1972 Jaguar, Always with you, Austin-Healey 3000, Austin-Healey 3000 x 2, British Car Club of the Cape Fear, Celebration of Life, CruisingTheICW, Friends, Humble and Kind, Life, Memories, Reflections, Thinking Outside The Boat, Wilmington NC, Wrightsville Beach NC
On Sunday, May 23, 2021, family and friends gathered at Long Leaf Park, in Wilmington, NC to celebrate Bruce Allcorn’s life. My guess is that somewhere in heaven, he was looking down, shaking his head, and saying to himself, “What are y’all doing?” Bruce was never one to draw attention to himself.
While he may have been shaking his head at the thought of us coming together to talk about him, he was probably grinning at the car show that evolved. Bruce was a member of two British Car Clubs, and as a “motorhead,” he had a number of friends with some pretty amazing other cars, too. I doubt that anyone in attendance had a garage to match his – a garage with a lift that allowed him to do about 99% of maintenance and repairs of his two incredibly beautiful Austin-Healey 3000s, and his equally incredible 1972 Jaguar sedan. Neither of the cars had been driven in the rain during their years in his possession. For rainy days, he depended on his Toyota Tacoma pickup.
While the cars driven there to honor him were beautiful, nothing could match the words of family and friends that paid tribute to a man that could not possibly have had an enemy. He was that kind of guy. Following his unexpected death during the COVID-19 months, his niece, Amber beautifully planned the celebration of his life. On each table at our park shelter were framed photographs of Bruce, from childhood to the present. They were reminders of the great friend we’d all lost. We shared her emotions as she welcomed everyone, and introduced those of us that could speak. I say, “could speak,” because it became obvious, emotions prevented more “Bruce stories.”
His brother, Luther – who was the only one in attendance that knew Bruce longer than me – started us off with childhood stories that brought smiles and laughter. As we listened and remembered Bruce, we could easily believe every word Luther spoke. For me, his stories brought back memories of our high school days, and thereafter, when we were connected by our Austin-Healey 3000s, and fun times at his family’s beautiful homeplace.
Following Luther, Bruce’s first friend to speak brought laughter when he described Bruce as having the mindset of an old woman in a man’s body. Yes, he could be stubborn, outspoken, and yes, there was always the right way, wrong way, and Bruce’s way of getting things done. But he never failed to get things done, and he never failed his friends.
With humor, a female friend told of coming to the realization that Bruce was simply Bruce, and accept it or not, he wasn’t changing. She also realized that in so many ways, she was just like him, so she accepted that with Bruce, “what you see is what you get.” She embraced it for a long and loyal friendship.
Another friend “spoke” for most of us when she got up to speak, but tearful emotions prevented the words from coming out. We all understood.
Bruce was part of a group of guys that met routinely for morning coffee. In 2019, as usual, Carolyn and I spent a couple of days visiting with him while cruising north. At our next stop, the Beaufort (NC) Docks Marina, in Beaufort, NC, I met one of his “coffee drinking” buddies while admiring his beautiful, antique, wooden yacht. When I mentioned having visited a friend in Wilmington, he asked my friend’s name. At the sound of Bruce’s name, he laughed, “Bruce is one of my coffee buddies!” I took a picture of us on the boat, and texted it to Bruce. The immediate response was, “Don’t believe a thing he tells you about me!” Yes, everyone that knew Bruce, had a story to tell.
A neighbor told a more serious story that spoke of the heart of the friend we’d lost. Sometime after an elderly neighbor’s husband passed away, her air conditioner had failed, and she could not afford to replace it. When Bruce heard of her dilemma, he quietly replaced her air conditioner at his expense. Sometime later, he did the same when he learned her television had failed. To say Bruce Allcorn had a big heart, is an understatement.
Bruce loved cats. He had a couple of “house cats,” and a host of feral ones that he provided food, his climate controlled garage as a home, and medical attention when they needed it. Once when we were talking, he said he’d spoken to a neighbor about looking after his cats if anything ever happened to him. How many others would have done the same?
When it came my turn to speak, I told the only story I figured I might be able to tell without losing my composure. It was intended as a humorous – but true – version of a beach trip we once took in my Healey, when we had to decide between luggage or the convertible top. We chose luggage. Thanks to Mother Nature it could have been a very bad decision and wet trip home, if not for the big, fast Lincoln Continental that we fell in behind leaving Morehead City, and let the rain blow over us for the next couple of hours!
But, there were two stories I wish I could have told, because they also spoke to the heart and soul of the friend we’d lost. In January 2018, Bruce attended our annual chicken stew for the first time. It’s an event where I spend the entire day cooking the stew in an old, 20-gallon, cast iron pot, under our raised back porch. He spent part of the day providing “moral support” before going upstairs that evening to spend time with our neighbors, family, and friends. Later that evening, I took a break to see what was happening upstairs. Before going back down, I noticed Bruce walking out our front door, with his pipe in hand. I figured he was just going out to sit in the front porch swing and puff on his pipe for a few minutes. When he didn’t return, I waited until morning to call him. When I told him that I missed telling him goodbye, he said, “Dickie, I don’t like goodbyes, I just leave and look forward to seeing you later.”
I wish my emotions would have also allowed me to tell the story of his favorite coffee, Coffee 1820 Clasico. He kept a supply of one pound bags of whole bean on hand, and introduced us to it. We shared his love of grinding whole beans, fresh each morning. Last November when I was writing about his passing, I included the following, “As I write this, I’m enjoying a cup of Coffee 1820 Clasico. Last night when I was putting the beans for this morning’s brew into the grinder, I read something that I had never noticed on the front of the bag, “Always with you.” I can’t help but wonder if it was one of the reasons Bruce enjoyed sharing bags of that coffee with friends. Two things are certain – Bruce’s friends will forever remember him fondly, and as Carolyn said, “Cruising through Wrightsville Beach will never be the same without seeing Bruce standing on the dock waiting to greet us.”
Humble and kind. Those two words best describe the late Bruce Allcorn, but to those of us who knew him, he was so much more. Intelligent. Sincere. Humorous. Compassionate. Honest. A proud Navy veteran. A son that always joined his older brother annually in paying respects to their deceased parents. An uncle that had no children, but loved his niece and her family with all his heart. “Always with you.” The kind of friend we should all wish for. The kind of friend we should all strive to be. To Bruce, it was simply a way of life, and had been for all the years I knew him.
Rest In Peace, Brother. Rest In Peace.