for reasons still unknown, he allowed his pickup truck to drift off the roadway to the right. The truck reportedly then struck a concrete drainage culvert and overturned.
CHP said Capitain was traveling at about 65-70 miles per hour, and was wearing a seatbelt. Cause of the accident remains under investigation, but CHP said alcohol and drugs are not considered factors, and there were no obvious mechanical problems with the truck.
According to friends, Bruce awoke at Kern Medical Center and refused treatment.
“Bruce was into quality versus quantity,” said John Mueller. “That’s how he lived his life. He packed more into 52 years than others would have fit into two lifetimes.”
Eckert mentioned that Bruce had suffered a serious accident as a teenager and on a number of occasions, had said he didn’t want to go through that type of difficult rehabilitation again.
Not one person didn’t mention snowmobiling in connection with Bruce.
Not only did Mueller confirm the legend that Capitain had snowmobiled up the avy chutes of the Sherwins, but he added, “We had lunch up there a few times.”
In fact, the two friends met when they got into a pissing contest high-marking up hills. Soon thereafter, they began riding together.
Bruce was renowned for his legendary endurance, especially on roadtrips.
Eckert had one tale about one such roadtrip to Belize, where Bruce bought property. Bruce drove the whole way from Mammoth (something he did multiple times) while Eckert said he cheated and met him in Brownsville, Texas.
As soon as Eckert arrived for the four-day, 1,300-mile trip, Capitain told him that they had to have rules.
Roadtrip rules. A tequila and a beer every day at 4 p.m.
For the trip through Mexico, Capitain was required to carry along a bonded witness, named Omar, to make sure everything he took into Mexico was taken out of Mexico. Capitain and Eckert ended up bonding with Omar to such an extent that once they reached the southern border, they decided to smuggle Omar (who didn’t have a passport) into Belize so he could see the ocean.
“Bruce gave Omar his introduction to island life,” recalled Eckert, “and took five years off his liver.”
Eckert also said, quoting Tim Dawson, that Bruce didn’t have a hairpiece. He had a hair system. “The only time I ever saw him with a hair out of place was during those final days.”
True to form, Bruce made sure to share a farewell shot of tequila with Mueller, Eckert and Mike Cornell before his passing.
Bruce was survived by his father, Dr. Robert Capitain of Neptune Beach, FL, his mother, June Galebach, of Hobe Sound, FL, his sister, Dr. Patricia Griffiths, his brother-in-law, David “Pappy” and his nephews, David “Spike” Craig and Tyler Griffiths.
As Kelsie Collins, a very significant and longtime other in Bruce’s life, said, “Everyone who knew Bruce was aware of his lust for life, his quick embrace to a friend in need, his infectious smile and boisterous laughter. He will be profoundly missed.”
Collins said that she and Capitain used to keep a silver box in which to place mementos from all the wonderful times they shared in their lives. “We called them our silver box memories,” she said this week. “And that box is very full.”