Daughter shares memories of couple killed in houseboat fire

Northeast Alabama
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SCOTTSBORO, Ala. – Scottsboro firefighters have identified the married couple killed in an early morning houseboat fire. They have been identified as John Phillips Bruce, 79, and Emily Nelson Bruce, 69.

Fire investigators say it appears the couple died from smoke inhalation.

The fire started around 4 a.m. on a boat at Goose Pond Colony. Firefighters tell us the people inside a neighboring houseboat called authorities when they noticed the fire.

The family’s golden retriever also died in the fire.

The boat is registered in Tennessee.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Moving to Scottsboro was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for the Bruces.

“I don’t think one could have coped without the other. They loved each other that much,” said their daughter, Mary Alexander.

For years, John and Emily Bruce dreamed of what life would be like after retirement.

“They owned a business in Tuscaloosa called Ms. Emily’s tomatoes. They grew hydroponic tomatoes,” said Alexander.

But living on the water was something Emily always wanted to do. “They bought them a house boat and came up to Scottsboro and been here ever since.”

Their daughter never would have thought that two years later, her parents’ dream would end in a nightmare. “I live in Chattanooga, so the police came to my house boat and let me know that there had been a fire.”

Then they told her the news that both her parents were dead. “It’s going to be hard moving on without them, but I’m glad that they’re together.”

Both were well known at Goose Pond Colony and well-loved.

Now, the Bruces will be remembered for their big personalities. “He was a Walmart greeter here in Scottsboro. Never met a stranger in his life.”

And kind spirits. “She just.. she loved everybody. Anything you needed, she’d give you the shirt off her back.”

The couple may have only lived in Scottsboro a couple of years but they were clearly part of the community.
and their loss will continue to be felt.

“As strange as it sounds, I’m looking forward to hearing a lot of the stories that everyone else has to tell me, that knew them in ways I didn’t, because like I said they never met strangers.”



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