Many across the region lost a good friend late last week, myself included.

The Rev. Bruce Rice passed away early Thursday evening, cancer claiming a life that had enriched so many over his 75 years.

Bruce never issued an unkind word, other than toward the opponents of his beloved St. Louis Cardinals. We spent many lunch hours — or longer — dissecting the Cardinals’ pitching staff and batting order. We also spent numerous times in his office or living room talking about what a great city Quincy is, or how compassionate and giving West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri are and will always be.

I’ll miss those times days and those conversations, most of which also included his wonderful wife and partner of 53 years, Maxine. Both Bruce and “Max” have been incredible gifts to the heartbeat of an entire region.

Bruce was best known as the longtime executive director of contemporary Christian radio station WGCA 88.5 FM. He was instrumental in bringing many of the leading Christian performers to town, most playing before sellout crowds at the Oakley-Lindsay Center or Quincy Junior High’s Morrison Theater. From the Newsboys to Michael W. Smith, many of the genre’s major acts were showcased in Quincy, thanks to the effort of Bruce and Maxine.

Over the course of 33 years, Bruce and Max built WGCA into a powerhouse voice that attracted both young and old alike. Bruce was also a well-known evangelist and served as a substitute pastor at many local churches.

What was often overlooked about Bruce, however, was the love and devotion he had for his family, which included five daughters, 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

I reached out to his children, asking for their thoughts about their beloved dad. Their responses were what you might imagine.

Julie Wingerter of Canton, Mo., smiles when she things about the relationship she always had with her dad.

“Dads know,” Julie said. “They know when to celebrate with you, when to hug you, when to pray for your safety all through the night. They know how to express love so sincere and to let you know beyond any conditions or barriers they are near.

“My dad sent me random jokes … and random notes stating how proud he was of me … and just a note to say hi. His will was as big as his heart was.”

Lisa Cook of Ursa said she found it difficult having to say goodbye “so suddenly” to her dad.

“My dad was ‘my hero’ from day one, and I am so blessed that God picked (him) to be my father here on earth,” Lisa said. “(He) touched so many lives … from family to friends and strangers. (He) loved to make someone smile and laugh, even when he did not feel like smiling or laughing.

“I am forever grateful that I had this time with (him).”

Clella Rice of Quincy said she has countless memories of her dad helping others in times of need.

“He was a person of compassion, and he would be there for anyone, including a stranger off the streets,” Clella said.

Bruce was also there for the broken-hearted, according to Clella.

“This, my friend, is a true meaning of God’s work that my father did,” she said. “My heart is broken, but I know you are not suffering.”

Sarah Rice of Palmyra, Mo., called her dad a great role model, a person who showed her both “how to be loved” and “how to love.”

“I can not put into words what a great man my father was to me,” Sarah said. “His everlasting love he had for me was unlike any other. He never gave up on me, never turned his back on me, and was everything I ever needed.

“He had so much love and joy in his heart and everyone that knew him could see these things in his character. There will never be another man like him.”

Mary Gille of Quincy said her feelings about her dad need — and deserve — more than words.

“What I can say is he taught me the most important lessons in life, and was a living testament to them until his final hour,” Mary said. “He never met a stranger and had a kind word or joke for everyone. He taught me to love everyone equally, to never judge anyone, and that I always have a place to go with my worries.

“He raised me to have faith in God, to bloom where I am planted and for those things, I am truly grateful. Though my world is dimmer without him, the joy he has right now could light the universe.”

Services will be held for Bruce at 11 a.m. Friday at the First Union Congregational Church.

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