Bruce H. Conley

Elburn, IL

April 13, 1950 - September 11, 2010

Services: Orchard Community Church
101 S. Barnes Rd.

Aurora,   IL

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

Final Rest: Blackberry Township Cemetery
Rt. 47 & Keslinger Roads

Elburn IL
Interment will follow at Blackberry Cemetery, Elburn

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 writing. 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 writing. 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 Church, Elburn. 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 their own.” 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 Cemetery, Elburn. 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


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

Bruce, 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. God Bless
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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