Stories from veterans are some of our favorites at OurSeniors.net, as each story is unique from others and all experiences are one of a kind. That’s why our Amazing Senior for this issue is Jerome (Jerry) Krueger, along with his wife Esther Krueger. They have been married for 72 years and moved to Daytona Beach to live closer to family in the area. These two have stayed active since they met in 1946, with a life full of extraordinary careers behind them and now, a busy schedule working with WISE (Wisdom In Senior Education) at Daytona State College. Jerry is also treasurer of Temple Israel in Ormond Beach.
Jerry is a WW2 veteran who served in the Army Air Corps as a flight radio operator. He started in Miami, FL, for testing, flew to Sioux Falls, SD, for radio school, then to Long Beach, CA, to wait for assignment. He flew overseas to Australia for delivery of new aircraft. From there, he received orders for overseas assignment in Burma (now Myanmar), where his unit was responsible for flying fuel to China to supply the Flying Tigers and other aircraft to Kunming. His training and service earned him the Air Medal for flying 450 hours the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying more than 600 hours, as well as a medal from the Chinese government to honor his service.
When the war ended in 1945, he had just two years of college under his belt. Through the GI Bill, he was able to attend Rutgers University Law School on an accelerated program that allowed him to obtain his law degree in two years. During this time, his aunt met the mother of his future wife Esther, who provided her number to him. Esther was a Cadet nurse who had trained to be a registered nurse during the war. A week later, Jerry’s brother had tickets to a Dinah Shore show in New York City but required Jerry to bring a date. He decided to call Esther to see if she would join him. She said she would only go if he met her in person, so he went to the hospital where she was working in New Jersey. They walked around the grounds during her break that day. This day marked the beginning of their seven-decade relationship. The two were married in 1947 and had their first child in 1948.
After working in a law firm for two years, Jerry decided to start his own practice in Linden, NJ, with a close friend. Esther’s sister lived there, and he was able to buy a house under the GI Bill. The couple had two more children. During this time, Esther went back to school to get her BA degree and taught at Jersey City State college. She received her master’s at Montclair State College and doctorate at Columbia University. She taught at Kean University in New Jersey, later retiring in 1965. While working at his private practice, Jerry was asked to run for councilman of Linden, NJ; he won the position and served for two years. He was then elected as President of the City Council and later was elected to the State of New Jersey legislature for a year. With this experience, he became the city attorney for the city of Linden for almost 30 years while still maintaining his private practice. Jerry retired just three years ago at the age of 91.
After retiring, this pair never stopped staying active in the community. Taking experience from working with Union College in New Jersey on the Learning is Forever program for seniors, the couple helped start WISE at Daytona State College, which meets every week with speakers discussing important topics. The group has more than 125 people who attend every week on Tuesdays. When the couple is not working on obtaining new speakers and meeting with the group, they are in contact with their three children, seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Although they do not travel much anymore, they spent time traveling all over the world for many years. On their 50th anniversary, they took the Semester at Sea voyage which traveled to South Africa, India, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Japan.
The key to a healthy and happy life and marriage, Jerry says, “is to have love, mutual respect, encourage each other in whatever they want to do, meet new people, enjoy your relatives and friends, engage in meaningful activities and stay involved with your community.”
Recently, Jerry was presented with an award for being one of the oldest surviving Jewish war veterans in the Daytona Beach area. All in attendance of the ceremony would agree that this moment was special, and that Jerry and Esther are an inspiration to all.