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Getting to know you; Bruce Pryor, Jr.

 

Bruce Pryor, Jr., from Hawesville, known affectionately as “Brucie” to his family and friends, just celebrated his 44th birthday on Monday. Bruce is an amazing and inspiring person for all who are blessed to know this man.

Bruce “Brucie” Pryor, Jr.

Since age 21, he has chosen to live as independently as possible despite the challenges of cerebral palsy. He has bravely navigated through life with a measure of acceptance and grace that inspires everyone who crosses his path.

“He gave us a sense of humility as we watched him accept the many indignities and pain of surviving in a body that is not prepared to be in the real world yet,” his Aunt Beckey Powers Doyle wrote, reflecting on the time she and family members spent with Brucie while he was in intensive care. (He arrived 2 months early, weighing just over 2 pounds.)

“We all learned to pray fervently. Brucie just kept making faces as if to talk and held firm like a rock and refused to die and he, indeed, made us proud.

We all said he had come from good stock, as if saying that would put us in the same league with this little fighter whose courage we could neither understand nor copy, for we were afraid a lot and cried often.

Several months after his entrance into the world, Brucie came to his home and family. He did come home to us physically challenged, as society calls it. His hands cannot grasp things easily and after many years of surgery and therapy, he has had to accept that he will not be able to walk and must rely on a wheelchair.

There has never been a word of complaint as long as he has been alive. He only smiles when he has to crawl instead of walk through a crowd of people. He doesn’t anger if someone steps on his finger by accident. He bears his battle scars bravely.

When he seemed a little discouraged about not being able to play football with everyone, Uncle John and Uncle Nate Powers would throw him over their shoulder to run for the touchdown. Brucie was glad to be included in games even if he had to be carried. He still looks intently at us, perhaps it is because his eyesight is challenged, but it is almost like he is treasuring us and committing us to memory.

He doesn’t ask, ‘Why me?’

He doesn’t ask, ‘Why me?’ Instead he asks, ‘Can you, will you help me get what and where I need?’ Brucie has taught us all to hope. He rarely feels sorry for himself. We have seen him fight one battle after another to compensate for what nature didn’t give him. He has proven us and the doctors who said he wouldn’t live wrong so many times!

As his mom, Susie Pryor, passed away she left prayers for us all to watch her little boy. Since then, his sister Amanda Pryor Voyles encourages him, takes him shopping, includes him in her life, as well as his dad (Bruce Pryor, Sr.), his uncles and aunts, friends and even strangers who always get a smile from him and a fun way of looking at things going on.

He says often, ‘Everyone is born with some kind of handicap but mine will not define me! I was created special rather than disabled.'”

Brucie enjoys living in his own apartment in Hawesville. Many friends and family members check in with him regularly and he said he feels very loved. When asked what he is most proud of he said, “Just to be here and enjoy life and not worry about the big stuff or the small stuff. It’ll all take care of itself.”

His choice to have a cheerful disposition no matter what is very encouraging to others. He said his favorite Scripture in the Bible is Matthew 7:12 – “So then, whatever you desire that others would do to and for you, even so do also to and for them, for this is [sums up] the Law and the Prophets.”

He is dedicated to living his life this way, by the “Golden Rule”, and chooses to hold a positive mindset and be an uplifter, which is such an admirable and inspiring quality. If somebody needs help, he never hesitates to offer it.

Volunteering

Brucie volunteered as the pacer for the 5K Run & Walk in Hawesville this year. He volunteers whenever he is asked to in the community. He helps his Uncle Nathan at the Hancock County Museum and also pitches in with him to help with Santa Sacks each year.

When asked what he most enjoys doing in his spare time Brucie said, “I like movies and I like doing my laundry at my house. I do my sister’s laundry when she gets behind. She’s usually behind because her children play football and soccer. I have to, at least, go to one of their games a year or so.” He’s a good uncle and a good brother.

