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Bruce Edward Saurs

July 9, 1926 July 10, 2014
Bruce Edward Saurs
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Obituary for Bruce Edward Saurs

EAST PEORIA - Bruce Edward Saurs, 88, of East Peoria passed away at 3:25 a.m. Thursday, July 10, 2014, at his home surrounded by his family. Bruce was born on July 9, 1926, in Peoria to Edward and Gertrude Marie (Ambrose) Saurs. He married Norma Bloom on Oct. 17, 1952. She died on July 1, 1988. He later married Mary Whitman on June 10, 1999. She passed away on March 30, 2000. He then married Rebecca Williams on June 16, 2012. She survives him. Also surviving are sons, Michael Saurs, Tim (Lori) Saurs, and Scott (Suzette) Saurs; grandchildren, Lynzie (Luke) Gruden, Stacie (Mike) Swingle, and Ryan (fiancée, Tara Kulkarni) Saurs; great-grandchildren, Brady, Owen and Gibby Gruden and Selah and Maya Swingle; two stepsons, Brian (Elizabeth) Morris and Jason (Catherine) Morris; and step-grandchildren, Levi, Adeline and James Morris. Bruce also leaves behind his beloved dog, Coco. Bruce was a 1944 graduate of Peoria High School and a 1949 graduate of Bradley University, where he was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. He served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1945-46, stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. He also served in the Illinois Air National Guard, 169th Fighter Squadron, from 1951-54. While still a student at Bradley, he coached Peoria’s Lee Grade School to four city basketball titles against much larger schools. In 1951, he helped establish the first Little League Baseball program in Peoria. In 1955, he acted as a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates and was responsible for that major league baseball franchise’s signing of Peoria’s own Leon Hurst, which occurred at the home of Pirates General Manager Branch Rickey over dinner. For six years, starting in 1949, Bruce was a teacher at Peoria High School, where he also was an assistant basketball coach and head baseball coach. He entered the automobile industry in 1956 as a salesman and by 1961 had worked his way up to general sales manager. In 1963, he went to work for Lynn Velde. He became a partner in Velde Ford in 1965. They purchased Arnold Ford in Vero Beach, Fla. in 1976. The partners started Velde Lincoln Volvo of Peoria in 1984, which was followed by Velde Cadillac Buick GMC in 1987. He later opened the Corner Store on Main and Bruce Saurs’ Black Rabbit bar, both in Downtown Peoria. Bruce saved professional hockey in Peoria not once but twice, starting in 1989 with his purchase of the Rivermen from the city of Peoria. In 1996, Bruce and a partner spread their hockey wings and started an International Hockey League (IHL) franchise in San Antonio, Texas. Both were manifestations of his lifelong love of athletics. All in all, Bruce owned two professional hockey teams in four different leagues over 20 years. His Rivermen won the IHL’s Turner Cup in 1991, along the way setting a professional hockey record with 18 consecutive wins. The Rivermen also earned an East Coast Hockey League title in 2000. The Peoria Rivermen player who exemplifies commitment and leadership both on and off the ice now receives the Bruce E. Saurs Leadership Award. From this point forward, each Rivermen home opener will be designated Bruce Saurs Hockey Night. Among his many honors, Bruce was a recipient of the Neve Harms Meritorious Service to Sports Award and the United Cerebral Palsy Community Service Award. He was inducted into the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. He was a recipient of Bradley’s Distinguished Alumnus Award and was named to the university’s elite Centurion Society. He chaired the Salvation Army’s Tree of Lights campaign. He was grand marshal of Peoria’s 2013 Santa Claus Parade. Bruce was a member of the Pekin, Peoria and Mt. Hawley country clubs. Bruce had a passion for life and was one of Peoria’s pioneers, always a true champion of this community. The Saurs family would like to thank the nurses – Marlene, Mary, Sally, Brooke, Tracy, Audra, Kirbie, Maureen, Mary Therese, Katie, Joyce, Deb, Bridgett and Greg – who cared for Bruce over the last several months. We shall be forever grateful for their compassion, dedication and support. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday, July 18, 2014, at Northwoods Community Church, 10700 N. Allen Road, Peoria. Pastor Gary Webb will officiate. Visitation will be from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, July 17, 2014, also at the church. An additional visitation will be one hour prior to the service at the church. Bruce will be laid to rest at Resurrection Mausoleum. Wright & Salmon Mortuary is in handling the arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to OSF Hospice or the Peoria Youth Hockey Association. Tributes and condolences may be submitted to


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