Best of friends until the end

Published 6:50 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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James “Booty” Bruce and Fitz Lee have been friends since they were students at Troy State University together. Their friendship was the “I’d do anything for you” kind.

When the time came that Bruce needed a kidney transplant, Lee didn’t hesitate. 

“Booty was put on the donor list but it takes a long time to find a match and it’s a slow move up the donor list,” Lee said. “Booty didn’t want me to do it but I went to be tested to see if I was a match. I was put on the donor list and was hopeful.  I knew that Booty would do the same for me.”

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Bruce was concerned, not only about his friend donating a kidney, but also about his daughter who might, one day, need a kidney transplant and Lee would not have one to give.

“I told Booty that, by that time, it wouldn’t matter. I would be so old that nobody would want and old man’s kidney,” Lee said laughing.

Over the last few years, Bruce had continuing and progressing kidney problems and, in the last two years, Lee was not approved as a donor. 

“I don’t know why we didn’t have the transplant before I wasn’t able to do it,”

Lee said. “I just don’t know….”

The two men’s friendship began as students at Troy State.

“We were in different fraternities but one of my brothers told me there was a guy he wanted me to meet,” Lee said. “He thought we would hit it off. He introduced us and we hit it off.”

In all their years of friendship, the friends never had a disagreement.

“Booty lived in my parents’ house while he was in school and there was never any disagreement between us,” Lee said. 

 Everybody liked James “Booty” Bruce. There was no reason not to like him, Lee said.

“He was friendly with everybody and, even if there was a disagreement between people, Booty knew how to talk it through.”

The longtime friends played golf together, went to Central Florida to spring training for major league baseball teams. They worked at Horn beverage together for a time. 

When, James “Booty” Bruce’s life ended, Fitz Lee was there, just as he had been all those many years. 

“Booty would have been there with me,” Lee said. “I could not let him go without being there for him.”