ONALASKA -- Bruce A. Melby, 66, of Onalaska passed away Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, at home in the comfort of his family. In the 21 months after a stage four pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Bruce celebrated the birth of two grandchildren, spent precious time with family and friends and dedicated himself to making things "easier" for those he loved.
Bruce was born May 30, 1953, in La Crosse, the third of five children to Arthur and Cora (Hauser) Melby. After graduating from Logan High School in 1971, he officially joined the family business in 1975, after his college graduation.
In partnership with his mother, he successfully expanded La Crosse Distributing, a Schlitz wholesale company founded by his father in 1949. Bruce was a businessman who paid great attention to day-to-day business operations and above all else, valued his dedicated employees. As vice president of La Crosse Distributing and later vice president/CEO of La Crosse Beverage, Bruce pursued new ventures and opportunities, including a merger with Frank Beer Distributors of Madison in 1998. His vision and drive helped grow a one-brewery distributorship into a local wholesale operation that included over 60 brands. Anyone in the area that ever "popped a cold one" benefited from his dedication to sales, his customers and the beer industry. He served as secretary, vice chair, and chair of the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association (WBDA) and was a member of the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA). One of his proudest professional achievements was the drafting and passage of bi-partisan state legislation to address unethical practices in the beer industry. He was at his core a "beer man" through and through.
He married Robin R. (Hesselberg) Melby, Aug. 8, 1980, and they raised three children in Onalaska. Bruce enjoyed playing a competitive game of Monopoly, listening to oldies rock-n-roll, cheering on Wisconsin sports teams, traveling anywhere and most of all, laughing with his family.
In addition to his wife, Robin, he is survived by two sons, Shaun (Katherine) Melby of Nashville, Tenn., and Nathan (Caitlin) Melby of Minneapolis; one daughter, Erin (Clement) Melby Leclerc of Paris, France; two grandchildren, Monroe Melby and Arthur Leclerc; and grand-dogs, Bo, Hank, Winnie and Winston. He is survived by one sister, Sandra (Michael) Bittner; and three brothers, Dale Melby, Mark Melby and Arthur (Sandi) Melby. He is further survived by two special aunts, Irene and Fern Hauser; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends. He is preceded in death by his parents; and his lunch-sharing dog, Lady.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Olivet Lutheran Church of La Crosse. Pastor David Baldukas will officiate and burial will follow at the Onalaska City Cemetery. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m Friday, or from 9:30 a.m. until the time of services Saturday, both at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred and may be given to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse; Melby Family Endowment Fund; and/or the family asks that you raise a "glass" in his honor and share a laugh with your loved ones.