Clarence ‘Deacon’ Bruhn announced as citizen of the year

January 21, 2008

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

Among the many advantages of life, there are always opportunities to meet new people and share in new experiences. This is what Clarence ‘Deacon’ Bruhn is all about.

He decided it was about time to have his business cards made, yet how often is it that you see the word “volunteer” on a business card?

For Deacon, volunteering makes him whole.

Deacon was born in Silver Lake to Frank and Frances Bruhn. He and his three brothers were often transferred from school to school because their father worked on the railroads in Minnesota.

After several years in Silver Lake, Deacon’s family headed to Cedar Mills, where he finished grade school.

Afterward, the family uprooted to Hutchinson until Deacon’s junior year of high school, when he came to Delano for his senior year in 1946.

It was then that his birth name, Clarence, was replaced by his old nickname “Deacon.”

“When I moved to Delano, there were already two Clarences in the senior class,” Deacon explained. “There was Clarence Roth and Clarence Matter, so nicknames would be appropriate. Matter’s was Buzz. Clarence was Clarence, but they still needed one for me.

“In town, we went to Mount Olive Church, and our minister at that time was Reverend Bruns. Bruhn and Bruns were close enough that they started calling me Reverend, but then they found out that I didn’t exactly measure up to Bruns, so I got demoted to Deacon, and it stuck forever.”

Continuing, he laughed, “There are some people in this town that don’t even know my real name.”

After graduating high school in 1947, Deacon joined the Air Force.

He came back to Delano a few years later to work at Delano Granite Works. Soon after, he married his high school sweetheart, Ally Hanson.

Together, they have three boys: Douglas, 51, Bradley, 49, and Gregory, 45, as well as six grandchildren.

Ally passed away 11 years ago, and since that time, Deacon has found ways to fill his time.

Deacon confessed, “I find volunteering as an outlet, because I do like people, and I like visiting with people. It’s good for me.”

Over the years, Deacon has had many occupations. His most memorable jobs were working at Delano Granite Works and at Star West.

“After Delano Granite went out of business in 1984, I went and worked for John Tackaberry at Star West to be a car salesman,” Deacon said. “My intention was to put in about 10 years. Well, it turned into 20. I retired at the age 75, which opened up a lot more time for volunteering.”

When asked why he felt volunteering was important, Deacon responded, “Well, I think most of us are on the giving end, but I think it goes back to what Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ We have a lot of advantages here. There are a lot things that are happening that wouldn’t be possible without volunteers. I’ve had a good life, and I’ve enjoyed Delano. I think it’s about time to give back.”

Over the years, Deacon has learned to appreciate life for what it is. Back during the wars, he remembers when there was a shortage of supplies.

“Everything was scarce, but we got by. Now, we are so fortunate,” he said.

To give back to the community, Deacon has been a part of numerous volunteer groups and organizations.

He was on the Delano City Council for one term, the planning commission for years, and he’s also been on the cemetery board since 1994.

Among his most recent groups are the Ridgeview Foundation (which is a group that helps raise funds for the Ridgeview Medical Center), the Friends of Library (as treasurer), the Delano Senior Center, and Delano-Loretto United Way.

Deacon is also heavily involved at his church, Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Delano. Over the years, he’s been an usher, a president, a trustee, a financial secretary, and a treasurer.

Deacon truly feels blessed, and wants to give a great deal of the credit to his parents. When Deacon discovered that the General Federated Women’s Club had named him Delano’s Citizen of the Year, he was utterly bashful.

“I’m really a little embarrassed,” Deacon said.

Being the people person that he is, Deacon feels the award was somewhat due to his outgoing personality, as well as his honesty.

“I like people, so I like to be up and about, but one of my managers told me once, ‘Deacon, it’s been great knowing you. The only thing I can say is you’re so honest, it’s almost sickening.’”

Along with volunteering, Deacon also enjoys leather work, fishing, reading fiction, helping his kids, movies, and helping out with little projects for his family.

In looking to the future, Deacon said, “At this point, I think my cup is full, but I’m always open to things.”

As citizen of the year, Deacon said, “I don’t pretend to be an expert on life, but some people just know exactly want they want to do. I wanted to help people.”

Continuing, he said, “If you can get up every morning and say ‘yes I’m to work,’ that’s a plus. If you don’t, that’s a minus. Find something that you love to do.”

“Look for the sunshine if you can. I’m the last one of my family, and I’ve kind of set my goal. Everyone in my family pretty much died at 84, so if I can make it to 85, I’ll be set,” Deacon laughed.

In conclusion, Deacon stated, “Over the years, there’s so many fun things that you know happened, but you just got to live the moment and be happy – that’s why I volunteer.”

Banquet to honor Deacon set for April 5

There will be a banquet in honor of Clarence “Deacon” Bruhn Saturday, April 5 at the Delano American Legion.

Dinner will be at 7 p.m. Tickets will be sold by GFWC members. Watch the Delano Herald Journal for more details.

“It was a difficult decision, the nominations were all excellent.” said nomination committee member Jeanie Pilarski, adding that Deacon has lived in Delano for 61 years, has been involved in many organizations, and touched many lives.