Bruce Dean Jacobs

ALTAMONT — In a life spent working on farm machinery, Bruce Jacobs was caring and independent, maintaining his stride and compassion through adversity.

“I think he was very cerebral in trying to diagnose why something’s broken,” recalled his brother, James Jacobs. “That takes more thought and less verbalization, to be a diagnostic repairman. I think he was always the kind of guy that would talk under his breath.”

Bruce Jacobs died on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. He was 58.

Born on Aug. 28, 1954, to the late Bernard and Elizabeth Jacobs, Mr. Jacobs grew up in a large family, where, his brother said, it was easy to get lost in the shuffle. Their father taught English and Latin at Berne-Knox High School and their mother worked as a waitress at local restaurants. He graduated from Berne-Knox in 1972.

“Bruce was never a book-smart guy, but he was more of a vocational aptitude and, I guess, he found his niche in life when my father sent him up to the Garry farm,” said his brother, referring to Harry Garry’s Berne dairy farm.

Taking off from his father’s work on student productions at the school, Mr. Jacobs loved movies and plays, his brother said, and he could easily recall their lines, characters, and plots.

Working on the Cole Hill Farm and Harry Garry’s farm when he was about 15, Mr. Jacobs developed as a mechanic for wagons and tractors and other broken farm machines. He formed friendships at the dairy farm, with Mr. Garry, his wife, Dr. Margery Smith, and their son, Charlie Garry, who helped him later in life when, while living in Santa Rosa, Calif., Mr. Jacobs was in a coma.

“Unfortunately he got assaulted by a gang and resulted in critical injuries to his brain,” said Mr. Jacobs. “Charlie and my sister found him and brought him back and Charlie has remained a solid friend because Bruce couldn’t drive, and Charlie’s always there to be his mentor.”

In the early 1980s, Mr. Jacobs traveled to Africa with the Peace Corps through Tanzania, Kenya, and Zanzibar. He managed garages for villages, until he was injured in an accident while riding a scooter.

Mr. Jacobs’s ex-wife was from Santa Rosa, where, his brother said, he flourished as a new kind of mechanic. He would travel to vineyards to repair grape-harvesting machines, and told his brother, even after the brain injury in 2003, of the music and coastal life he enjoyed.

“His long-term memory was spot on, and he would recall the different performers that would come to the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa,” said Mr. Jacobs.

After his family helped him return to New York, Mr. Jacobs settled into a new lifestyle in Altamont.

“I think the fact that he was a true survivor of that traumatic brain injury and he persevered to get independent again — that was his whole thing, was self-improvement,” his brother said. “He could have laid right down and given up, but he fought his way right back.”

A registered nurse, James Jacobs said he believes his brother’s injury contributed to his death, possibly by a hemorrhagic stroke.

Mr. Jacobs was still somewhat reserved, but available to talk, said his brother. He taught himself to play the guitar and jammed with other amateur musicians.

“He was a real sweet guy that never got in trouble, never started a fight. And that continued,” Mr. Jacobs said.

Support groups of others with brain injuries at Living Resources on Washington Avenue Extension allowed him to connect with people. He wrote letters and encouraged others in the groups and completed all available programs, Mr. Jacobs said.

He grew tomatoes, gardening in Guilderland Center, and went bowling.

“He was a townie,” said Mr. Jacobs. “He would always be seen walking.”

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Bruce Dean Jacobs is survived by his siblings, William Jacobs, Susan Jacobs, James Jacobs and his wife, Dr. Marcelle Jennifer Reilly, Nancy Jacobs-Hendricks and her husband, Ishmael, and Raymond Jacobs and his wife, Kathleen; his nieces, Jennifer Preisig, Amy Hagenbuch, Jessica Hendricks, and Kelly Jacobs; his nephews, James P. Jacobs, Patrick Jacobs, Aidan Jacobs, and Ciaran Jacobs; his great nephews, Damien Pearson and Lexus Hagenbuch; and his great niece, Mya Hagenbuch.

His sister, Janet Jacobs, died before him, as did his parents, Bernard and Elizabeth Jacobs.

A memorial celebration of his life will be held on March 23 at the Garry farm at 339 Helderberg Trail in East Berne. 

His family extends its thanks to his friends, who were always there to help him with errands and shopping. 

“We would also like to express our gratitude to Community Caregivers and Living Resources who assisted with his recovery,” the family wrote in a tribute.

Memorial contributions may be made to Community Caregivers, 2021 Western Ave., Suite 104, Albany, NY 12203.

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