April 13, 1950 - September 11, 2010
Services: Orchard Community Church
101 S. Barnes Rd.
A service to celebrate Bruce’s
be held at 10 a.m., Friday
September 17, 2010 at the
Community Church. Pastor Kathy
longtime family friend, will
Final Rest: Blackberry Township Cemetery
Rt. 47 & Keslinger Roads
Interment will follow at
Bruce H. Conley, age 60, passed away
Saturday, September 11, 2010 at his home
surrounded by his loving family. Bruce
finished the race and claimed the
promises of his Savior to whom he long
ago gave his heart and who guided and
sustained Bruce through all of his life.
He has fought the good fight, he has
finished the race.
Bruce Herbert Conley was born April
13, 1950, in Elburn, IL, the youngest
child of Charles and Winifred McMurray
Conley. Though the family home was at
the corner of Reader St. & Main St., the
whole block and the surrounding yards
were open to being a young boy’s
playground. Bruce would “hunt tigers”,
play cowboys and Indians and spend hours
swinging in his grandparent’s backyard
where sometimes he could be heard
singing, “O, My Papa”. Hayfever and
allergies often limited his outdoors
activities which may have helped him
learn to express himself through music
and writing. In addition to dealing with
his allergies he worked hard to overcome
a serious problem with stammering. Bruce
attended Elburn Grade School and
Kaneland High School where he excelled
in music and graduated with the class of
1968. He began playing cornet in the
fifth grade and took private lessons at
Dee Palmer’s in DeKalb. Hours of
practice, in time, earned him his dream
instrument, a Bach trumpet. He played it
in high school and college, at many
family “jam sessions” and until
recently, in tribute to many veterans as
they were laid to rest. As a teenager
his music took him another direction and
he, along with three other boys, became
The Uther Days, a rock band later also
known as Denver Green. Bruce played lead
guitar with Dave Johnson, Steve Gliddon
and Bob Hamblen making up the rest of
the band. Following graduation, he
attended North Central College,
Naperville where he majored in music.
During his senior year in high
school, Bruce began training as an aid
at Delnor Hospital in St. Charles. There
was a cute, petite blonde in the same
class who quickly caught his eye, and
then his heart. Kristine McConnaughay
was a junior at St. Charles High School
and soon she and Bruce found that they
had more in common than the aid classes
at the hospital. It was young love that
would one day grow into a lifetime of
commitment; a love much deeper than
either imagined in those early, teenage
years. Their courtship began while they
were both in high school and grew as
they both graduated and went off to
college. After his freshman year at
North Central, Bruce transferred to
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
where he began studies in Mortuary
Science. Subsequently, he studied
psychology at Wisconsin State
University, Whitewater, WI and mass
communication at Northern Illinois
University, DeKalb before entering the
U.S. Army Reserve in 1971. He returned
home and was employed as an on-air
announcer at WKKD-FM in Aurora.
On October 7, 1972, Bruce and Kris
were united in marriage at the Bethlehem
Lutheran Church in St. Charles where
Kris sang to him the words he had
written to the melody of “Bless This
House.” They settled into their home on
South Main St. in Elburn and the
everyday workings of married life. That
same year, Bruce made the decision to
return to his mortuary science studies
and began attending Worsham College,
Chicago where he graduated in 1973 and
joined his parents in the family
business becoming the third generation
to do so. Bruce and Kris moved to his
grandparent’s former home, north of the
funeral home and Chuck and Winnie moved
into the house on South Main St. where
Sunday dinner found four generations
gathered around the table each week. On
October 11, 1975, Bruce and Kris were
blessed with the birth of their son,
Benjamin Hale. In 1982, the birth of
their daughter Sarah Louise made their
family complete and quickly outgrowing
the home they were in. In 1983, when the
opportunity arose to obtain the Reeves
house, Bruce moved his family across the
backyard to their new home on Main St.
Like the generations that preceded him,
life was built around family (which
included a large extended family and the
countless families that he served),
faith and Bruce’s dedication to helping
the bereaved through his work and his
Throughout his career, Bruce was
passionate about helping grieving
children and in 1975 he penned
“Butterflies, Grandpa & Me”, a story and
coloring book illustrated by his sister,
Karen and written to help explain death,
grief and the funeral to children.
