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Surrounded by the love of family, Lieutenant Commander Richard Wayne Kruger, USN, Ret., of Rolesville, North Carolina peacefully passed away on October 2, 2023 at home after a long battle with cancer.
Richard was born as the second of five children to Albert and Lydia Kruger on November 17, 1933 in Springfield, Illinois. He was baptized at home the same day. Born prematurely, Richard had a quiet, determined strength from the very beginning. He was confirmed at Zion Lutheran Church (1946), through which he competed in church basketball leagues. Having skipped a grade, Richard went off to college at just 17 years old but left a year later to commit his life to serving his country. On February 13, 1952, at 18 years old, Richard enlisted in the United States Navy.
Richard and the love of his life, Elaine Ruth Schnake, began dating after meeting at a church youth picnic. Richard and Elaine were married in December 1955 at her home church of St. Peter’s Lutheran in St. Peter, Illinois. Together, they led a life of loyalty and love. Richard was the proud father of five children; with them, he enjoyed sharing his love for his Lutheran faith, for large bowls of vanilla ice cream, and for music, especially the banjo. Later in life, Richard enjoyed becoming a father-in-law to four, a grandfather to eight, and a grandfather-in-law to five.
Richard’s military career spanned over 23 years as a leader in communications engineering. His naval service took Richard and Elaine to Hawaii, and their growing brood to Tennessee, Indiana, California, and Maryland. They eventually settled in Neptune Beach, Florida where he was stationed at Naval Station Mayport in the ‘70s. Richard was selected to attend the Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program (NESEP) at Purdue University, from which he earned a degree in electrical engineering in 1962. He served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, often deploying for months at a time on naval vessels. Richard rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and received the following medals: Navy Achievement with Combat V; Navy Good Conduct (4 times); National Defense Service Medal (2 times); Vietnam Service (4 times); Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; Republic of Vietnam Campaign; and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation. Highly decorated, Richard retired from military service on September 1, 1975.
Richard was a good and faithful servant of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was an active member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. At Bethlehem, all the Kruger children were confirmed, both Kruger daughters were married, and many Kruger grandchildren were baptized. Later, after a move to North Carolina, Richard and Elaine were active at Hope Lutheran Church in Wake Forest. Richard especially loved the gospel according to John; his favorite bible verse was John 3:16.
Richard had a love of activities and games, especially ones that required intellect and discipline. A favorite was golf. Richard engineered his own golf clubs from the absolute best components and successfully “lived to golf his age” – a goal he achieved many times over. Richard loved to garden. He nurtured many citrus trees - grapefruits were his specialty - and was known to pull over to the side of the road when he spotted wild blackberries. Richard was also an avid ping-pong player and bowler. He bowled perfect 300s and taught all his children and grandchildren to throw a strike. The Kruger household was often filled with games of pinochle. Richard and Elaine held a weekly game with their local daughter and son-in-law. When Richard’s lineage (which numbered nearly 25 people in Richard’s later years) were in town for holidays, two or three pinochle games might be going all at once.
Richard is preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Lydia Kruger. He leaves behind his brothers, Joseph Kruger and Daniel Kruger both of Altamont, Illinois, and sisters, Patricia Wetzel (Edwin) of Mattoon, Illinois, and Judith Pries of St. John, Virgin Islands. He leaves behind his devoted wife of nearly 67 years, Elaine Schnake Kruger, of Rolesville, North Carolina, and his five loving children – Brian Kruger, Esq. (Kim Cook) of Gainesville, Florida; Kerry Kruger of Rolesville, North Carolina; Randy Kruger (Sharon) of Winter Garden, Florida; Dawn Kruger Schudy (Kelley) of Raleigh, North Carolina; and Christy Kruger Hobbs (Brad) of Central, South Carolina. He leaves behind eight adoring grandchildren – Casey Che (née Hobbs; Danny) of New York, New York; Amanda Jane Quigley (née Hobbs; Alan) of Atlanta, Georgia; Hannah Beth Kruger of Denver, Colorado; Dr. Colin Kruger (Jena) of Jacksonville, Florida; Haley King (née Kruger; Kyle) of Winter Garden, Florida; Grant Schudy of Raleigh, North Carolina; Jack Kruger of Gainesville, Florida; and Kate Johnson (née Schudy; Jake) of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Richard will be forever in the hearts of his family.
Friends visited with the family from 1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Friday, October 13, 2023 at Hope Lutheran Church, 3525 Rogers Road, Wake Forest, followed by the funeral service at 2:00 p.m. Burial followed in Raleigh Memorial Park.
Memorial Contributions can be made to Hope Lutheran Church, 3525 Rodgers Road, Wake Forest, NC 27587 or to the American Cancer Society. (donate.cancer.org)
Arrangements by Clancy Strickland Wheeler Funeral Home, 1051 Durham Road, Wake Forest, NC 27587. (919-556-7400)