Donald Joseph Brown Kreuch, 83, a resident of Albuquerque, passed away on Wednesday, September 30, 2009. He is survived by his
children, Tony Kreuch Sr and spouse Jeannie, of Albuquerque, Jim Kreuch of Denver, Colorado, and Bob Kreuch and spouse Carol of Bothell,
Washington, grandchildren Alissa Kreuch and Tony Kreuch Jr, Tal Kreuch and spouse Erica, Patrick Kreuch and Alex Kreuch, sister Ina Stewart,
sister-in-law Billye Kreuch, nephews Eric Stewart, John Kreuch and nieces Karen Phillips, and Janice Carter. He was preceded in death by his
parents John Kreuch and Otha Brown Kreuch and his brother Bill Kreuch, brother-in-law Forrest Stewart and nephew Kyle Stewart.
Don was born in Peoria, Illinois and spent most of his life in New Mexico. He was an athlete at Santa Fe High School, lettering in football, baseball and basketball. He played semiprofessional baseball and also baseball and basketball in Japan with U.S. Army service teams. He was an avid and accomplished tennis player. He maintained his love of sports throughout his life and was an avid fan of the UNM Lobos and often attended home football games. In his early years he worked as a ranch cowboy and he had a lifelong love of horses and the outdoors.
He served his country proudly and bravely as a United States Army infantryman during World War II with the 164th Infantry Americal Division in the Phillipines, receiving the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and several additional decorations. He was an active member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and remained active in that organization until the end of his life. He also was a regular volunteer at the New Mexico Veteran's Memorial in Albuquerque.
Don's career in advertising sales spanned more than four decades with Brown & Bigelow, Neil Elder & Associates and Don Kreuch Advertising. He enjoyed serving his customers with old fashioned care, traveling to many small towns throughout New Mexico and Southern Colorado.
He was a devout Catholic with a strong faith and active as a volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Society and a member of Sangre de Cristo Catholic Community for many years. Friends may visit French ~ Wyoming Chapel Monday, October 5, 2009, 5:00 p.m. until the Rosary, at 7:00 p.m., with Deacon Lloyd Martinez reciting. Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 10:30 a.m., at Sangre de Cristo Catholic Church, 8901 Candelaria NE, 293-2327, with Fr. Robert Lancaster Celebrant.
Interment will be at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Military Order of Purple Heart, P.O., c/o New Mexico Veteran's Memorial, P.O. Box 8389, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I am Tony Kreuch, Don's oldest son and on behalf of my brothers, our wives, Don's sister Ina and the rest of the Kreuch family I would like to thank each and every one of you for being here with us this evening and tomorrow as we celebrate his life. My dad had so many friends and he touched so many people during the course of his long life and it really shows with how many are here and we thank you.
I know that saying this is a cliché, but in my dad's case it is completely true - when Don was born, I am confident that the mold was broken. He was a one of a kind, unique individual, his own person and a real character. He was a father, a grandfather a brother an uncle, a husband and a true friend. He was dad, pop, grandpa, Uncle Don and of course "Donald Duck". But I think that the essence of what defined my father can be summed up in five words - he was a good man. He lived his life with great integrity, honesty and faith. He lived his life with passion and consideration of others, and people were the most important part of the equation for him. He had a wit and sense of humor that was uniquely his own and we loved him for it. In fact I am thinking that right about now he is looking at us from up above, rolling his eyes and telling us to finish this up and start producing something.
One of his lifelong joys was the time he spent on the road, calling on his customers in numerous small towns and rural areas throughout New Mexico and southern Colorado. He loved the open road, he loved to drive for miles and hours, but what he really loved was seeing his customers and for him the friendships he made out there were always so much more important than the sale (even though he made plenty of those as well). He worked until just two years ago at the age of 81 and he only stopped because of his health. He told us that he was disappointed that he had to quit so young because he thought that a good age to retire would have been about 90. With his business he was an old fashioned guy who was not much into modern technology. When he was getting older but still traveling he finally broke down and got a cell phone at our insistence but my suspicion is that it probably spent most of the time in the trunk of his car in an uncharged state. He also never gave in to computers. I remember him once showing me some of the 3x5 cards that he used to keep track of his customers and sales and saying "son, this is all the computer I need" and when I was having trouble with my computer later on he just smiled and said "see, I told you so - I never lose my data."