Through the years, thousands were
published and used by funeral homes,
churches and hospice programs along with
his later book, “Handling the Holidays”
and “Plain Paper Poems” which contained
poems written by Bruce and Karen. Bruce
also wrote a number of bereavement
pamphlets, several of which were
translated and used in bereavement
groups in South Africa. His
publications, produced by Conley
Publications are still used across the
country by those who are dedicated to
helping grieving families.
His writing and speaking on grief
attracted him to a number of self-help
programs that began in the early
eighties across the Fox Valley. Bruce
was instrumental in the founding of
Compassionate Friends, Survivors of
Suicide, the Widowed Persons Service,
Fox Valley Hospice and later, DeKalb
Hospice among other programs.
In 1983, he founded Elburn’s first
counseling center with Dr. Del Hagin of
Aurora College. That effort would grow
beyond bereavement to become Conley
Outreach Community Services which
incorporated as a not-for-profit
organization in 1995. Bruce was always
keenly aware that death brought with it
many changes in the lives of families he
served and saw grief-care as something
that needed to go hand-in-hand with the
broader scope of community services.
In the fall of 1985, that “broader
scope” caused Bruce to take on the
challenge of saving the old Elburn
Elementary School as a community center.
With the help of others, he succeeded
and founded the Elburn and Countryside
Community Center as a not-for-profit
organization. Without the benefit of tax
or municipal support afforded other
Kaneland communities, the organization
supported itself as a business incubator
while saving the gym and playground for
the children of the community.
Through much of the nineties, Bruce
was involved in state and national
associations concerned with bereavement
care. In 1995, he led the first conclave
between the National Hospice
Organization and the National Funeral
Director’s Association and in 1998 he
chaired the Association for Death
Education and Counseling national
conference held in Chicago. In 2000, his
focus returned home to take over the
West Towns Network, a tax supported
program of 708 Inc., which became a
service of Conley Outreach. His passion
for bringing programs and services to
the rural community substantially
expanded the program. In 2001, Bruce
joined visions with Dr. Michael Mangis
and Dr. Donald Preussler of Wheaton
College to create another not-for-profit
organization, the Center for Rural
Psychology, which took over the
counseling arm of Conley Outreach to
become Heartland Counseling.
Bruce’s ultimate vision for combined
bereavement and community care, found
dimension in his dream of a barn raising
on the grounds of the Ravlin homestead
in Kaneville which he acquired in 1997.
Though the barn never became a reality,
many of the programs and services he
envisioned did evolve at the farm
through the tireless efforts of
volunteers who created a lush prayer
garden there and made use of existing
buildings to host programs and
gatherings. In 2005, Bruce and Kris
moved from Elburn to make their home at
the Conley Outreach Farm in Kaneville.
Bruce loved the quiet beauty of the
farm, peaceful babble of the creek and
the glory of countless sunrises and
sunsets. It was an endless source of
inspiration to him as returned to his
While raising his family and working
for better community programs, Bruce
followed in the footsteps of his parents
and grandparents in a ministry of caring
that served grieving families not only
from his home town of Elburn but from
many surrounding communities as well.
There with a caring arm of support,
words of comfort and tireless effort to
help, Bruce took his work and his care
to schools, churches and homes; wherever
he was needed. When tragedy struck in
local schools he responded with guidance
for teachers, students and parents alike
helping them to create meaningful and
healing goodbyes. Through his efforts
counseling was made available to
students and teachers who had been
touched by tragedy. In the aftermath of
those losses, he helped schools to
create crisis teams and programs to meet
the needs of students.
Bruce was a member of the Illinois
Funeral Directors Association, the
National Funeral Directors Association,
ADEC, Blackberry Lodge #359, AF & AM,
Elburn and the Community Congregational
Bruce and Kris’ love story was
nurtured by, and grew with, faith and
loving family ties; enriched and
strengthened by an unshakable belief in
God’s plan for their lives. Bruce wrote
countless songs and stories that left
special memories in the hearts of his
children, niece, nephews and friends.
There were songs of faith, songs for
travel and adventure and even a song for
“going to get a Christmas tree”. His
most recent song, “My Offering, The
Vision” was penned in the last days of
his life. Life values were a part of
bedtime stories and evening prayers and
life lessons were taught by example.
When Kris’ parents each faced serious
health concerns Bruce and Kris made room
for Kris’ mother to live with them for a
time. Later, Bruce’s mother made her
home with them as well. Young people
always found the door open both in times
of fun and times of difficulty.
