Celebration of Life: Bruce Robert Hedrick May 5, 1948 - Feb 3, 2016
Words & Photos: Howie Zechner
Family and friends honored the life and passing of Bruce Hedrick with a full day of celebration and remembrance that concluded at the famous Costa Mesa Bullring where Bruce was considered one of their own by the Speedway community.
Bruce Hedrick was no ordinary person in the International Speedway organization. He was the soundman. The person in charge of the PA. Making the announcer heard and the music being played he’d been there from the beginning when the track was first started. The old days when sound was a challenge that required skill and a large budget if you wanted thousands to hear and understand. Audio had to hold up whether it was a National Anthem being sung by a 12 year old or an announcer jumping up and down on the top of a table yelling as loud as he can to overcome the sound of motorcycles that had no mufflers or noise restraints.
Bruce was also the Costa Mesa track electrician. That meant when the green or red light on the track or the starting gate malfunctioned it was Bruce's job to get it repaired and now was not quite soon enough. Bruce was good at his work. He needed to because there was always a challenge on an outside venue that received abuse from man and nature.
A dynamic personality all the riders knew Bruce. Of course, they all wanted a favor. Bruce I want to hang this light up in my pit area, Bruce can you give me juice to power my electric clutch cooler, the list went on. No pushover and often grumpy he actually loved the racers and did his best to accommodate them. But all there knew not to push to hard. Bruce could make life difficult for those that abused his generosity.
But I’m getting ahead of myself so lets start at the days beginning. Bruce Hedrick’s family members that included sisters Susan Knab and Nancy Beralla, daughter Sonja Downs and his grandchildren Madden, Presley and Kennedy Downs joined with other, friends and Speedway associates that included riders Bobby Schwartz and Danny McNiel along with International Speedway employees Lenny Bennink and Chris Cuthill for an 11am memorial service at the Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa.
A wonderful little church just west of the Costa Mesa Fairgrounds the service began with a musical prelude, pastoral welcome and short prayer. Pastor Jan Diorio, a cousin of the Hedrick family followed with a scripture reading where he spoke of days gone by and salvation everlasting yet to come. Daughter Sonja Downs came to the podium and shared memories of her childhood and the loss of her father. Next a video slideshow as half sister Madison Cano played guitar. The one-hour service concludes with a poem and shared memories from Bruce's former wife Kay Lynn Cano and a closing prayer from Jan Diorio. A light lunch and conversation followed as all waited till their next 3:30 meeting at the Costa Mesa Speedway track.
The time came and promoters Brad and Jaleen Oxley greeted the family and escorted them to the announcer’s booth below the front grandstands. Arranged well in advance the plan called for Bruce Hedrick's ashes to be spread on the dirt race track by the start finish line much like Speedway Superstar Kelly Moran’s had been six years earlier.
Brad Oxley gave a wonderful tribute to his loyal and faithful friend and employee. He spoke of the early days when his dad Harry ran the facility, how he spent his childhood at the track and how Bruce helped him as he grew into taking over the promotion from his father. Gary Hicks Sr. and his wife Sandy who also have been here at Costa Mesa since day one told stories of how Bruce had saved the day on more than one occasion. RAZ Video owner Howie Zechner chimed in with tales of needing electricity for cameras and lights in various locations around track and how Bruce never failed to deliver. Family and others spoke; it was without a doubt a love fest that would have embarrassed the normally shy Hedrick.
Ashes were spread and tears were shed. A sad occasion of course but a wonderful tribute to a Speedway brother and friend.
That evening the Stars and Strips flew at half-mast. A hush came over the crowd as Costa Mesa Speedway announcer Terry Clanton asked for one minute of silence. The lack of noise from thousands and no roar of motorcycles, it was a show of respect not normally seen in the high charged world of Speedway racing. Even more unheard considering this was the first race of the 2016 season when all are primed for two-wheel combat.
And so the circle of life continues. RIP Bruce Robert Hedrick. You and the Speedway you loved are now truly one.