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Bruce Harrington Gould, known to friends and family as "Moe," died November 19, 2014, in Buffalo, New York, during a sudden blizzard that immobilized a surprised city. He was 81 years old.
For over 40 years, he had worked seasonally on the docks with other union grain shovelers, waist deep in the holds of Lake Erie freighters. They were paid by the bushel instead of by the hour. For 33 of those years, he was also a firefighter — four days on, four days off. With all the wood-framed houses in Buffalo, there was plenty of business.
Moe worked on the railroad, too, for 12 years. That might have lasted longer, but when the bosses learned he was also holding down two other jobs, they let him go. They didn’t understand that sleep was for the wealthy.
Growing up in Irish-Canadian Buffalo in the middle of the century was growing up in a town ruled by taverns and dock work; it was a place to leave, full of all-day drinking and violence. Moe was familiar with both sides of a fist, unfamiliar with a father — his had died early on.
Some of his friends succumbed to the low roads of alcohol and heroin, but at 17, Moe joined the Navy. He couldn’t stay away from Buffalo, though. On weekend passes from the Virginia base, he’d hitch north, sleep in his bed, then hitch back. He married a girl who lived a block away and belonged to his church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. They raised six children together. For someone without a father, becoming one was an act of faith.
Racing between jobs, Moe would pop into the house and his wife would swap out supplies with him, exchanging dirty uniforms for clean ones and food. Between kids and work, patience occasionally ran low. But Moe had a great admiration for the non-complainers in life. Even sleepless, he was driven by the responsibility for his kids.
Eventually, there were 15 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. He called them his “people." Really, they were his purpose — although, in his 70s, no longer grain scooping and fire-fighting, with a little rare time on his hands, he did take up mountain biking.
Family didn’t know what to do when he died in his bedroom in the blizzard. It was midnight; Buffalo was immobilized. But the local funeral director was a volunteer firefighter. When he learned Moe had belonged to the brotherhood, he commissioned an open-air Sno-Cat from the fire department, plunged through the drifts, and bore him away like the hero he was.
Did you know Bruce Harrington Gould? Share your memories in the comments section.
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