January 29, 1953 - November 16, 2018
Alistair Gavin Scovil died at home on November 16, 2018, after a long heroic passage with spindle cell sarcoma.
Ali was born on January 29, 1953 in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Gwendolyn Violet (Burton) and Henry Evelyn Derrick Scovil. When he was 3 years old, his father, a physicist, took over the directorship of the Microwave and Solid State Device Laboratory at Bell Labs and moved the family to New Jersey. Ali made the most of his Jersey childhood, spending days exploring the Great Swamp in a variety of fabricated water crafts, including rafts of all sorts and a once-abandoned concrete boat that, along with a disreputable band of brothers he simply referred to as the Hadleys, he’d found and claimed for their adventures. Although he later attended the University of Toronto and Drew University and earned dual degrees in Economics and Physics, Ali’s great preoccupation in life was cars. From a very early age, he was captivated by machinery. His first word came late and was not the predictable “mama,” but a well-articulated “tractor.” When his grandmother came to visit from Canada, 10-year-old Ali drove her around his small town – and down dirt roads and through fields – in the family’s Morris Minor. Despite a life-threatening accident in a Lotus Cortina when he was 21, and the long rehabilitation that followed, he continued to work on and play with cars. He became a certified Jaguar mechanic and opened the first version of Motorsport while in college. His little repair shop, sandwiched between the last Citroen dealership in America and a furniture-stripping service called “The Big Dipper,” was quickly well-known in the tiny town of Gladstone and throughout the region. Ali worked on British cars there and eventually on other exotics, his natural skill and high intelligence swiftly making his reputation. And, too, then there were the lawn chairs that appeared at closing time on the sidewalk outside Motorsport I, where Ali would visit with friends (old and new) and the occasional customer or transient employee over a beer before folding the day away.
Ali met his wife Adrianne in 1974, and they were nearly inseparable from that time, marrying in 1979. They moved to Port Townsend shortly after the birth of their first son Peter in 1981, where Ali found a true community that sustained him all his adult life. Their second son, Duncan, was born in 1987, and Ali’s parents, Gwen and Derrick, retired to Port Townsend a few years later. In Port Townsend, Ali eventually opened the west coast version of Motorsport, and aside from his home, that was the center of his universe for many years. A born philosopher and luminous spirit, he offered more than car repair as anyone who had the good fortune to be his customer soon knew. In truth, he was a terrible businessman. His repair orders were handwritten and nearly unintelligible, and his idea of balancing the books involved a complex Robin Hood-esque system wherein he tried to figure out how not to charge anyone in need and still bring money home at week’s end.
Ali could be famously curmudgeonly when it came to injustice. A deeply generous man, he had no time at all for those who judged people on their status or material possessions or even emotional handicaps. He kept his values close, all having to do with gratitude and acceptance. He was fiercely proud and intensely loving of his wife and sons. He believed fully in a higher self and in the power and contagion of love, and he was a dear and loyal friend to many.
Ali was a masterful innovator, skilled sailor, energetic gardener, and terrible dancer. He collected and shared jokes and stories and happily embellished all. He was the best of listeners. Animals gravitated to him, and he had many besotted dog and cat companions over the years. He leaves behind two clearly bereft cats.
Ali is survived by his wife, Adrianne, son Peter and Peter’s wife, Bailey Taylor, and son Duncan, and by his in-laws and cousins and many, many dear friends. His was a radiant spirit replete with goodness and humor and endless energy, and all of those in his life know that what he called “this beautiful world” will be a far, far dimmer, less comforting place without his presence and theories, yet an ever-magnificent one because they got to share it with him for awhile and see its goodness, oddities, and marvels through his eyes.
A celebration of Ali’s life will be held on Sunday, January 6, at the Northwest Maritime Center, following a processional of cars. More details to come.