Enjoy the Ride

Bruce Sellner

Today would be Bruce Sellner’s 59th birthday.

Fair-goers will be honoring his legacy today as they enjoy some of the Fair’s rides with their families.  You see, Bruce invented many of the amusement park rides we all enjoy – things like the Berry-Go-Round, Spin the Apple and Monkey Mayhem, to name a few.   And the Sellner family also invented one of the most well-know fair rides, the Tilt-a-Whirl, right here in Faribault, MN. 

Bruce also has another legacy – his connection to donation and transplantation.

Bruce had two auto-immune disorders, the combination of which was quite rare.  One of the medications he took to manage his diseases damaged his lungs, which then weakened his heart.  He was listed for a heart and lung transplant in 1993.

While he was waiting for his transplant, Bruce shared that it was the little things in life that he missed, like being able to shovel snow or rake the leaves.   “I always think about that,” says his daughter, Erin.  “When I’m hot and tired and I don’t want to mow the lawn I just thank God that I can.”

Erin describes her dad as someone who loved to travel, had a great sense of humor, was passionate about his work and was so very proud that his family built amusement rides.  “I grew up going from one county fair to the next!”

Bruce waited for his transplants for two years.  Near the end of his wait his family doctor came to the house to tell him that he had become too sick to undergo a transplant and was being removed from the waiting list.  He was just 44 years old when he died on Labor Day in 1995, the last day of the Minnesota State Fair.  Erin was 21.

“He was hanging on to the hope that he would get the transplant,” shares Erin. “Once that hope was gone, he just let go.”

This afternoon, Erin and her mom, Tovah, are sharing Bruce’s story at the Fair, encouraging others to register as

Tovah and Erin Sellner at the Donate Life booth

donors so that fewer people will have to suffer the same fate.  Erin now has a daughter of her own, a 14-year old named Mallory.  “She’s growing up hearing grandpa Bruce stories, but it’s just not the same.”

“When my dad was waiting for his transplant, people didn’t talk about organ donation as much as they do today.  It is so encouraging for people who are waiting now that we’re talking about it so much more.”

This is their second year volunteering at the Fair and, as Erin shares, “We’ll never miss it again.”