Bruce loved children and spent many
years developing programs to help and to
teach. He was a much loved uncle to his
niece and nephew and great niece and
nephew. Then, he became a grandpa and
“kids” took on a whole new meaning. He
was a devoted grandpa who was never
afraid to get down to their level, join
in the fun, jump in the pool, and be as
boisterous and hilarious as they were.
He had special greetings for each one
and always a “Ding-how” when they left.
He wrote songs for each of them and a
masterful Christmas story, “Bethlehem
Kids” which included not only his
grandchildren but several other children
who held a special place in his heart.
The songs and the stories will remain
but perhaps the greatest gift was the
lap that always had room for one more,
the arms that embraced each child, the
unconditional love and prayers that
blessed each child.
Family went well beyond his wife and
children to include his “work family”
which over the years changed in number
and name but not in the relationship he
had with them. Bruce was a man with
countless visions for new programs,
creative ways to celebrate life and ways
to bring help to those in need.
Throughout the months of his battle with
cancer, he wrote inspiring journal
entries on Caring Bridge that were read
by thousands of people across the
country. Even then, his thoughts were
how to help others but he did not
realize how many he had touched with his
God given skills, caring, words, vision
and faith until the responses to those
entries began to fill the guest book
pages of Caring Bridge.
Bruce leaves his devoted, loving
wife, Kris of Kaneville; his son, Ben
(C.J.) Conley of Sugar Grove; his
daughter, Sarah Conley of Seattle, WA;
four beloved grandchildren who were the
delight and sunshine of his life: Andy,
Em, Matt and Mikey Conley; his sister,
Karen (Les) Howard; his niece Sheila
(Phillip) Albano and their children,
Nick and Katherine; his nephew, Bill
Howard, all of Elburn; and his sister-
in-law, Karen (Bill) Wooton of Geneva
and their son, Daniel Wooton, also of
Geneva; and his aunts and uncle, Ruth
McCloud and Ralph (Ferne) Conley, all of
Batavia. In addition, he leaves an
extended family of cousins and their
families, a devoted family of staff who
have shared so much of themselves with
him and a countless host of friends
whose lives have touched his through the
years. Lastly, he leaves to those he
loved these words: “the job of the
visionary is to place the vision so that
others can grab hold and then make it
He is preceded in death by one child
in infancy; his parents, Charles and
Winifred Conley; one brother, Wayne, in
infancy; his paternal and maternal
grandparents; his father and mother-in-
law, Lloyd and Gladys McConnaughay and
one uncle, George McCloud.
Visitation will be held at the
Orchard Community Church, 101 S. Barnes
Rd., Aurora on Thursday, September 16,
2010 from 2-8 p.m.
A service to celebrate Bruce’s life
will be held at 10 a.m., Friday morning,
September 17, 2010 at the Orchard
Community Church. Pastor Kathy Lawes, a
longtime family friend, will officiate
and interment will follow at Blackberry
A memorial has been established in
his name to benefit Conley Outreach.
Checks may be made to Conley Outreach or
the Bruce Conley Memorial and mailed in
care of P.O. Box 66, Elburn, IL 60119.
Tributes and memories may be forwarded
to the family at the same address or
through the web at www.conleycare.com.
You were always there in time of need and help for my family.You never judged you just accepted. That is not always the way it is with people. We love you.