He said his favorite food is pizza and he likes the local restaurants. “Sometimes I like Iron Gate Pizza (in Cannelton),” he said. “I like Galaxy. They know me pretty well up there. I don’t even have to talk anymore; they have my information in the computer. I like Butter & Kei’s Sonshine Café in Hawesville. I like going in there; I’ve eaten everything on the menu.”

Grilling with neighbors

Grilling out with his neighbors is something he enjoys as well. “My mom used to make food for people,” he said. “I would grill for the whole neighborhood if I could. Mom cooked at Hancock County Middle School for, I’d say, 15 years. When the power went off one time [during below freezing temperatures], I had this 3 by 3 grill and she cooked for everybody in the apartments. She is my hero. She taught me how to live. She just told me to enjoy life day by day and take it one day at a time. She taught me how to live by myself and take care of myself.

My mom passed away. She’s been gone a long time but I think about her every day. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her at least 20 times. When I’m doing something or when I’m fixing something or cooking or cleaning, I think about her. I miss her around the holidays. She loved Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving.

One Halloween she dressed as broccoli and I had to help her get in the car. She dressed like a bunch of grapes one year too, and that was a little harder. Her face was painted purple and she had the branches and, oh my gosh, I thought we’d never get her in the car. It took us an hour to get her into the car and then 3 more people when she got to work to get her out of the car.

Care

She was afraid that nobody would take care of me. I do need some things but not all the time. I need somebody to take me to the doctor, get my medications and make sure I have those things, and groceries. Other than that, I’m pretty well self-sufficient. There are a few things I can’t do myself. If I didn’t have my sister Amanda’s support, I wouldn’t make it. I wouldn’t be able to do the things that I do if she didn’t do what she does for me.”

He likes visiting the public library, he said, and checking out books, reading articles and looking at maps. He appreciates the book mobile as well. He loves his city and tries to help out in any way he can. “If I’m driving around town and I see something that is broken (potholes, lights out, etc.), I go up to City Hall and tell them, or the County Garage,” he said.

“To be honest with you, what I’d like to see is more little shops downtown.” One of his favorite shops in downtown Hawesville is A&B Florist, and he loves to go in and pick out bouquets and have them delivered to family members.

Brucie graduated from Hancock County High School in 1999. He still has a lot of school spirit and loves his school. He is a huge football fan and has a talent for remembering scores, draft picks, where each player went to school, etc.

He said that football, especially NFL, was his favorite entertainment until the NFL allowed players to kneel in protesting the U.S. Flag and National Anthem. He said he has not watched football since. “Can you imagine?” Brucie said, “I would love to be able to stand for my country and can’t, and they CAN and they refuse to. This is my country and I am proud of her!”

He attends church at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. When the weather is nice, that’s one of the main locations in Hawesville he likes to visit and see many of his family members. He and his Uncle Nathan have helped decorate the Fellowship Hall for family parties for the last 25 years.

His Aunt Beckey and her husband, George, live in Florida. She loves her home county and her family and friends here and says, “Come out to the Christmas Tree lighting in Hawesville (Dec. 8th, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Courthouse Square).

Hawesville Mayor McCormick has asked Brucie to be the first ever ‘sorta Grand Marshal’ for the lighting of the city Christmas tree. It is most special, as his mother loved this season and especially Christmas lights so he thinks she will be looking down from Heaven and smiling, and we do too! Pretty great for a little guy who wasn’t expected to leave the hospital when he was born. Courage, love and help of others makes a difference.

So maybe our challenge is this Christmas: are we willing to give a little, love a lot, hold onto the fingers of those whom we love or are in need, be grateful, never lose hope and always remember to include the Big Guy upstairs.

Thank you Brucie for nurturing the best that was in all of us, and making us not afraid to show it. May God always walk with or, if He dares, sit beside you on that jazzy chariot you now drive.

Merry Christmas to everyone, because it is!”

 

 

 

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