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One-on-One With Bruce Patterson
As a forward, I would like to take a moment to personally thank the Patterson family for taking the time and agreeing to this interview. This article is very personal, emotional, and honest. A special thank-you to Bruce’s mother for encouraging him and giving him the okay to open up and share.
IN HIS SISTER’S MEMORY:
HOW IFBB PRO BRUCE PATTERSON COPES WITH THE DEATH OF HIS SISTER AND COMPETING.
In October 2010, the Patterson family went through a tragic event and loss that has haunted them since then and only came to a close in the legal system this past year: the untimely death and tragic death of their sister and daughter, Sabrina Patterson. What makes Sabrina’s death so tragic is that this was a life lost to domestic violence. Unfortunately, domestic violence is nothing new in our society, and for many it is a daily occurrence and fact that women, children and some men are the victims of senseless pain caused by the ones they love, and far too many end up in similar situations to Sabrina. For many families that are left behind to cope with this loss and have to find the means to move on, it isn’t done in the public eye or with high-profile events or competitions on the line. So, how does one cope, deal, and move on? What does one do?
Meeting Bruce Patterson for the first time this past June at the Toronto Pro SuperShow, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh. He has a personality and heart as big as he is built in muscle mass. You just feel his genuine spirit and love of life and the sport when in his presence. I will admit that I wasn’t as familiar with the story that Bruce and his family were struggling with at the time, until I saw his posts and updates on social media. It is there where I learned the details of what happened, what the family was dealing with at the time, and it’s where I talked to Bruce through private messages on the subject. His openness to share and talk about his sister and domestic violence as well as his drive to compete are what make him who he is today.
Q. In 2010, your family faced a horrible loss with the tragic death of your sister. Could you briefly tell us what happened?
A. I believe it was the day after Halloween. I was talking to my mother, and she said that Sabrina was missing. I was unconcerned because of my belief that she could look after herself in any situation. All of us kids were brought up that way. Twenty-four hours later, it became serious enough for me to drive home and help search for her. By the time I got home, Fred Prosser was missing as well. We felt Fred Prosser was involved in her disappearance, as we had heard he had threatened to take her hostage, so we began searching the Albert County area [New Brunswick] for any trace of her and/or him. We searched for a camp or hut he may have had her held in, concentrating on the area of Shenstone, where he lived with his mother. We even expanded our search to include any buildings in his father’s name. All week we searched in the pouring rain, only going home to change into dry clothing. We had many volunteers from the area and friends of Sabrina’s helping us. On the following Saturday she was found; we were told by the RCMP the body they had found had tattoos “very similar to Sabrina’s,” and since they were unique to her, we knew she was gone. She had been dumped on the side of a road in a large garbage bag, showing the contempt her murderer had for her. We had to arrange to bury her and tell her children she would not be coming home again. He did not just kill her—he killed her children’s mother and affected their future. In what way we know not, but we shall have to deal with it.
Q. Were you competing at this time?
A. No. I hadn’t competed for over 10 years and hadn’t trained for about six years. Believe it or not, I had become a runner in those years, running up to nine miles barefoot or with my vibrams. My competition days were behind me. I had three kids and a great job selling real estate.
Q. How did this affect you?
A. Wow, this is a hard one to answer. I guess the best answer is, things that you were so sure of are not so sure anymore. Things just don’t make sense. I mean, I’ve always thought of myself as a protector of my sister and family. But what do you do when a family member is murdered? It’s too late to protect them. Then you have to sit in court and watch the person who did it breathe air and do nothing day after day.Your romantic notion of being a protector crumbles.
You also realize how sick some in society are, though you liked to believe that in small-town areas, we are not subject to this kind of violence. In addition, you realize the law do not protect those in society who are abused, since he was like others who commit murder in family violence situations; they have a history of violence against their victims, and the law allows them to go free to commit murder. Too many times, “attempted murder” becomes “assault,” and they go free to appear in court later. In the meantime, they murder their victims. They should be locked up and held to be judged by a judge and court. Politicians need to change the laws of our country. Then maybe the law will protect victims, and police could not allow them to walk free.
Q. What do you do to “deal” or cope?
A. I realize I have to continue to support her memory and her children—to keep her alive in our memory and not let her be forgotten by anyone. We cannot change what happened; we can only show her our support by keeping her memory alive. She is not a statistic, she was a person. We mourn her, and we honour her by remembering her as she was: a good person and mother who cared for others.
Q. How has her death affected you, and your training?
A. It’s funny—I know how it has affected me, but I have trouble telling you because I want to keep it personal between me and Sabrina. I guess it has made me appreciate things more and live in the moment. As for training, we all know that training is a great release, so I would have to say my training intensity is up. I miss Sabrina, and even after more than two years, it’s hard to put in words.
Q. What made you decide to compete in 2012?
A. It started as a drunken promise, but really it was me trying to feel a connection with my sister by doing something again that we both loved.
Q. What message would you like to make about domestic violence?
A. Domestic violence needs to stop, but until the laws are changed by politicians, it will continue to happen, and in most cases, the children are left behind to find a way to deal with the loss of both parents. Protection of those victims and children must be enforced, and we cannot depend on law enforcement personnel to make the decision whether the offender should be allowed to walk free to commit the ultimate crime of murder of the victim. Judges should be the only ones to make that decision in domestic violence cases, and the politicians need to enable them to lock away offenders if they have a history of violence that could have resulted in the murder of the victim.
Q. Are there any future plans for charity work or service announcements to bring awareness to domestic violence either through your bodybuilding or being a spokesperson?
A. We do hold a marathon every year, led by Sabrina’s brother Dale Jr., to support a house in Moncton that helps women that are being abused, and part of the proceeds go to a trust fund to ensure her two children have a future, since there is no assistance from anyone else to help them. My parents who are on pensions only are bringing them up. If I can be a spokesperson through bodybuilding media and help save one life, I will be there to do so.
Q. You are sponsored by Advanced Genetics, and they seem to be a very close knit company, almost family with their athletes, how did having their support help you through this difficult time?
A. Being an AG athlete I know I have the backing and support of all the other AG athletes. Especially CEO Chris Johnson. We've been friends many years and he's always there when I need to bend his ear.
Q. When you made the decision to compete in 2012, what were the supplements that you used for your prep?
A. Of course I used nothing but the best for my come back last year and of course that is AG products and the support of Popeye's.
Q. What are the future plans for you in regards to competing in 2013?
A. I plan on doing the Toronto SuperShow and, if all goes well, would love to do the Masters Olympia this year. I guess in ending this I have to mention the sacrifice my parents have made in bringing Sabrina’s two kids up in their late sixties. I mean, they would have it no other way and never complain about it, but two more saintly people you would never meet. My father put aside his feelings to be a rock for this family, otherwise avoiding any drastic action from the brothers and my mother, for that matter. I know the man suffered in his own time and place. You can see it in his face. The two of them make me proud to be a Patterson.
Bruce Patterson with AG clothing & products: Jason Breeze
Bruce Patterson on stage: Judi Stone