Sag Harbor native Bruce DeCastro, son of Alice Catherine Roche and Walter Beckwith DeCastro, died at his home on Franklin Avenue on Sunday, October 21. His body was found by his friend, David Slater, artist and long-time resident of Sag Harbor. He had suffered from cancer. He was 72 years old.
Bruce was born and raised in Sag Harbor. He liked to tell the story that his great-great grandfather arrived in town in the 1830’s as a cabin boy on a whaling ship. His family has been here ever since.
As a local boy, he graduated from Pierson High School in 1963 and went off to college at the University of Buffalo. His student days upstate didn’t last long, and he was soon back in Sag Harbor. He was drafted into the Army in 1966, and after basic and advanced individual training, qualified for Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and stationed in Korea on the DMZ.
Bruce was fond of telling Army stories to his friends at LT Burger, where he could be found most mornings drinking coffee and spinning tales. He bragged that he was the only officer in the United States Army to achieve the rank of First Lieutenant who had been punished with two Article 15’s: one for being drunk and disorderly, and the other for losing a .45 caliber pistol.
Bruce left the Army and went back to college and eventually was awarded a Phd in Economics from American University in Washington D.C. He took his talent in economics to the United Auto Workers, where he became a long-time labor organizer and negotiator for the union, handling contracts with auto makers across the American Midwest and South. He retired from the UAW and returned to Sag Harbor in 2004.
In recent years, Bruce spent most of his time caring for his mother, who was familiar to Sag Harbor residents as “the Windmill lady,” working until she was 92 for the Chamber of Commerce, handing out tourist brochures and selling souvenirs in the windmill at the foot of Main Street.
The other place Bruce could be found was at the Sag Harbor Golf Course. Bruce began playing golf as a boy of five or six and became the best golfer in Sag Harbor, according to many who play the sport. “He was the best out here,” said Lenny Rodriguez, part-time manager of the golf course. “It’s a par 70 course, and he regularly hit 64, 65.”
You won’t find his name on the board of Sag Harbor golf champions, however. According to his friend Doug Jeffrey, who played with Bruce regularly, he didn’t enter the annual Sag Harbor golf championship because he would have won every time he played. “He was the best golfer I ever played with,” Jeffrey recalled recently. “He had his pro license and played the Nationwide Tour for some time, the professional tour just under the PGA. He was so consistent as a player, it was unnerving. He taught me a lot as a golfer. I’ll really miss him.”
“When he wasn’t playing golf, he was out in the ocean,” recalled Mr. Rodriguez, who knew Bruce for many years. His mother was one of the first Sag Harbor mothers to take Bruce and his brothers and the kids from Franklin Avenue over to the ocean at Sagaponack. He kept up the habit throughout his years of retirement in Sag Harbor. “He loved the ocean more than anyone I’ve ever known,” recalled one of his friends from the coffee group on Main Street.
I got to know Bruce hanging out on the Street in front of the LT Burger in the mornings. Many on the street called him the “dog whisperer.” He loved animals, and had a knack for calming down dogs who were in the habit of barking at other dogs and straining at their leashes.
Bruce DeCastro could be an ornery sort. He had opinions about everything — politics, both national and local, golf, the weather, you name it — and he wasn’t shy about expressing those opinions. He enjoyed a good argument and gave as good as he got.
He will be missed by all his friends from the coffee group at LT Burger and many other people in Sag Harbor who knew him. Sag Harbor will be a different place without his scowl, and his smile, there on the bench on Main Street.