by Martha Quetsch
Conley Funeral Home director Bruce Conley became involved in grief support in the late 1970s, carrying on a family tradition he realized was crucial.
â€œI saw a need, especially with children,â€ Conley said.
During the past three decades, Conley has helped many local youths understand and cope with the loss of loved ones. In 1983, Conley started the Children’s Center on the lower level of the funeral home he owns in downtown Elburn.
In the Children’s Center, young funeral attendees can gather and have their questions answered, so that the event is not an ordeal but â€œfirst aid,â€ Conley said.
â€œA funeral should be a fully family integrated thing, an experience that helps everybody, not just the adults,â€ Conley said. â€œThere is lots of research that shows traumatic childhood bereavement affects people all of their lives.â€
In addition to the Children’s Center, Bruce Conley also developed the Community Care Team and founded Conley Outreach Community Services in Elburn, offering bereavement and family nurturing programs.
Among the many people Conley has deal with the death of loved ones is Tim Siebens of Maple Park, who was among volunteers Saturday at the annual Conley Outreach Farm work day in Kaneville.
Siebens was 14 when his grandfather died, and he remembers how Conley helped him understand the funeral process.
â€œIf anyone has any type of question or is wondering about anything, he takes you through it, telling you and showing you what they are doing,â€ Siebens said. â€œYou’re never left on your own.â€
Conley said his father and grandfather, who also were funeral directors, worked with children on grief issues, too.
â€œThis is three generations deep. I talked to a man in his 80s who was making pre-arrangements with me (at Conley Funeral Home). He told me how my grandfather helped him when his mother took her life, by restoring her body so that he could see her,â€ Conley said. â€œMy grandpa sat him down before he went in to see his mom, and helped him through that time. He said he never forgot it.â€
Recipient of community service award
Bruce Conley received the 2009 Lyle E. Oncken community service award on Saturday from Mental Health and Mental Retardation Services, Inc.
â€œIt’s the highest honor I could get. I also am thrilled that this year it is a dual award,â€ Conley said.
The other 2009 Oncken Community Service Award recipient recipient is Conley’s good friend, Stephanie Weber, founder of Suicide Prevention Services.
The award is given annually to a resident or residents of southern Kane County for exemplary service in the fields of mental health, developmental disabilities or substance abuse.
Photo: Bruce Conley thanked his wife, Kris, for helping him pursue community service, during the award ceremony Saturday at Conley Farm. Photo by Martha Quetsch