Civic leader Bob Pruehsner dies at 85
By Steve Huffman
A local community leader died Tuesday following a brief period of declining health.
Bob Pruehsner, 85, of Salisbury, died at Rowan Regional Medical Center. He was a former board member and past president of Rowan Helping Ministries, a benefactor of the Salisbury Symphony and a member of the President Advisory Committee for Hood Theological Seminary.
Dianne Scott, executive director of Rowan Helping Ministries, said that until the past few months, Pruehsner could be counted on to help her organization with any problem that came along.
“If we were short on food, we could call Bob and he’d meet us at Aldi’s and buy us whatever we needed,” Scott said. “He was still a dedicated, concerned and strong supporter of Rowan Helping Ministries.”
Pruehsner and his wife, Lois, moved to Salisbury after he retired as an executive with Philip Morris. They moved to Rowan County from Norwalk, Conn., Pruehsner told Rose Post in a 1990 Post article, because of the mild climate and because it was headquarters for the North Carolina Lutheran Synod, and they had long been active Lutherans.
Pruehsner remained an active member of Salisbury’s St. Luke’s Lutheran until his death, a teacher for the church’s Martin Luther Sunday School class and served on various other committees.
Scott remembered that Pruehsner played a pivotal role in the organization of her ministry. “He was basically the founder of Rowan Helping Ministries as it is today,” Scott said.
She said he was chairman of the organization’s board of directors when she was hired in 1990.
“Bob helped with the policies and procedures that had never been pulled together before,” Scott said.
She said that in 1994, Pruehsner and his wife founded the Pruehsner Foundation, the primary beneficiaries of which are Rowan Helping Ministries and ministries affiliated with St. John’s.
In 1996, when Hope Uzzell died and left Rowan Helping Ministries the largest single gift the ministry ever received, Pruehsner was instrumental in establishing the Hope Fund, a trust fund. Scott said Pruehsner had only recently relinquished his job as administrator of the Hope Fund.
“He wasn’t just a mentor to me,” Scott said. “He was almost like a father figure.”
Other locals were equally gracious in sharing their memories of Pruehsner. Linda Jones is executive director of the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra and said Pruehsner constantly came up with new means of raising funds for the organization.
Jones noted that just recently, Pruehsner conceived the idea of people donating $100 to become “jazz enthusiasts.” In short order, 34 people had signed up for the honor.
“That idea alone generated another $3,400 for us,” Jones said.
She laughed that Pruehsner was notorious for calling at all hours and on weekends when he conceived an idea that might help the symphony generate more funds.
“He was a champion, an advocate for us almost 24/7,” she said. “He was a member of our board of directors, but that doesn’t begin to tell all he did for us.”
Diane Hundley was program coordinator for Rowan Helping Ministries when Pruehsner took over as chairman of the board in 1990. He had served as a board member when Hundley had been hired the previous year.
“He was really a wonderful board chair,” Hundley said. “He was just a great guy.”
In addition to having worked for Philip Morris, Pruehsner was an expert amateur photographer and served as a lieutenant in the Merchant Marines during World War II. He and his wife had hiked in every state.
In addition to his wife, Pruehsner is survived by his son, William Robert Pruehsner and his wife, Mary Ann. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at St. John’s Lutheran Church columbarium. The family will receive friends in the church library following the service.
Memorials may be made to: St. John’s Lutheran Church, 200 W. Innes St., Salisbury, NC 28144, or Rowan Helping Ministries, P.O. Box 4026, Salisbury, NC 28145.