Recent sunshine and warmer temperatures have given us a boost in spirit. Summer is on our minds.
The summer of 2019 doesn’t have quite the ring as the summer of ’69. This may be a time that baby boomers remember well.
For me, a 16-year-old, one of the biggest events of that year was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon and I watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take a walk on the lunar surface. Quite a few of us watched that grainy black-and-white moment on television.
I recall checkered flair pants that I wore with no shame, guys wore silk scarves and had long hair. Vietnam, civil rights and war protests were on the evening news.
What do you remember? I interviewed two friends, Duane Krueger and Sandy Dille. I asked them to reflect — 50 years later.
Years of tragedies
Duane had just graduated from Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul. He had no particular plans for his future. Like most of us he had his share of issues with his parents. Duane went to work on the railroad along with a second job at a grocery store.
That spring Duane remembers visiting with a friend, Jim Puariea. Jim had graduated in 1967 and was home from Vietnam. Jim told Duane he had signed up for a second tour in order to get an early out from the Army.
Shortly after Jim returned to Vietnam, Duane told me, he got his early out. His name is listed on Panel 23W, Line 91 on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He was killed on June 6, 1969.
Tragedy hit even closer when Duane’s brother Dennis died of a brain tumor in December 1969.
Duane felt the obligation to serve his country. Duane’s grandfather, uncle and dad had served before him. Duane joined the Navy and served two years on the destroyer USS Forster.
When Duane got out of the service, he went to college and was hired by Anoka County in 1974. He would eventually serve as director of Anoka County Veterans Services, retiring in 2010. Duane reflected on how rewarding his career was, meeting and hearing the stories of so many veterans.
Duane is very proud of his two sons from his first marriage. That isn’t where Duane’s story stopped. After marrying Robbin in 1990, they adopted three little girls. Duane felt good about being able to provide the girls a good home.
As Duane looks back, the lesson that he learned, and the one that he has shared with his children is this: “You have no right to expect something back, unless you put something in.”
Fifty years is a long stretch, and at times the road will be hard. Duane’s wife Robbin passed away only one month ago. Her loss has been devastating to Duane and his family. Both 1969 and 2019 are years he wishes not to remember.
Sometimes it’s hard to take the next step. Duane has family to keep together. That’s his job right now. He is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met.
‘Blessed over and over’
For Sandy Kruckeberg, family and faith were centerpieces in her life. Growing up in Owatonna, Sandy attended and graduated from the Practical Nursing Program in Red Wing after high school.
The summer of 1969, Sandy had one thing on her mind. She was planning her wedding. It was a memorable time. After the August nuptials, she and her husband Ken began their lives together.
Sandy does remember various events of 1969, but the two Midwest conservative farm kids didn’t spend too much time trying to understand or figure out some of the 1960s culture.
Ken had served four years in the Air Force. He headed to college with assistance from the GI Bill and Sandy went to work as a nurse. They worked hard and made ends meet. Ken would eventually earn a master’s degree in math.
As their two children came along, Sandy was able to stay home. She and Ken enjoyed every second raising their two children, always keeping the focus on family. It was important to them to teach their children to be good and kind people.
They modeled the same faith and family values that surrounded them when they were growing up. They are proud of their children and now three grandchildren. Sandy told me that she is thankful for each day they are given.
Sandy said, “Fifty years doesn’t seem that long ago and it’s wonderful to recall what we have done with ourselves in that 50 years. We have been blessed over and over.” This summer Ken and Sandy will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
They will celebrate it like they have lived their life; surrounded by their children and now grandchildren. She said all you need is love.