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J. Bruce Blake


1931 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
J. Bruce Blake Obituary
J. Bruce Blake

Sioux Falls- J. Bruce Blake, 85, of Sioux Falls, SD died Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls. His memorial service will be 11 AM Tuesday, February 21 at Grace Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, with burial at Hills of Rest Cemetery. Memorial visitation begins at 5:00 PM Monday, February 20 at George Boom Funeral Home, Sioux Falls, where the family will greet friends from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.

Bruce Blake was born in Superior, WI, on March 1, 1931, to parents Arthur and Hazel (Gillespie) Blake. As a youth, he lived with his parents and two older brothers in Mankato MN. His father was transferred and the family moved to Sioux Falls late in 1945 after World War II ended. Bruce entered the original Washington High School as a freshman. After graduating in 1949, he enrolled at the University of South Dakota.

In 1953 he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the USD Business School and also was commissioned as an ROTC Second Lieutenant, Infantry. While attending the University, he was the president of the Alpha Tau Omega social fraternity, sports editor of the Volante student newspaper and sports director for the USD Public Relations office. He completed his freshman year of Law School in 1954 before being called up for active duty near the end of the Korean War. He served most of his tour of duty at Fort Dix, NJ as an infantry platoon leader. The remainder of his military commitment was served in the South Dakota National Guard and the US Army Reserves. Bruce then returned to USD to complete Law School in 1958 where he served as business manager and a member of the board of the South Dakota Law Review. His first employment as a lawyer was as in-house counsel for United States Steel Corporation in Detroit, MI. Only three months after successfully passing the South Dakota Bar Exam, Bruce was directed to research the liability of United States Steel Corporation under Admiralty Law to the families of 33 crew members who perished when the Carl D. Bradley, a USSC limestone carrier, broke in half and quickly sank while crossing Lake Michigan during and early winter storm.

Bruce returned to South Dakota in 1959 to enter private practice. Bruce served as president of the Second Judicial Circuit Bar Association in 1975-1976 and was a two-term member of the State Board of Bar Examiners. After three years working in an established law office, he began a thirty-four year solo law practice (1962-1996) He spent his last twenty years as a practicing lawyer reorganizing insolvent businesses, farms, and ranches under Chapters 11 and 12 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. Bruce received national recognition before retirement for his work in this limited field of law. Early in his law practice in Sioux Falls, he served some six years as Civil Deputy States Attorney for Minnehaha County. For several years, he also was a lobbyist for the SDEA before the South Dakota legislature. During his 50-year membership in the South Dakota Bar Association, he belonged to the American Bar Association and the American Bankruptcy Institute. He was admitted to practice before the South Dakota Federal District Court, the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States. He was a frequent lecturer on Chapter 11 and 12 reorganization strategies before commercial groups, South Dakota State Bar Association seminars, and undergraduate students at the USD School of Law. Bruce retired on December 31, 1995.

While raising a family, two sons, Randall and Thomas, and two daughters Michele and Anne, Bruce served as Scoutmaster and co-chair of the YMCA Tri-State Basketball Tournament. He also was a member of the Masonic Lodge, York Rite Lodge, and El Riad Shrine. While in his early 70's, Bruce was a Cub Scout Den Leader for four years with his adopted grandson, Josh. He and his Danish-born wife Rita, an R.N., have been active members of Grace Lutheran Church and Rita serves as the Parish Nurse. Bruce's two adult sons practice law in Sioux Falls. Rita and Bruce are grandparents to sixteen grandchildren.

A member of the Minnehaha County Historical Society since 1962, Bruce served four terms as a director, two terms as first vice president and program chair, and two terms as president. He created the Society's historical marker program in 1988. He also began a Registered Historian program to encourage visitors and local residents to learn more about local history. Bruce has had a lifelong interest in the history of Sioux Falls, his adopted hometown. In 2008 Bruce received the coveted AASLH Leadership in History Award. This national award is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. Bruce was the Author or editor of more than 185 new historical markers. In 2010 Bruce was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame.

Working on behalf of the Minnehaha County Historical Society, Bruce compiled and edited a 500-page book titled, "Twelve Thousand Years of Human History" (as recorded on 235 Historical Markers) The book contains the text for the more than 235 historical markers and more than 600 photos, maps and drawings.

Bruce has been recognized with 14 awards including: Leadership in History Award of Merit, Distinguished Contribution Award, South Dakota Hall of Fame ("Mr. Historical Marker!"), Piece of South Dakota Archeological/Historical Achievement Award, Achievement Award for Education, The Governor's Individual Award for History, twice recognized during enrobing ceremonies by tribal officers of the Santee Sioux Tribe of Flandreau, Historic Preservation Award, Volunteer Award for Outstanding Achievement and Dedication, Honorary Minnehaha County Historian Award, Mayoral Award for Historic Preservation, History Preservation Award, and the Nancy Plato Award.

Bruce was united in marriage with Rita Huber on October 27, 1984 in Sioux Falls, SD.

Grateful for having shared his life are his wife, Rita; 10 children, Randall Blake, Sioux Falls, SD, Michele Johnson and her husband, Randy, Blaine, MN, Thomas Blake and his wife, Jami, Brandon, SD, Anne Young, Simi Valley, CA, Josh Blake, Laurel, MD, Steven Huber and his wife, Kathy, Lakeville, MN, John Huber and his wife, Bei, Bloomington, IL, David Huber and his wife, Michele, Normal, IL, Mike Huber and his wife, Lu, Sioux Falls, SD Kristine Riley and her husband, Patrick, Sioux Falls, SD; 16 grandchildren; and a host of other relatives and friends.

Bruce was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Robert Blake and Arthur Blake.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Grace Lutheran Church, 3300 E. 18th St., Sioux Falls, SD 57103, the South Dakota, 1000 N. Lake Ave, Ste. 250, Sioux Falls, SD 57104, the Minnehaha County Historical Society, 200 W. 6th St., Sioux Falls, SD 57104, or a .
Published in The Argus Leader on Feb. 19, 2017
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