Machine shop owner, vintage airplane pilot, firearms collector
Bryce Larrabee. (Courtesy ph
Bryce Larrabee loved antique airplanes, fast cars, and pistachio ice cream, but metalworking machines were his life. It was a rare day that he didn’t come home from work with metal chips in his shirt pockets, on his shoes, and sometimes in his hair. He started his business, Harvard Machinery, in the early 1980s, in the cramped half-finished cellar of his little house on Under Pin Hill Road, and nurtured it into a busy all-purpose machine shop that occupied a big chunk of the Appleworks building on Ayer Road. He designed and manufactured equipment for large corporations, made parts for local farmers, and once fixed a customer’s oven door hinge in exchange for a homemade cranberry-raisin pie. He lived life on his own terms, and died of cancer on Nov. 7 at the age of 81.
Bryce was born in Framingham on Sept. 16, 1941, and moved to Harvard in 1972. His formal education included the study of aeronautical engineering at Boston University, but he learned most of what he valued by working—from spot-welding on a GM production line as a young man, to moving machines with his father, an expert rigger, to his experience as a business owner, where he was tireless in devising creative solutions to technical problems. An outing with Bryce typically included at least one unexpected stop where he would see someone working outside and just pull over to introduce himself and ask about the project. More often than not, he would make a new friend or find a new business opportunity in the process.
After he sold Harvard Machinery in early 2008, Bryce started a new business at home, Bryce Machine & Engineering Inc., specializing in custom-designed fixtures for discerning clients. Throughout his life, he was a mentor and friend to local artisans and contractors of all kinds.
Bryce loved vintage airplanes and owned a series of single-engine “taildraggers,” including a Cessna 195 he flew to the Bahamas on his honeymoon in 1986. That plane featured in several memorable adventures, including a landing at JFK International Airport in 1987, where air traffic controllers guided him to a safe arrival among a lineup of jumbo jets, and then through a maze of taxiways to a parking space near the terminal where he was picking up visitors from Italy. In that pre-9/11 era, the flight controllers also allowed him to deviate from the normal departure route so he could fly his passengers past the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson River to New England.
In wintertime, Bryce frequently landed the Cessna on the ice on Bare Hill Pond and gave aerial tours of Harvard to anyone who wanted one.
Aside from his business and airplanes, Bryce was an avid firearms collector. He enjoyed shooting sporting clays at the Nauset Rod and Gun Club in Eastham, where he was a member for many years, and more recently, at Addieville East Farm in Rhode Island. He also enjoyed boating and fishing on Cape Cod Bay, near his vacation home in Wellfleet.
Bryce is survived by his beloved wife, Connie, who shared his life for more than 35 years; his brother, Charles Larrabee, and sister-in-law, Kathy Slattery of Milford; his sister, Janet Larrabee of Lexington, Virginia; and his niece, Kirsten Larrabee of Norton and her family. He is also survived by his stepchildren, Lisa Hamilton of Plymouth, and Jeff Watkins of Wellfleet; and their children, Jessica and Ryn Gagliardo, and Jhamir Krauss Watkins.
No service is planned. Donations in Bryce’s memory can be made to the Harvard Ambulance Service, whose compassionate care has been indispensable in the past year.