Recently my friend Amy Crow, who writes No Story Too Small, challenged others to join her in writing about our ancestors each week. This is week 5 of the challenge and I am going to introduce you to my Great Grandfather, Myer Krueger. He is the father of my maternal grandmother, Shirley. Though I never got to meet him, he is the ancestor that I’m most intrigued by and his family has been my biggest brick wall. I take a break sometimes, but always return to learn more about him as I can. Here we go!
Myer Krueger was born 10 January 1887 in the town of Lachawitz, Minsk, Russia ((Myer Krueger, 27 August 1914, Declaration of Intention, No. 626, La Porte Superior Court; La Porte County Courthouse, La Porte, La Porte, Indiana.)) (now Lyakhavichy, Brest, Belarus). His parents were Zebra “Zipe” Soloman and Ellya Kriger. ((Myer Krueger to Jennette Engel, (27 June 1910), St. Joseph County Marriage Applications: ; St. Joseph County Public Library, South Bend, Indiana.)) He is supposed to have come over to America in July 1901 ((Myer Krueger, 27 August 1914, Declaration of Intention, No. 626, La Porte Superior Court; La Porte County Courthouse, La Porte, La Porte, Indiana.)) traveling from Liverpool, England to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He then made his way to Michigan City, Indiana to live with his Aunt Sarah Shon and her family. The Shon’s owned a furniture store and were fairly well established in the town. The Shon family consisted of Sarah (sister to Myer’s mother), Harry, Moses, Mike, Rachel, and Lizzie. My grandma Shirley shared some of what Myer’s early years leading up to his marriage to her mother included,
“My father finished high school and worked for his cousin, Harry Shon, in the clothing business. Mike Shon was Dad’s age and he helped his mother in the furniture store. Later Harry and my Dad bought property together; then Dad began his own business Krueger’s Shoe Store, at the corner of 10th and Franklin Streets.
Mother and Dad met along with Mike Shon and his wife-to-be, Charlotte Rosenberg, who had been my mother’s good friend living in South Bend. Both couples married and were friends all their lives, and Shon’s daughter, DeVera, and my sister, Fern, were good friends and sorority sisters.” ((Shirley Morse, “Krueger-Engel-Morse Family History” (South Bend, Indiana, 1989, p. 3; privately held by Jennifer Alford, ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE, Utica, Ohio, 1 February 2014). Received on August 2008 from Jana Morse. Original copy was scanned to pdf.))
On June 28, 1910, Myer Krueger and Antonia “Toni” Jeannette Engel were married in South Bend, Indiana. ((Myer Krueger to Jennette Engel, (27 June 1910), St. Joseph County Marriage Applications: ; St. Joseph County Public Library, South Bend, Indiana.)) They soon settled in Michigan City and had three children. The first was Fern, then Marvin, and lastly, my grandma, Shirley. Myer worked hard for his family and went into business with his cousin Harry starting a shoe store at the corner of 1oth and Franklin Street. He was called the “Sleepless Shoeman” and my grandma shares,
“At the age of ten, I was in love with my father. We were pals. He was a small compact man with a small man’s agility and vitality, who took the longest steps with his short legs …he was about 5’3” tall and very thin. Sometimes after my dancing lesson, I would stop at the store he owned to walk home with him if I could get there before he had started home for supper. Dad and I would walk the four blocks to our home. One crisp autumn evening when the leaves were falling around us, he paced me up the seemingly steep hill 2 blocks before our home. I was tired and found it even more difficult than usual keeping up with him.
He seemed preoccupied but tried to talk to me anyway. He asked me about my lesson, ‘Did you learn any new steps today?’
I answered, “Oh, it was great; I finally learned to do a back bend and get up in the right way. Then we were able to do flips forward and back. Maybe you will see me do them in a recital.”
‘Good girl, I am glad you take dancing because you are good at it.’ We walked on and he mentioned that he might have to go back to the store later. A customer said he wanted new shoes and could only come in the evening.
I was upset and said, ‘But, Daddy, you ought to stay home and rest. Why do you work such long hours? We want you home more.’
He told me, ‘Honey, it takes so much money to raise a family and take care of you properly … clothes, shelter, lessons, recreation, food and education. I want all of my children to go to college. So I go to the store early and get home late and I expect to do it as long as I am able. I feel my children are my life along with your mother.’
‘You think you have to live up to your slogan, ‘Mike Krueger, The Sleepless Shoeman.’ ‘ Dad laughed and he told me that he was being written up in a shoe magazine just because of his slogan. I held his hand, gave it a squeeze and we walked home.” ((Shirley Morse, “Krueger-Engel-Morse Family History” (South Bend, Indiana, 1989, p. 12-13; privately held by Jennifer Alford, ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE, Utica, Ohio, 1 February 2014). Received on August 2008 from Jana Morse. Original copy was scanned to pdf.))
It was the Depression and times were difficult to say the least. Even so what came next for the family was unanticipated and quite tragic. Shortly after Halloween in 1934, Myer came to the decision that the only way to ensure the future of his family was for him to end his life and the family benefit from the insurance. My grandma mentioned in her biography that her father had suffered from depression, but it is unknown if that was why he ultimately chose suicide. Regardless, at the age of 16 my grandma lost her father in a tragedy that affected her life. She wrote,
“One of the clerks had come early to help Dad, found him in the back room, and called an ambulance. We were just shattered. Fern and Mom drove to the hospital and told me to go to school. I didn’t want to go, but they said they would call me if I was needed. Brother was -at school in Ann Arbor. After school I ran to the hospital but he could hardly speak, but I think he said, ‘I did it for you all–the insurance.’ He died two days later.
Education and opportunity went together in his mind. Little did he know that we would have exchanged any amount of money or education for his being with us. Perhaps we did not convey our feelings to him well enough.” ((Shirley Morse, “Krueger-Engel-Morse Family History” (South Bend, Indiana, 1989, p. 12-13; privately held by Jennifer Alford, ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE, Utica, Ohio, 1 February 2014). Received on August 2008 from Jana Morse. Original copy was scanned to pdf.))
And so ends the story of my great grandfather, Myer Krueger. He died 2 November 1934 in Michigan City, Indiana. I wish his story would have been a happier one, but the memories of my grandma make it clear that he was a wonderful part of her life and someone special.
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