Bruce Stearns, one of harness racing’s best known executives and executive director of the N.J. Sires Stakes Program, died suddenly Friday, July 27. He was 58.
A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Stearns became publicity director of Rockingham Park in 1972, a post his late father, Bill Stearns, had filled for a decade during the late 50’s and 60’s. Following a fire that destroyed the Salem, N.H., track, Stearns moved to Pennsylvania to become publicity director of Liberty Bell Park.
Shortly before the close of Liberty Bell, Stearns was hired by the State of New Jersey to administer its sires stakes program, a job he held for 16 years.
During his career, he performed nearly every job in harness racing. He trained under the highly respected harness racing executive and historian, Ed Keller, who guided his early career that took him through the ranks from an assistant paddock judge to assistant general manager to racing secretary.
In 1986, he was chosen to receive the Golden Pen Award from the North American Harness Publicists Association, an organization that he joined in its formative years and later headed as its president. He also was member of the U.S. Harness Writers’ Association and its New Jersey Chapter.
He leaves his wife of 36 years, the former Marcia Bickford; two daughters, Catherine Stearns-Medick and Christine Stearns, both of New Jersey, and a sister, Gail, of New Mexico.
The funeral was set for New Hampshire on Tuesday, July 31, with a memorial service to be held August 7 in New Brunswick, N.J.