As I write this article there are tears in my eyes. Tears for my dear friend Charles Bruzon, tears for his beloved Marilou and his family and tears for Gibraltar, which has lost a noble son, a person totally without “mala leche”.
I am aware that those of you who are reading this have known Charles for far longer than me. I have known of Charles Bruzon for many a year but we only met some 21 months ago. Yet in that time he became the dearest and closest of friends. So whilst I feel acute pain and sadness at his passing I realise it can only be a fraction of that being felt by his adoring family.
Charles Bruzon was a gentle man but as strong as they come. You do not stand down from the priesthood in what was then a very Conservative Catholic community unless you have steel in your heart and a need to do what was right – and for love. God blessed his decision some years later by matching Charles with Marilou.
Charles Bruzon was a passionate man. I was with him on a number of occasions after he’d spoken with people who had major housing and social problems. He felt and shared their pain and anguish. That is why being Housing Minister was so important to him as he was finally able to right all those wrongs. Sadly the plans he laid he’ll never see through but rest assured others will do so in his memory.
I know of no other person who was better prepared to meet his maker than Charles Bruzon. He may have left the priesthood but he never wavered in his Christian faith. If there is indeed a Father, Son and Holy Ghost then Charles rests at peace in their company.
It always amazed me how Charles worked to connect his Christianity with his Socialism. We would debate an issue from one perspective and then another. You would know Charles had finally made the total connection when he would declare: “Even Joe Bossano would support that!” Fabian Picardo never had a more loyal minister than Charles Bruzon. However Charles was extremely close to Joe and one of my treasured photographs is Charles and Joe face to face, beers in hand, debating an issue of the day.
Some time ago in Parliament the then Chief Minister taunted Charles that he’d never be a true politician as he lacked “mala leche”. Well the then Chief Minister would know all about “mala leche” as he had it by the bucket full. These comments I won’t say worried Charles but they certainly irritated him. On a number of occasions before the General Election he raised it with me as if lacking “mala leche” was a weakness. Well Charles totally lacked “mala leche” in his personal, Christian and Socialist life. If some saw it as a weakness it was in fact what marked him out as a truly fine son of Gibraltar and Parliamentarian.
I have lunched with Charles many times. Sometimes they were simple lunches; others were more elaborate with Marilou and yes a bottle or two of good wine.
I had lunch with Charles in September when the first signs of what would turn out to be cancer appeared. He didn’t know that then and he amused me because Charles relayed in graphic detail, as only Charles could, his symptoms as we munched our pub lunch.
I had lunch with Charles and Marilou in December at the Rock Hotel after his operation. He explained his decision to have chemo and radio therapy. He wanted to make sure the cancer didn’t come back.
I had planned to have lunch with Charles in March now the treatment was over. We exchanged texts: Charles was excited he had much to discuss. Then a text came saying he had a bad cold. Then the texts become more confused as Charles was taken back to hospital for the last time.
At this point I am going to take you to New York. In the early 1980s I had lunch with another dear friend Walter Neiman. Walter was president of WQXR the radio station of the New York Times. We crossed the street to the famous restaurant Sardis and after we’d sat down, received our drinks Walter broke the news. This would be our last lunch together. He had a heart complaint that was terminal and it was a matter of weeks or months before it would beat its last. Curiously it was a very good lunch, a final celebration of our friendship and it was only when we’d finished that we left the restaurant, hugged and then I walked away with tears in my eyes.
So myself and Charles have unfinished business. We have to lunch. When the tears have dried and the grief lessened I will meet with those who loved him most and we shall eat and drink and celebrate his life. We shan’t be alone for Charles’ spirit will be with us of that I have no doubt. Together we shall honour this most decent of men.
In the days to come please pray for the soul of Charles Bruzon.
When you find yourself with a full glass in your hand also toast this noble son of Gibraltar, a man who spoke out for Gibraltar – toast the man who was “sin mala leche”.
With his passing we have all lost a dear friend.