Remembering Rob Bruce; Fair Haven-Raised RFH ’77 Grad, Pop Culture Icon Found Dead

“We’re all kinda the same guy. Everyday hustling and digging through our warehouses and storage units full of trash and treasure. I guess it helped us realize the real treasures are the days we have with people we love … Our little Jersey circle is a little less colorful and crazy now.” ~ Justin Skyler Daniels, friend of Robert Bruce, on his Facebook page

The year 2021 ended with the sudden death of Fair-Haven raised Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) Class of ’77 graduate Robert “Rob” Bruce, a more recent decades-long Red Bank resident known as the area’s pop culture icon.

Bruce’s body, police reported, was found by a friend of the family in a Red Bank basement storage facility unit Bruce had been renting, dubbed his “office.” Upon the discovery, the friend notified police. That was at 6:30 on New Year’s Eve.

While saying in a released statement that there seemed to be no sign of foul play, police added that, as with any unattended death, the cause is being investigated by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Police also asked that anyone with any information in possible connection to the death call Red Bank Police Detective Sean Hauschildt at 732.530.2719.

In the meantime, hometown friends and fans of Bruce mourn the man they knew as a kind soul, toy collector and walking pop culture encyclopedia.

Bruce also made many appearances on Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men, filmed at Smith’s Secret Stash store in Red Bank. He was also known as an avid supporter of independent music and its scene at the now closed Brighton Bar in Long Branch and The Saint and Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park and was also a roadie for The Ramones and other bands. Bruce was also co-creator of New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival.

His brother, John Bruce, posted news of Rob’s death on New Year’s Day, saying, “I’m very sad to announce the passing of my brother (Robert K Bruce). He was the original pop culturist and a key contributor to the series Comic Book Men! He was a bright, inspiring and humble man! …”

Smith tweeted in response to John’s news, “My condolences! I’m truly sorry to read this John. @popculturizm was always a welcome addition to any episode of @ComicBookMenAMC, as well as a nice guy. I’ll miss Rob. (@AMC_TV shot a sizzle reel for a spin-off with Rob & his family before they got rid of all the reality shows.)”

“So sad to hear this 🙁 You were one special man,” wrote Fair Haven and RFH friend Peggy Miller to Bruce on Facebook. “You made us all feel special with a great smile! Sending Love Hugs and Peace to your entire family.”

“I’m so saddened to hear this news,” said RFH grad and friend Kate Grady. “My heart breaks for his family.”

Rob Bruce is survived by his wife, Laura Dardi, and two sons as well as his mother, brother and sisters.

“Robert the Bruce, the once and future kind of Scotland, has left us,” said friend Jim Rash in a Facebook post on Bruce’s page.

“Robert Bruce, the great ‘popculturist’ of Red Bank, NJ … When San Diego Convention has its next full gathering, at the banquet for thousands, I would like to see a toast: ‘This is the greatest gathering of pop culture knowledge ever in the world, except for when Robert the Bruce dined alone.’ Good night, good sire. We will meet again.”

Hundreds of others posted messages of condolence and appreciation for Rob Bruce. They continue.

** Updates on the investigation of Bruce’s death will be posted as they become available as will funeral plans. RIP. **

— Photos/RFH 1977 Yearbook and Bruce’s Facebook page

John Caroli
BCS Wealth Management