Obituary Details

John Bruegger

(09/13/1926 - 06/24/1973)
Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 06/21/1973

John Bruegger Shot While in Chicago

John Bruegger, Van Tassell area rancher, businessman and chairman of the Niobrara Board of County Commissioners, appears to be responding to treatment successfully and is expected to be released from the Mercy Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, next week. Mr. Bruegger was hospitalized last Wednesday after being shot in the head.

The bullet which entered over the right eye is still lodged in his head, but surgery Wednesday night apparently eliminated brain damage and no loss of facilities is expected. Removal of the bullet was impossible at that time. Fred Bruegger, who accompanied Mrs. John Bruegger to Chicago Wednesday night and has since returned to his home in the Keeline area, reports visiting by telephone with his brother Monday noon.

John Bruegger, Dale Miller, also of Van Tassell, and a business partner of Mr. Bruegger in the Van Tassell Truck and Sales, Joe Adams, and Franklin Christensen, both of Chadron had entered Chicago Wednesday morning where Bruegger and Miller were transacting business.

That evening around 7:00 they were headed back to the Holiday Inn where they were staying. "I was driving the pickup camper and realized I had made a wrong turn and was starting around the block to get back on the freeway," said Miller. "We were slowing down for a stop sign when I heard a shot. Johnny who was reading a map jerked and slumped. I got out of the pickup and went around and let Joe and Frank out noticing in my haste that all the persons standing around were black, and a black youth was running down the street."

"An off duty policeman who was en route to a community center heard the shot and came back to where we were and led us to a small emergency hospital not far away. Here Johnny was treated and then taken to Mercy Hospital where he underwent surgery that night," added Miller.

Miller said the incident was so unreal it was hard to comprehend what was going on. "Joe drove to the hospital, and for a while I actually thought Johnny was dead as I tried to support him. Suddenly he sat up and though he was in much pain, carried on a most rational conversation which he continued to do until he went into shock after arriving at Mercy."

Miller is not certain from where the youth shot, but said that evidently Johnny had turned and looked out of the window. By Thursday evening a suspect had been apprehended and identified in police lineup by Miller and the off duty officer as the youth who was running down the street. Miller does not know the name of the youth but judged him to be about 16 years old. He gave no reason for the shooting and was taken into juvenile court Friday.

Miller, Fred Bruegger, Adams and Christensen returned back to Lusk Sunday evening bringing back nine diesel trucks - the purpose of the trip to Chicago.

Still in Chicago with Brueggers are Mrs. Kenneth Freeman, Lusk, and Mrs. Melvin Grote, Harrison, sisters of Mr. Bruegger.

The Lusk Herald
June 28, 1973
John Bruegger Dies, Funeral This Thursday

John Bruegger, Van Tassell area rancher and businessman died at Mercy Hospital in Chicago Sunday morning of complications from a gunshot wound. Funeral service will be held this Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Peet Mortuary.

Mr. Bruegger, who was in Chicago on a business trip for Van Tassell Truck Sales with his partner, Dale Miller, and Joe Adams and Franklin Christensen, was shot in the head by a 16-year-old youth when the pickup camper in which they were riding slowed down for a stop sign in Chicago the evening of June 13.

That night Mr. Bruegger underwent surgery and was responding satisfactorily until last Thursday when a second surgery had to be performed at which time he became critical.

The family of Mr. Bruegger has requested a memorial be established for a community project in lieu of flowers. Such memorials may be sent to either Lusk bank.

John Bruegger was born to Martha and Fred Bruegger September 13, 1926, at Lusk. He spent his childhood at the home ranch northeast of Node.

Mr. Bruegger attended grade school at Sunny Side School east of his home and attended his first two years of high school at the ranch. After being called into the service by the draft during World War II he received his high school diploma in February 1944 and served two years in the United States Army. He was stationed for 18 months in Honolulu, Hawaii.

When he returned home he entered into the ranching business with his father and continued in this business until his death. In 1951 he and Norma Younkin, daughter of the late Lloyd and Stella Younkin of Hat Creek were married. They made their home at a ranch near Van Tassell. Five sons were born to the couple, David 21, Mark 17, Lee 14, Greg 13, and Cody 9. Mr. and Mrs. Bruegger and sons were ranching together at the time of his death.

Mr. Bruegger was a past noble grand of the International Order of Oddfellows of Lusk and past Niobrara County Farm Bureau president. He served on the Lusk School board and served as a County Committeeman of the ASCS board. At the time of his death he was serving as chairman of the Niobrara County Board of Commissioners. Bruegger helped organize the Wyoming Simmental Association and served a term as vice president of the organization.

Survivors include his wife and five sons, his mother Mrs. Martha Bruegger, Lusk; sisters, Mrs. Melvin (Madeline) Grote, Harrison, Mrs. Lew (Margarette) Loebe, Beaverton, Wash., Mrs. Bob (Ann) Coots, Olympia, Wash., Mrs. Kenneth (Mary Rose) Freeman, Hat Creek, and Mrs. Kenneth (Winnie) Schipporite, Woodburn, Ore.; brothers Fred, Jr. Keeline, and Ed, Lost Springs.
His father died in 1966.

The Lusk Herald
July 5, 1973
Bruegger Services Last Thurs. Many Stand Outside Chapel

The Peet Mortuary could not seat all the many friends and relatives who gathered last Thursday afternoon for the funeral of John Bruegger and many paid their final respects while standing outside of the mortuary.

The Rev. Larry Shrout of Harrison United Methodist Church conducted the service, and graveside services were conducted by the International Order of Oddfellows and the Wieten Dupes Post No. 4 of the American Legion.

Mrs. Bob Bramlet, Mrs. Walt Fernau, Lee Johnsonbaugh and Harry Lyon sang "In the Garden" and "Beyond the Sunset". Organist was Mrs. A. F. DeCastro.

Casket bearers were Rex Shoults, H.E. Pearson, Dale Miller, Paul Elliot, Ed Boner, and Ed Speerly. Honorary pallbearers were Julius Peterson, Warren Freeman, Andrew McMaster, Ray Freeman, and Melvin Davies.

Interment was in the Lusk Cemetery.

Mr. Bruegger, 47, the husband of Norma Bruegger and the father of five sons, David, Mark, Lee, Greg, and Cody, died June 24 in Chicago of complications from a gunshot wound in the head received the evening of June 13.

Count Spence, a 16-year-old black youth, had been charged with murder and was scheduled to appear in Family
Court June 25. Results of that hearing are not known here.

Mr. Bruegger, a Van Tassell area rancher and businessman was in Chicago with Dale Miller a business partner, and Joe Adams and Franklin Christensen when the shooting occurred at a stop sign.

At the time of his death Bruegger was serving as chairman of the Niobrara County Board of Commissioners. A complete obituary was published in last week's issue of The Herald.

Images & Attachments

John Bruegger
John and Norma were married in 1951
Gravestone photos courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project


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