'Renaissance man'? That doesn't cover it

He may have grown beyond the definition of "Renaissance man": someone who has a broad spectrum of knowledge on myriad subjects.

One look at his long list of accomplishments and interests elicits a single word: Wow!

Bernard William "Bill" Cruse Jr. of Concord died May 2, 2011, at age 83 after several falls and pneumonia. He was a Marine veteran of World War II who served in the South Pacific and the China occupation.

As a high school and college student, he worked in print shops, was a radio announcer and disc jockey and operated a newsstand. He worked in a dental lab and was a certified automotive tool and die maker. He later joined his parents at their Wilmington motel, where he built and ran a restaurant.

Returning to Concord, he worked in the sheet-metal business before opening Craft Manufacturing Co. When it closed, he became an engineer for a hosiery company, then a mechanical designer for Celanese Corp.

He was founding president of CEM Corp., which developed and marketed electronic devices. He retired in 1983.

"He got a dentist's license so he could make his own dentures," said his granddaughter Alicia Parnell. "He was an amazing person; he did so many different things. I learned tons of stuff from him, so much that I don't know where to begin."

'A walking encyclopedia'

Bill was a Rowan County native and a 1944 graduate of Concord High School. He attended Davidson College, the Georgia Institute of Technology and other colleges and trade schools.

There was no end to his quest for knowledge and the pursuit of his interests. He owned and flew his own airplane, was a member of an alphabet of organizations and a lifelong member of Calvary Lutheran Church in Concord.

"He was one of the most motivated people I've ever met," said his daughter, Kathy Parnell. "He was always busy doing something, nonstop. He was a walking encyclopedia. No matter where you'd go, he knew the buildings and could tell you the names of relatives. I was proud and honored to be his daughter."

He found true love

An early union gave him his son, Bernard William Cruse III, and daughter, Kathy, but it wasn't until the 1980s that he met his true love, Marjorie Elizabeth Waugh. They married May 3,1986, and Marge brought her sons, David and Randy Waugh, and daughter, Cheryl Oakes, into the family.

"They loved one another so much," Kathy said. "They traveled for years in their motor home and were winter residents in Florida, where they bought a house just a block from us."

Marge died in 2003.

"He never got over losing her, and (he) died one day before their anniversary," Kathy said. "For years, he visited her at the cemetery every day. He made up his mind to be with her on their anniversary."

Bill had a huge interest in genealogy.

"He found out we were related to the Dale Earnhardt family," granddaughter Alicia said. Four of his publications were awarded blue ribbons by the N.C. Society of Historians.

Bill knew where he came from, and - even better - he knew where he was going.