My dad had a passion for athletics that he maintained to the end of his life. Even on the Saturday before he passed away while lying in a hospital bed at the VA with a broken hip his sister Ina brought him a walkman so that he could listen to the Lobo-Aggie game on the radio. I can tell you that he wasn't very happy with the outcome. He was a fine athlete who played football, baseball and basketball well as a young man and who transferred his athletic ability to tennis in his later years. He was also truly a participant in sports with all three of his sons. I remember him being the head of the athletic booster club when I played high school football and organizing a car train to follow the team bus for every game - his car was always the first in line. He came to practice, never missed a game and was there to experience the ups and downs of the season with me. He shared a love of tennis with my youngest brother Bob and you know, he was good. He played tournament tennis in various senior divisions for many years and was even out on the court with my son until about two years ago still hitting balls with a sizzle. Bob and my dad really clicked together on a tennis court and I know that they had many good times sharing that passion. I am not a tennis player and the few times that I attempted to hit balls with him I was helpless and impressed at the same time. He also often traveled up to Colorado to take in Rockies games with my brother Jim and then, of course, there were the Lobos. My dad and I were long-suffering UNM fans together. I am an alum but he had no excuse. We had season football tickets for many years and got to most home games and we only gave up the tickets this season when it was clear that he would not be able to get to the stadium any more. Well, I offered to take him to the games in a wheelchair but those of you who knew him well can only imagine his reply to that.
We are all extremely proud of my father's military service. He was a part of "the greatest generation" an infantryman in the US Army, a decorated veteran of WW II wounded twice in action in the Pacific theatre in the jungles of the Philippine islands. What I always have to remind myself of is that he was just a boy when he did this. He enlisted into the Army at the age of 18 and was fighting in the jungles just a few short weeks after joining. When I think of myself at the age of 18 it is hard to comprehend and truly amazing. He, as many WWII vets, did not like to talk much about his war experiences. I know that what he experienced there affected him for the rest of his life. Recently he admitted to me that he still had dreams and his memories of the war still kept him awake at night. Fortunately for us, this past May he was interviewed by the Washington DC Veteran's History Project about his war experiences and we have this entire interview on CD. He remained active with the Military Order of the Purple Heart and as a volunteer at the New Mexico Veteran's Memorial until only very recently and a proud moment for him was at the annual Memorial Day services there in 2007 when Congresswoman Heather Wilson presented him with his war medals which had been lost in a fire long ago.
As a young man he was a ranch cowboy and a fine horseman. He developed his love of open spaces and the open road during those years of range work. He taught me how to ride a horse and to this day even though I rarely ride when I do I can get up on a saddle and find my seat easily because of what he taught me. I have vivid memories of riding fence behind him on the ranch up near Santa Fe - him dressed in full cowboy gear down to the chaps and spurs with a rifle loaded in the saddle holster just in case he needed it for varmints - and I think about how lucky I am to have experienced that - it really was right out of a western movie.
Don was also such a wonderful grandfather to my two children and Bob & Carol's three children. I have so many memories of his attention and devotion to his grandchildren, but one that sticks out for me is the holidays. Every year for many years he traveled up to Seattle for Thanksgiving so that he could spend part of the holidays with his three grandsons there and they had an annual ritual of choosing and decorating a Christmas tree together so that he could experience that with his Washington family. But, he wasn't quite done with Christmas trees at that point. He would then take my daughter and son out in early December every year to choose and decorate a tree for his place. My kids loved it because he let them decorate the tree however they wanted - I really never knew that you could get 27 ornaments on one branch until I saw those trees of theirs.
I have been reflecting in recent days on what I learned from my father and on what he meant to me. I learned that kindness and compassion for others is much more important that material possessions, that the only way to live life is with zest and passion and that to reach the end of your life as someone who loved and was loved by many is the finest gift of all. That is why the inscription on his niche at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe will simply say "Much Loved". I loved him deeply and I spent a lot of time with him, especially these last few years of his life and the void in my life now with his passing is unimaginable. However, I take comfort in the fact that he is no longer suffering and in the fact that with the way he died suddenly last week following his surgery he will not have to live out the final months of life bedridden, something that I know would have been extremely difficult for him. The last several months were very trying for him. He was in great pain and weak but my father never complained and he always had a kind word or deed for those around him. Even when he was being wheeled down the hall for surgery last Tuesday he was telling my wife and I from the gurney to make sure and get some lunch. That was just the kind of person that he was. So, dad, we will all miss you so much. But, you are home now and at rest. Your long, full journey in this life is over and it is time for you to move on to the next phase. God has a very special place for you, dad. Be at peace.