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Rochester man leaves legacy of environmental action

Ann and Bill Bruins share a moment in the backyard of their northeast Rochester home. Bill has been heavily involved in many local environmental causes but the couple will be leaving Rochester soon to be closer to family in Wisconsin.

Like many big life changes, Bill Bruins' began with a small event — he went birding with a friend when they were students at Blackburn College in Illinois.

"We hit it lucky," Bruins said. "It was the middle of the hawk migration. Ever since then, I've been a birder."

In truth, he's more than a birder. He moved to Rochester in 1979 to work at IBM and has been a major force in many conservation groups and causes, both locally and at the state level. He is active in the Zumbro Valley Audubon Society, Friends of Oxbow, Friends of Chester Woods and many other groups.

Next month, Bruins is going to take his enthusiasm and passion for the outdoors to Wisconsin. He and his wife, Ann Bruins, are moving to Middleton, Wis., to be closer to family.

Bill Bruins, 77, leaves behind a legacy of hard work.


Joel Dunnette, of rural Rochester, who is equally involved in many local conservation causes, praised the work Bruins has done in Rochester.

"He never took presidency or vice-presidency of the Zumbro Valley Audubon, but he was always a leader," he said. Bruins led many field trips, helped collect native prairie seeds in several places and helped get the Legislature to pass a wetlands conservation bill.

"We have different people doing different things," Dunnette said. "He's done a lot of things that take work. He doesn't show up and ask for something, It's 'I can do that'" and he does it. "It will be hard to fill his shoes completely."

Bruins said he got involved in part because of his parents, Ella and Otto Bruins.

"I think Bill's mother and father were always interested in participating in where people were concerned," Ann said. "They weren't just looking out for themselves."

"They were concerned," Bill added.

His parents also had a bookcase filled with encyclopedias, he said. He had the habit of grabbing one and just leafing through it to find things, any things, any bits of knowledge.

He's eclectic, Ann said. He wants to make the world a better place.


Bill was able to take an early buyout from IBM and retire at age 55. "That gave me the freedom to do a lot of those things," he said.

"And make a contribution," Ann said.

When they move, probably in June, they will leave the northeast Rochester yard where they have developed many places for birds and flowers. In Wisconsin, they won't have that luxury, but they will be close to Pheasant Branch Conservancy , which has woods, water and prairie.

"I've decided to make the conservancy my place and bird there," he said.

He doesn't plan on being so heavily involved in so many groups.

"Bill is more and more ready to accept not being involved in things," Ann said.

"I'm attuned to my time now," he said.

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