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Chamber honors Bruce Krenning for lifetime achievement

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Former fruit grower has served many organizations

Bruce Krenning

ALBION – It started when he was about 30. Bruce Krenning joined the Lyndonville Board of Education. For the past four decades he has volunteered his time and talents, helping organizations meet challenges and prepare for the future.

After Lyndonville, Krenning joined the Albion Board of Education. He and his family moved from Lyndonville to Howlett Road in Albion so he could operate his own fruit and hog farm. His BOE colleagues picked him to serve as Albion’s president.

He was active with the Orleans County Farm Bureau and about a decade ago served as vice president of the state-wide organization with 30,000 members.

Community members also reached out to him to serve on the board for Orleans Community Health, the parent organization of Medina Memorial Hospital. He is in his third year as chairman, helping the organization through a time of change.

“He has given us the leadership that we needed,” said Patricia Fox, a hospital board member for nine years. “He is a phenomenal person when it comes to running a board. He has led us through a very difficult time.”

The hospital, like many rural health care organizations, has struggled financially. Other small towns have seen their hospitals close or downsize.

File photos by Tom Rivers – Bruce Krenning, board chairman for Orleans Community Health, is pictured in June 2013 with Diane Bradley, regional clinical coordinator, and Mike Lieb, temporary CEO. Dolores Horvath would later be named OCH’s chief executive officer.

Orleans Community Health last year changed its chief executive officer, opened a new health care center in Albion and affiliated with Catholic Health in Buffalo, giving Medina access to specialists and other medical and surgical services.

“We’ve had some extremely difficult decisions to make,” Fox said. “Bruce is up for the challenge. He listens and he is thinking all the time. He draws us all in and we’re determined.”

The Chamber of Commerce is honoring Krenning tonight during its awards banquet for “Lifetime Achievement” for his service to the community.

Krenning, 71, grew up in Lyndonville and earned an economics degree from Cornell University. He and his wife Diane have four grown children and 12 grandchildren. Their son Adam is the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for Albion Central School.

Krenning said he has been blessed with great mentors who encouraged him. He cited George Lamont of Albion, he gave Krenning a job when he was 21. Krenning also worked for Dennis Kirby and David Kast before starting Krenning Orchards in 1987.

He grew apples and peaches and also raised hogs. Francis Kirby and Pierson Root also were great mentors, Krenning said. Root, in particular, encouraged Krenning to become involved in Farm Bureau. Root told Krenning he had “a God-given talent to get along with people,” Krenning recalled.

“People respect him and trust him.
He is not afraid of an unpopular decision if it’s the right thing to do.”

Dean Norton, president of NY Farm Bureau

Krenning was elected to the state-wide board, representing several Western New York counties in the mid to late 1990s. That was back when the fruit sector didn’t have much of a voice on the state board. Krenning impressed Farm Bureau so much that they elected him vice president.

They did that after he was forced to exit farming. A Labor Day hail storm swept through the area in 1998, and decimated Krenning’s apple crop. Krenning and several other growers in Orleans County were forced out of business.

But Krenning wouldn’t give up on the agriculture industry. He saw the weakness of insurance programs for fruit growers. He teamed with Albion fruit grower Chris Watt and Larry Meyer, head of the Farm Service Agency in Orleans County, to craft a fruit insurance program that would become federal policy. Fruit growers now have protection should another hail storm wipe out their crop.

Bruce Krenning, president of the board of directors for Orleans Community Health, attended the Treasure Island fund-raiser last November.

Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, said Krenning was “monumental” in getting the NYFB to support the insurance protection and secure backing from the federal government.

“He took those lemons after the hail storm and used it as an educational experience to help the farming community,” Norton said. “People respect him and trust him. He is not afraid of an unpopular decision if it’s the right thing to do.”

Since he left farming, Krenning has worked as an insurance agent with the Southcott Agency in Albion. He serves farmers and homeowners. One farmer in Niagara County recently received a $900,000 check, money that kept the farmer in business.
“The Labor Day storm tested our faith and resolve,” Krenning’s wife Diane said during an interview at their home. “You can either give up or move forward. In some ways it feels predestined because Bruce has been able to help other farmers get crop insurance. It’s changed the lives of so many people since then.”

As an insurance agent, Krenning works with farmers running varied operations. He remains closely connected to the industry.

Norton, an Elba resident, often calls Krenning, looking for his opinion.

“He is one of those people I continue to talk to and pick his brain,” Norton said. “He has been a mentor to me.”

Krenning said the roles on the boards are often demanding, especially the latest effort to make sure the hospital and Orleans Community Health remain viable for years to come. He praised his fellow board members for their determination to healthcare in the county.

“I’ve been fortunate that people trusted me and with that trust I can build relationships and with those relationships you can get things done,” Krenning said.