Don Krueger, longtime businessman and cattle rancher, dies at 81


Sept. 4, 2012 at 4:04 a.m.
Updated Sept. 5, 2012 at 4:05 a.m.

Crossroads residents reminisced on Tuesday about a man who changed the very landscape of the region.

Donald Ray Krueger, founder and board chairman of Krueger Construction Co., died Sunday morning at his home. He was 81.

The longtime businessman was a big part not only of Victoria, but South Texas in general, said his son Kevin Krueger. He worked in construction for 60 years, he said, and with his own company for 50.

Kevin Krueger, the construction company's president, said his dad had a hand in more than 800 completed construction projects and more than $1 billion in work across South Texas.

All that, with no computer.

"He did everything by hand," he said. "He was an old-school guy."

Mike Weaver, partner in Weaver & Jacobs Constructors, Inc., worked with Krueger for 17 years. He described his former boss as "stern but fair." Although Krueger got his points across with humor, Weaver said he was always one to keep his work ethic first.

He recalled a company-wide celebration at the Colet Inn Bar & Grill, in recognition of the construction company winning an expansion job with Citizens Medical Center.

"We were all sitting there having a good time and I remember him just sitting at the end of the table," Weaver said. "We asked him what was wrong and he said, 'I'll celebrate when we finish. Not when we start.'"

Krueger was among the founding members of the Associated Builders and Contractors Texas Mid Coast Chapter in 1982 and later went on to become president, said Kathy Autry, current president and CEO. He was honored alongside Troy Summerlin at the organization's 2010 annual banquet with a tribute for his work.

"Both Don and his company have had a huge, huge positive impact on the growth of our communities," Autry said. "He was a very fine person and citizen."

Krueger's interests spanned beyond construction.

Through the years, he was active in numerous Crossroads organizations. That included, among others, Victoria Bancshares, the Victoria Airport Commission, and Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, where he was not only a member, but designed and built the new sanctuary.

Kevin Krueger said his father had a passion for all things outdoors, including hunting and cattle ranching. He was an active member of the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association.

Brant Jacobs, Weaver & Jacobs' other partner, recalled accompanying Krueger on drives through his ranch, talking cattle just as often as construction.

The two might be two very different businesses, Jacobs said, but Krueger had it figured out.

"He told me, 'If it's raining, it's bad for construction but good for cattle,'" Jacobs said. "'But if we've got a drought, it's bad for cattle and good for construction. So I've got the best of both worlds.'"

Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi opened and closed Tuesday's commissioners court meeting in memory of Krueger, a man he said he regarded as a dear friend.

Krueger left behind a massive footprint throughout both the Crossroads and Texas, Pozzi said. He called his friend a "well-respected individual who did an outstanding job."

Pozzi will speak at Wednesday's funeral service, but said he will not write out a planned speech.

"I'll just speak from the heart like I always do," he said. "He was a great man and he will be missed."

Krueger is survived by Bernice Kutach Krueger, his wife of 52 years, and his three children, son Kevin Krueger and daughters Donice Krueger and Tracy Krueger.

Kevin Krueger said it would take time to adjust to the loss, but he took comfort in knowing his dad kept busy right to the end.

He put in a full day's work at the office on Friday, he said, and went hog hunting Saturday. He died Sunday morning, reading his paper.

"He did all he wanted to do, right up to the last minute," Kevin Krueger said. "I'm just glad he was able to go out on his own terms."



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