Guest Column: Adventures with Bill Ruger

By Michael Ian Hallet

The following is the text of a speech given at William Ruger’s funeral Saturday, Sept. 22.

It happened something like this.

Alexander Phillips, the clockmaker in Bar Harbor and resident musician at East of Eden called me up one day back in 2005 or so. He said a fellow by the name of Bill wanted to see the house. I said, “Sure, have him come down.”

A short while later a 2002 Bentley Arnage rolled down the driveway and a tall, good looking guy shook my hand.

“I’m Bill Ruger,” he said.

That was the beginning of a long ride in old cars, fire trucks, massive restoration projects, land acquisitions, bourbon, twists and turns, highs and lows, and a lot of laughs.

I had a business downtown that was not going very well, a high end gift and wine shop. Bill said, “The problem with Bar Harbor is they come here in a tee shirt with a ten dollar bill and they don’t change either one of them!”

He asked me if I wanted to stay on in the house and manage it for him so I figured, I go with the house!

So began the grand restoration. From the roof to the foundation, Bill didn’t miss a detail. We all know he was a project guy and this was the perfect project. We met daily with John Collier, General Contractor; Fred Atherton, Architect; D.L. Smith, Excavation; Dwayne Norwood, Masonry; Robin and Brian Walls, Plumbing and Heating; G&G Electric, Greg Grant, Ron, and Bruce; Ed Libitzki, Metal Magic; Lee Corro, for our acre-of-tile roof; Scott Mitchell, Lawn Care and Jeremy Laurendeau, Paint and fixing anything. The list goes on and on.

Bill was his happiest those days. He loved to sit on a 2-by-12 board and hash out the details with these men. And he was adored by them. He made it a point to hire local people and that never went unnoticed in Bar Harbor.

I was there by his side and in his stead when he was in New Hampshire, keeping everything going and the house secure.

I put together the owners of all the companies working on the house and every Thursday evening they would gather at East of Eden. Led by Bill, they were the backbone of Bar Harbor infrastructure. Men’s Club was born! Bill looked forward to those Thursdays I think more than anything else. We were a force to contend with, an elite group of artisans, capable of rebuilding the world, if need be!

East of Eden stands today, better than new, all because it had been, in Bill’s words, “Rugerized.”

If Bill was not in Bar Harbor, at 5 o’clock sharp my phone would ring. Every day, for over 10 years. You could set your watch by it. It didn’t matter if he was at a car show or sitting in his gold ceiling bar, if I was at East of Eden or in Southern Utah on our honeymoon, the phone would ring. Bill was calling for the Bar Harbor Report.

He called anytime close to 5, dangerously close to cocktail hour. “I’m sitting in my golden ceilinged bar and some amber liquid just passed my lips. Do you have a drink?”

Of course I did. The next half hour to an hour passed as we cussed and discussed everything from load bearing beams to how cathode ray tubes worked.

“I don’t think they make those anymore, Bill,” I’d say.

“They should,” he said.

Somewhere around 1960, I’m thinking, Bill decided that his current outlook on the state of things had been finely honed to the point it no longer needed refining. I looked at his desk before I left to come here and marveled at the countless pads of paper, notes scribbled all over them, calculators, a wind up clock, a land line phone. All dragged from the past and playing very important roles in the present.

Bill was headstrong and opinionated. But, you always knew where you stood with him. And if he liked you, you felt very lucky indeed.

Michael Ian Hallet is the Estate Manager of East of Eden in Bar Harbor. William Batterman Ruger was born June 4, 1939 and died Sept. 15, 2018.

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