Park Place resident Lenore (Krueger) Elhert received a rather peculiar phone call from facility staff on Tuesday afternoon, advising her of a package awaiting her in the first floor commons area of the facility.
“I figured it was a birthday package,” she said with a chuckle.
Such an assumption was fair enough, considering Tuesday marked Lenore’s 99th birthday.
She soon made her way down to the commons area and quickly realized the “package” awaiting her was well beyond anything she could have imagined.
“It was a package alright, I was flabbergasted! I certainly was not expecting that.” she adds.
The package she was alerted to turned out to be the commons area packed with TV cameras, Park Place neighbors, family members and seven members of the Merrill Police Department consisting of Chief Ken Neff, Captain Corey Bennett, Patrol Lieutenant Greg Hartwig, Investigative Lieutenant Pat Wunsch, School Resource Officer (SRO) Mark Heckendorf, Officer Matt Waid and Officer Robert Caylor.
Lenore was escorted inside with son-in-law Gay (Sally) Oberg at her side. She was immediately greeted by each member of the Merrill Police Department with Happy Birthday wishes, as well as hugs from her many family members present.
“It was a pleasure to be included today in celebrating Lenore’s birthday,” said Neff. “We honor the sacrifice of her late husband Elmer Krueger every year, and it was an honor for us to be invited here today.”
As Neff alluded to, Lenore is the widow of the late Captain Elmer Krueger who lost his life in the line of duty in the early morning hours of July 19, 1952.
According to an account of the fateful summer night of July 12, 1952, 40-year-old Elmer was off-duty and attending a dance with Lenore at what was then Lincoln School (now Walgreens).
During the dance, Elmer was approached by concerned dance attendees who stated a “drunk was peeking in windows.”
Krueger excused himself and went outside to make contact with Joseph B. Weber.
Weber reportedly left the area, only to return a short time later. Krueger made contact with Weber once again at which point Weber reportedly stated he was “looking for a place to stay for the night.” Krueger offered to walk him across the street to the jail so Weber could “sleep it off.”
As the pair crossed the street, Weber reportedly drew a .22 handgun from his waistband and fired four shots, striking Krueger twice in the abdominal area and once in the leg.
Weber was taken into custody at gunpoint a short time later while Krueger was rushed to Holy Cross Hospital.
Despite various procedures to help him recover from his wounds, Captain Krueger succumbed to his injuries a week later, in the early morning hours of July 19, 1952.
“Captain Krueger is the only Merrill Police officer to have lost his life in the line of duty,” Neff added. “He will never be forgotten. His memory makes this a special occasion for us.”
On Tuesday, following the initial “shock” as Lenore coined the surprise, she enjoyed cake and punch with those in attendance.
As Lenore explained, Park Place staff were quite effective in maintaining the element of surprise.
“I knew something was off because they postponed a club meeting this afternoon which has been meeting in here for years,” Lenore said. “I didn’t pay it much mind you know, I just figured something else came up. But boy I never imagined anything like this! I never expected this, not in a million years!” she adds with a warm smile as she glances around at her family members at her side.
“We knew ahead of time,” Sally adds. “We weren’t sure how she would react but this was very nice what everyone did for her today.”
Following Tuesday’s festivities, Lenore was wisked away by Sally and Gay Oberg (Merrill) as well her son Charles Krueger (Menomonie, Wis) daughter-in-law Mary Pat and several grandchildren, to dinner at 2510 Restaurant in Wausau.