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Allen Bruce Caughey: Mr. Amherst Island; People came from miles away to ask about facts, dates and connections and to seek his counsel. (Lives Lived).

Bruce Caughey died on May 17, 2001, in his 92nd year. Hundreds came to pay their respects to him at four visitations. Hundreds crammed into St. Paul's Church on Amherst Island, Ontario, on May 21 to commit Mr. Amherst Island into God's care and to bury his body in the soil he loved.

A renaissance man, Bruce Caughey was involved in many aspects of life. First and foremost, he was a Christian who worshipped weekly at St. Paul's. His faith was nurtured there. In every way, he was a leader of the congregation -- a lusty singer, the clerk of session for almost 50 years, and a supportive pillar for the various pastors who came and went during his tenure. The many lives he influenced are his legacy but so, also, is the new church hall he was instrumental in having built. It has revolutionized the life of the congregation. And, for many years, Bruce diligently attended the meetings of the Presbytery of Kingston where, because of his oratorical skills, he was able to sway many a debate.

Bruce put his faith into action beyond the walls of the church. As a farmer, he had enough to do with his daily work. But that work and his Christian faith led him to get involved in founding The Amherst Island Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Bruce paid his expenses out of his own pocket and never received remuneration for his efforts. For his leadership in bringing various similar insurance companies together, he was inducted into The Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1998.

Bruce was part of a group that lobbied for hydro to the island, and it arrived in 1938. He was also influential in obtaining telephone service on the island and served for 14 years as its secretary-treasurer. Later, thanks to Bruce, the telephone system became part of the efficient Kingston network.

Because Bruce received all his schooling on the island, he was concerned that all island children receive a good education. He not only drove the school sleigh and buggy and, then, the school bus, he also served on the Napanee district school board and was the first chair of the Lennox and Addington public school board. Islanders still tell stories about how Bruce would pick them up for school, and how they managed to tip the sleigh over into a snowbank, much to his consternation. Stories are also told about how Bruce ran the meetings of the board and got the work done -- for the good of the very kids who had tipped him over. It is typical of Bruce that he never received any pay for driving the schoolbus.

The Masons were also the beneficiaries of Bruce's time and talent. He worked diligently in the Lodge in Bath to encourage others. And, with the help of islanders with boats, he performed his duties as district deputy grand master well -- at a time when the Amherst Islander ferry stopped running at 6 p.m.

All these achievements and connections would mean little had Bruce not been a caring and wise man. He cared about Amherst Island and worked for its benefit. He knew all the stories, all the history, all the skeletons in the closets and he shared the local jokes. People would come from miles away to ask about facts, dates and connections and to seek his counsel. Right to the end of his life, he was lucid and filled with love for his island and his family.

His children have all chosen to live on Amherst Island. His older son, Allen, is retired here. His daughter, Beth Forester, a retired schoolteacher, plays the organ at St. Paul's. His younger son, Bruce Jr., manages the family farm. Helen Caughey, Bruce's wife of 62 years -- a dynamo in her own right -- is recognized as the power behind the throne, whose support and hard work made Bruce's contributions to the advancement of the island possible. His five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter revered him as Poppy and often came to show him their love.

For the past few years, Bruce had been a resident of The Helen Henderson Nursing Home in Amherstview. He participated fully in worship services, special outings, dinner meetings. and sing-along sessions. Bruce enjoyed receiving visitors and sharing his stories with them. He appreciated prayer and the opportunity to participate in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

Bruce Caughey expressed his faith in practical terms, gave people an example to follow and bequeathed a standard of service that continues to challenge any who seek to live as Christians in God's world.

Zander Dunn, in retirement, ministers part time at St. Paul's Church, Amherst Island, Ont. Photo by: Zander Dunn.
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Author:Dunn, Zander
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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