Karen Mcc 9/13/2010
Bruce will be greatly missed. We have been going there for so long that it's like we lost a family member too. Ben you are doing a great job trying to fill your dads shoes but those are awefully big shoes you have to fill. In everyones time of need Bruce made you feel at home. We love him and will miss him. You all are in our prayers through this very hard time. Love, The Medernach Family
Margarert Medernach 9/13/2010
To the Conley Family and Staff-
We are so very sorry for your loss. What a wonderful, compassionate, & gifted man Bruce was. My parents, Pete & Earlene Petit, had a special bond with Bruce & all of you that spanned many years. She thought so much of all the Conleys--Chuck, Winnie, Bruce, Chris, Ben, Karen. Mom even worked for Bruce for a few years, & thought so much of him & his wonderful staff. Bruce had such compassion & kindness in dealing with those who were sick or grieving. He always went above & beyond what was expected. He used to visit my Aunt Teresa (mom's mentally handicapped sister) while she was declining. Even though he was a very busy man, Bruce used to bring his trumpet to play for her. He took time to bring a smile to her face. She was 20 yrs his senior but she'd always had a sweet crush on him & kept his photo nearby. : ) When my mom became sick, Bruce would call me to check on her & sent a gift to the hospital from the Conley staff. He even came to visit Mom at home the day before she died. I captured their final time together in a picture I now treasure. I know Bruce provided many extras to make Aunt Teresa's & my Mom's funerals extra special. So many memories of this man who loved sacrificially, & touched so many lives through the years. We are so very sorry for your loss. I remember this great man through tear-filled eyes today, but what a time of celebration he must be enjoying with his loved ones & those he helped through the years! And I'm sure when Aunt Teresa saw him he brought yet another smile to her face! We are glad he's crossed the finish line & is now safely Home. "Well done, good & faithful servant." What an honor to have known Bruce. Sending hugs to you all~
Rick and Karen (Petit) Kramer
Rick & Karen (Petit) Kramer 9/13/2010
To Bruce's family we extend our deepest condolences to you, we have all lost a great man and friend. God Bless, we will all see our friend again someday.
Jeff & Sharon Beverage 9/14/2010
We willnever the wonderful smile everytime we came to the farm. he always could lift your spirits with his charm and personality. he will truly be missed by both of us. Even though we only knew Bruce for a short time - he truly was a very special person. May GOD BLESS YOU BRUCE. Ed and Crystal Johnson, Wheaton. IL.
Ed and Crystal Johnson 9/14/2010
I have heard the words, "Unconditional Love" for many years. My friend Bruce Conley is synonymous with those words. I will miss him very much.
Chris Halsey 9/14/2010
Bruce was a man in whom there was no guile.
Larry Hilkemann, Sup't of the DeKalb District of the United Methodist Church.
larry hilkemann 9/14/2010
Thank you for the wonderful care and concern shown to my family during the deaths of my grandfather, my grandmother, my brother-in-law, my sister, my father and my mother.
May our Lord and Saviour continue to bless and service others through your loving family.
I consider it an honor to have known you.
Patricia Beaber 9/15/2010
I am so grateful i was Bless to meet such a wonderful person. I will always cherish Bruce in my heart.
Sherri Gura(McNulty) 9/15/2010
Some people pretend to be good and do it for show.
Some are people are good, it comes from the heart and finacial ups and downs are not the reason they do what they do. They do it because something in their heart tells them to do it.
Bruce Conley seems to be that type of person. Truly giving and when his life was turned upside down he reached out to others.
His spirit is an inspiration and a gift to us all.
The loss must be heavy but the legacy should help carry you on. I know Bruce will live on through his eforts.
Steve Palmer 9/15/2010
Farewell, Electric Charlie, we will miss you.
Sue Black 9/16/2010
My sincerest sympathy goes to Kris, Ben, Sarah, Karen and your families. Also to all of the staff and volunteers who have dedicated so much of your lives to Conley Funeral Home and Conley Outreach.
I have never met Bruce in person - but he has been a very big part of my life for the past 11 years. I am with the answering service - and I remember speaking to him on my very first day of work - and that was 11 years ago.
The compassion he had for all of his families... the respect and caring that he showed towards Harry (who would call at 2 in the morning because he had run out of "Chew" or his TV wasn't working - LOL)... and the tears of fear and then pride that you could hear in his voice when he called to tell me about the birth of Ben's children.
Although we are 1000's of miles away - I feel as if he was right here within my grasp. And definately will always be, right here in my heart.
It has been a very long journey for all of you - and although you / we will all be feeling the pain of losing such a wonderful soul... He has finally found the ultimate reward for all of his good deeds, here on earth.
Tracey Hogg 9/17/2010
Bruce was a class mate at Worsham College and a friend. I so respected his care and concern that he gave to everyone. He will be missed.
Melissa Johnson Williams 9/17/2010
I liked and respected Bruce as a funeral service colleague. He imprinted my work as a bereavement educator, mortuary school instructor, author and funeral celebrant. Bruce was devoted to his family & had a special relationship with his Mom. He leaves a great legacy and his funeral service was a beautiful tribute to an ordinary man who accomplished extraordinary things.
Marguerite O'Connor, LFD, M.Ed. 9/20/2010
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