The last part of William Clark Shoen's life was spent in hospitals, his memory weakened. But friends and relatives recalled years in which he was known both as a gentle soul and as "the Big Bopper."
He was the son of Howard and Ida Mae Shoen, the founders of the North Shore Day School in Glen Cove. Brundige said she and her brother lived on the school's 12 acres.
"He was a gentle soul, a very kind person," she said.
Shoen's college roommate at Colgate University, Kent Blair, remembers a boisterous personality who was dubbed "the Big Bopper" after the rock-and-roll singer in the 1950s.
Blair recalled a road trip late at night with eight people in the car. Shoen wanted to stop for food, while the others wanted to get home.
"We slowed down coming into some little town, and all of a sudden, the back door opens and he jumps out," Blair said.
The car turned around and the others drove back to find Shoen at a diner, eating scrambled eggs and toast at the bar.
"He was a very unique guy," Blair said.
A year after college graduation in 1961, Shoen joined the Army, Brundige said, and spent the next five years in audiovisual and electronics work. He did not serve abroad.
Upon leaving the Army, Shoen worked in sales for different companies in California and tried to start a landscaping business, Brundige said. But it didn't stick and he ended up traveling around, "just redoing who he wanted to be," she said.
In October 1986, Shoen was critically injured in a hit-and-run accident in Albuquerque, N.M. He had gone there to look for a job and was hit by a car while crossing a street, Brundige said. A surgeon saved his life, but the head trauma he sustained made it impossible for him to live on his own.
"He just had several years of trying to get his own businesses established, and he was redirecting his career when the accident happened," she said.
Even through his hospitalizations and struggles, "he had a fun side which he didn't lose," Brundige said. "The nurses loved him."
Shoen is also survived by two daughters, Stacey and Kelly, and three grandchildren. A private family service will be held.