Bruce Kehler (right) gives Chandra Bodalia a warm hug last December at a fundraiser for him.
Photo by Vinnie Combow

A Celebration of Life will be held on May 5 for popular businessman Bruce Kehler, who passed away on April 21, just two days after he turned 65, much to the shock of the South Asian community that had come to love him for his generosity and friendliness and regarded him as one of their own; hence the sobriquet “The white guy with a brown heart aka The Desi Santa.”

The event will be held at Aria Banquet Hall, 12350 Pattullo Place, Surrey, from 2 to 5 p.m.

His amazing generosity was so evident last December when he led the community to fundraise for VOICE photographer Chandra Bodalia, who has been battling cancer for months now. He donated $100,000 himself and then challenged the others to contribute as much.

Bruce, who was president of Canex Building Supplies Ltd., Chillliwack, donated more than $250,000 to Surrey Urban Mission Society (SUMS), that helps support economically challenged families, just in one year. He donated more than $1 million to a host of South Asian organizations and supported sports events and melas organized by various South Asian outfits in the Lower Mainland.

Little wonder then that he was featured on the front page of all leading South Asian newspapers and magazines.

Bruce’s family came here from Russia. He started working at a lumberyard when he was just 15 and ended up as a market leader in the building supplies and lumber industry. And he had a keen desire to share his success and wealth with others with his motto “Sharing is Caring.”

His business success was encapsulated by a publication in these words: “When Kehler bought the business from the Ven den Brink brothers in January of 1994, it was doing $12 to $15 million per year, with fewer than 20 employees. When he finished this past year, the company had grown to just over $60 million in sales with 80 to 100 employees.”

Bruce Kehler (far left) and his wife at the Spelling Bee championship.
Photo submitted

For Bruce, it was a total commitment to the community. Kamalpreet Kaur Baga, BC Chapter President of Spelling Bee of Canada and Principal of Khalsa School Old Yale Road Campus, said that Bruce and his wife attended their Spelling Bee championship event on both days just this month. He donated $1,500 and 200 t-shirts.

The South Asian community will truly miss such a wonderful person.