Remembering Our Founding Father

Bruce Bellingham

My thoughts: Bruce Bellingham
Memorial Service – Sunday January 10th, 2010
by Bob Horrocks

As the president of the Willimantic Victorian Neighborhood Association I have been asked to reflect on our friend Bruce Bellingham.

Bruce was a musician, scholar, gardener, craftsman, and a community organizer.  In 1998 he gathered together a group of neighbors in Willimantic to form the Victorian Neighborhood Association.  From this small group of 15 has grown an organization with over 250 members.

From this small group developed a monthly newsletter that is sent to members as far away as Florida.

From this small group developed both an annual winter Progressive Dinner and now a summer Progressive Outdoor Luncheon each attended by 60-70 people.

From this small group developed the annual Victorian Days event (in early June) that has attracted more than 6,000 people to Willimantic during the past several years as participants, and as  visitors to the more than 35 Victorian homes that have been open to the public. Many visitors from our five (5) neighboring states.

From this small group a project to include more than 600 homes in Willimantic’s Prospect Hill section  on the Historic National Register was realized.

From this small group emerged the Garden Club of Windham that was instrumental in the development of the Garden on the Bridge…on an 1889 stone  bridge in downtown Willimantic and additional beautification of Willimantic’s pocket gardens.

You may remember Bruce standing by his base viola or  delivering a pre-concert talk  at Jorgenson or Van de Mayden Halls, or as a professor lecturing on various aspects of music history, or as a meticulous gardener.  I will remember him clinging to a 30 foot ladder tediously scrapping paint from the facade of a beautiful Victorian home, or on a ladder  polishing the uppermost wood and windows in the Windham Town Hall ballroom in preparation for the annual  Snow Ball.

I recall one particular summer evening when Bruce and I were relaxing by our neighbor (Charlie Coriarity’s) pool.  I was trying to explain to Bruce why the Red Sox were a better team than the Yankees; he was trying to describe the differences among great composers.  We talked  “at” each other for about thirty minutes when he suddenly stood up from him lounge chair and said “watch this.”  He paused at the end of the diving board and using the appropriate three (3) step approach launched into a “perfect swan dive.”  I remember thinking “Is there anything this man cannot do well?”  Yes, Bruce was a very good swimmer.

Bruce was many things…but those of us in the WVNA remember him as a craftsman and a historian with tremendous knowledge about Victorian architecture and Victorian wood working.  He loved his home in Coventry…and he also loved historic Willimantic.

He was a lover of great music…but also a lover of fine wood working.  When I hear the word “patina” I will think of Bruce.  Through his ever patient hand rubbing and polishing he had a way of bringing out the best in old furniture and old woodworking.

He brought out the best in these…and he brought out the best in many of us…He was a wonderful contributor to our community…I will miss him greatly.

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