Minnesota farmer spreads $3 million around his small town

9:00 AM, Dec 16, 2010   |    comments
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  • Minnesotan spreads $3 million around his small town
  • Minnesotan spreads $3 million around his small town
  • Minnesotan spreads $3 million around his small town

LEROY, Minn. -- The LeRoy Senior Citizens Center still charges a quarter for a cup of coffee.

"If they take a cookie that's another quarter," president Eileen Evans is quick to point out.

The center is used to running lean. But it's fair to say the seniors have a little more wiggle room in their budget, since the first of three checks arrived several months ago.

"My God, we've never had that kind of money," said Evans excitedly. "We didn't know what to do. My gosh $20,000."

The envelope arrived from the estate of 94-year-old Loren Krueger, a retired farmer who had seen his share of sadness, having lost his first wife, and then his second -- having lost his only child, a teenage son, to cancer.

But long before he passed away last year, Krueger gained a reputation. "Very frugal. He was very careful with his money," said Evans.

Apparently so, for as Krueger humbly lived out his days in a simple white house on LeRoy's main street, the WWII veteran quietly amassed a fortune. Part of which arrived at the senior citizens center.

"I said, 'Well let me see it!'" recalled LaRae Eastvold, "I've never seen a check like that before."

That first $20,000 check was followed by two more, $100,000 each. "We got $220,000 total," said Evans.

Until then, the seniors had been getting by on what the county gave their center: $600 a year.

And Krueger wasn't done.

He willed St. Patrick's Catholic Church roughly $1 million.

"He loved this church. He came here for many, many, many years," said Joyce Arndorfer, a family friend of Krueger's and the executor of his will.

But Krueger still wasn't finished. He left LeRoy's Presbyterian church more than $400,000, some of which has already paid for a new steel roof to replace the leaky old roof.

"Well, I think we're very blessed," said church member Joe Kempe. "I think he gave it just for the goodness of his own heart."

Checks for more than $400,000 were also delivered to Bethany Bible Church, and to the members of LeRoy's Lutheran church. The Lutherans have already used a portion of Krueger's money to repair their bell tower, with plans to upgrade a lift in the church for the handicapped.

But even that was not the last of Krueger's generosity. Checks for $220,000 arrived at both the fire department and the ambulance service. The former is looking at replacing an old pumper truck, while the latter has already completed construction of a an apartment for its on-call EMTs.

All told, Krueger spread some $3 million around a town of 925 people.

"Nobody knew he had that kind of money," said Eastvold.

But to suggest the giving ended in a $3 million flurry, is to show you have a little more to learn about LeRoy.

The churches were all aware the town's assisted living center needed a new kitchen. So together they're sharing some of the money Krueger gave them to build one.

"It's just the type of community we live in," said Kathy Frazer, a nurse at the facility.

The seniors citizens wrote a check for the new school playground, and were joined by the Lutherans in paying for improvements at the community pool.

"Makes you feel good," said Eastvold.

Good, the way the seniors felt when they wrote a $10,000 check to Grace Christian Church, which had the misfortune of being the only church in LeRoy founded after Krueger had made out his will.

"Why not give it away," said Bud McCool, treasurer for the Senior Citizens Center. "It was given to us. We didn't have it before, so why not help other people who are in need too."

Frugal, was the word pinned on Loren Krueger in life.

Generous is the way he'll be remembered.

"It's astounding what he did," said Mark Davis, a member of LeRoy Evangelical Lutheran Church. "It's an incredible legacy, no doubt about it."

(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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