A little more than a decade ago, a man I’d never met called me at the office and offered me a chance to write a story that he thought would be pretty interesting.
The man’s name, believe it or not, was Deluck. And that day, I ended up the lucky one.
Don Deluck knew a man who, he said, was a genius. One of a kind. Gracious. Funny. And the best gunsmith he’d ever seen.
If I tried to go out and interview this man, I was told, I might be turned away. But if Deluck took care of the introductions with his longtime friend, that gunsmith would likely welcome me with open arms, and entertain me for hours.
That’s how I met Bill Morrison.
Already well into what could have been his retirement years, Morrison — officially Carl, but Bill to everyone who knew him — was the real deal. Everything Deluck had told me was true.
The interview was amazing. Our visit lasted for hours. And I emerged with a pretty good story.
Deluck stopped by the Bangor Daily News office the other day, and I knew in an instant that he couldn’t be bearing good news. His eyes were red, and he choked back tears when we sat down.
“I just thought you might want to write something,” he told me.
Even though we hadn’t kept in touch since he introduced me to his friend, I knew, again, that Deluck was right.
Bill Morrison, 94 years old, had died in late February.
I missed the obituary and hadn’t known. And Deluck, a friend of Morrison’s for more than 40 years, suspected that I might have a few words to share.
Let’s start at the beginning: Morrison had a passion for guns from the start. As a 2-year-old, he figured out a way to fire a .30-06 shell out of a cork-stopper gun. The result was not good, and his mother wasn’t impressed. When we talked 80-some years after the incident, Morrison still got a kick out of his misdeed.
“It ruined my popgun,” he told me. And he hid under a table, hoping to escape the wrath of his mother.
That was one of the few ruined guns that he proved unable to fix.
By the time he was 15, he was repairing guns for a local sporting goods store. And he never stopped.
His work ethic was unmatched, Deluck said, and he kept up an amazing workload until the last couple of years.
“He’d get up at 10 o’clock in the morning and have his breakfast, then go down to the shop,” Deluck said. “[Before she died], his wife would call him probably six times before she’d get him to come back up to the house for lunch at around 2.”
Then, after a nap, he’d walk back to his Bradford shop at about 9 p.m. and work until 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning.
Deluck said his friend remembered everyone he ever met … and he remembered their guns. Walk into his shop for a repair 40 years after meeting Morrison, and he’d not only tell you about the gun you had in your hands, but about the other guns you owned when last you met.
“And he was the biggest-hearted person in the world,” Deluck said.
Morrison’s filing system seemed a bit haphazard, and his shop was a bit of a mess. But Deluck said Morrison kept a ledger of the work he’d done, and those who owed him money.
But he never tried to collect from those who just “forgot” to do so.
“People owed him money for years, and he never, never, ever went after anybody,” Deluck said.
Morrison was a gunsmith, or worked on guns, for nearly 80 years. One of the most remarkable things about him: The job, and his wife, were his life.
Vacations? He took one, back in 1958.
A decade ago, he told me about his retirement plans: There were none.
“They’ve got a box out there somewhere, I think,” he said.
“He was so dedicated. He couldn’t wait for somebody to come in the door so that he could start telling stories,” Deluck said. “My wife couldn’t understand why I spent so much time in that gun shop. When I took her out there and she listened to the stories, and him laughing, she understood exactly why I spent so much time out there.”
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter @JohnHolyoke.