Yacht builder, husband, father, opa. Born March 15, 1930, in Dusseldorf, Germany. Died Oct. 28, 2011, in Burlington, Ont., of tuberculosis, aged 81.
Erich Bruckmann leaves a tangible legacy behind him. The boats he custom-built for C&C, the Canadian company he co-founded (with four others) in 1969, have names that yachters still speak of reverently – Manitou, Evergreen, Condor. Carved models of the hulls of some of the company's more storied boats line the walls of the study in Erich’s Burlington, Ont., home.
Trained as a master carpenter in his native Germany, Erich made much of the teak modernist furniture in the home he shared with Lisa, his beloved wife of 58 years and the mother of his five children. He was a hands-on man, a hiker of the Alps and daily frequenter of the YMCA who couldn’t bear inactivity – he once reshingled a backyard shed the day after a major operation.
At his 80th birthday party, near a fold-down wet bar of his own devising, Erich spoke about his difficult youth in war-torn Germany. The only child of Klara and Ludwig, he suffered from tuberculosis, an ailment that came back at the very end. After the Second World War ended and his health returned, he became an active youth, playing soccer and cycling. He met Lisa (briefly) on a bicycle tour around Germany and, despite the brevity of the meeting, sent her a postcard from every subsequent destination.
He also spoke of his lean first years in Toronto after arriving in 1956. He showed up for his first job in the boat-building trade with no references and little English but with a toolbox of his own construction – the meticulously organized and crafted box served as his best reference.
He was not, however, a man simply concerned with the outward – he was a person of inner dimension. After his retirement in 1984, he would go from watching European soccer matches to listening to Beethoven and Strauss. His subscription to The Economist and wide (always non-fiction) reading bolstered his strong opinions on politics and history. But he could be a careful listener, too.
Erich was, constitutionally, an independent. Work for yourself, he advised. He wasn’t a fan of organized religion; while his family ate meat, he dined mainly on vegetables, although, on Christmas Eve, steak tartare; he drank hardly at all. But he loved a party, as photos of him and Lisa attest, some showing them dressed in costume, others dancing cheek-to-cheek.
Erich and Lisa had real love in spades, and shared it with their children, Peter, Caroline, Mark, John and David. The five converged from near and far to be with him around the clock at the end. He passed along that detail-oriented competence and strong sense of self to each of them. Few of us leave behind so tangible a record of our labours – but fewer still earn such love.
By Alec Scott, Erich’s son-in-law.