He was not always understood


To the editor,

I am writing this letter as a final “letter to the editor” upon the sudden passing of my father, Melvin E. Kruse Sr., to express my gratitude to you for your kindness to our father over the passing years.

My father wrote many letters to the editor over the years (mostly about his family), and several years ago I found a letter from you to my father. I tucked it away and did not think about it until Dad was recently passed. As I read the letter again, I realized that you had captured the essence of the man who was not always well understood.

This poem, read at his funeral, was written to convey the spirit of my father and to express how proud we are of him:

Melvin was a blessed man, with no riches in his life. His wealth was reflected, in his children and his wife.

He loved his country music, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, and Charley Pride, and he didn’t hesitate, to get others to listen at his side.

He never met a stranger, and he certainly wasn’t shy. He enjoyed talking to others, about years and times gone by.

He liked shooting the breeze, and telling a story or three or two. He couldn’t wait to say, “Hey, have I got a joke for you.”

He was proud of his children, and he didn’t care who knew. The Olympics were even mentioned, but we all knew that wasn’t true.

His feelings were justified. His children won many an award. Those plaques still hang on the walls, like a giant bulletin board.

Now he is sitting on the banks of Jordan, with our loved ones who have gone before. He is talking and smiling and laughing, where tears and crying are no more.

Sincerely,

Marla (Kruse) Smith

Auburn Hills, Michigan

Editor’s note — Following is the original column written by Jeff Gilliland that appeared in The Times-Gazette on Aug. 8, 2014:

When I arrived at work one day recently there was a letter laying on my desk. Seeing that it was from Melvin K. Kruse Sr., I assumed the letter was about something his kids or grandkids had accomplished, because I’ve received several such letters from Mel over the years. But that wasn’t the case this time. This letter was directed to my wife, Elaine, and I.

It had nice things to say about us both (she’s the deserving one) and after reading all seven pages I paused and thought, you know what, I believe Mel just adjusted my perception on a couple things. For those of you who don’t know Mel, he is a longtime Hillsboro resident who, with his late wife Carolyn, raised a family of eight good children. I don’t think Mel would mind me telling you that he’s never been a rich man, but with hard work and lots of love, he found a way to provide what his family needed.

I’m not sure when I first met Mel, but I know we started developing a relationship many years ago when I started as a sports writer at this newspaper. I believe all Mel’s kids played one sport or another, so over the next few years we saw a lot of each other.

From the first time I ran into him at a sporting event it was obvious that Mel’s love for his family, and his desire to see his kids succeed, ran very deep. Being a sports writer, you run into lots of parents who are passionate about their kids. But you don’t run into many who are as passionate and as proud as Mel.

In fact, Mel is so passionate, and loves to talk about them so much, that sometimes I haven’t always took as much time as I should to listen. In fact, if I’m completely honest, I kind of avoided Mel a time or two when I was in a hurry.

Then this letter came, talking about hugs and his love of his family, and it gave me a bit of a new perspective.

I’ve never been much of hugger. It just makes me feel uncomfortable, unless the person I’m hugging is my wife, mother or grandmother. I’m not sure why that is. I suppose it’s because I wasn’t brought up that way. Most men in my family just didn’t hug. Still don’t. I even feel awkward hugging my own sons. A high-five, a pat on the back, a little bump of the shoulders, that’s all fine and dandy — we can do that. But full embraces are rare.

My wife is the complete opposite. She hugs everybody. If we go to Walmart, you can usually expect her to pass out a minimum of 10 hugs, which are more often than not followed by long conversations. And places like the Highland County Fair, well, I’m not sure I can explain. Because if you’re with Elaine, and she starts running into people she knows (and she knows lots of people) you may not travel more than a few feet in an hour. It’s like a huge family reunion and she’s related to everyone in the county.

I don’t get it, but that’s just the way she is.

Mel likes hugs, too, as I learned in his letter.

“Elaine, I want you to know that God spoke to you and you responded to his voice by giving me that hug in Walmart the other day,” Mel wrote. “It was very brief, but what a blessing. …Carolyn has been with her savior for six years now, but every so often I’ll have someone come up and give me a hug and tell me what an awesome person she was.”

Mel’s letter included a poem about hugs, a touching poem one of his daughters wrote upon her mother’s death in February of 2008, and another tender poem one of his daughters wrote to Mel about love. It also contained a letter Mel wrote about his late wife not long after she passed, and that’s when I learned of another side of Mel I never really knew.

In essence, the letter says that nearly 40 years ago, 14 years after Mel and Carolyn were married, Carolyn fell deathly sick. She had been told on Thanksgiving Day that she had cervical cancer and that she wouldn’t live to see Christmas. It talks about how thankful he is for the many people who helped him and his kids at that time, then how one day Carolyn made a miraculous recovery and was sent home to be with her family for Christmas. She lived another 31-plus years.

Mel wrote a letter to the editor not long after Carolyn died, mostly to thank all those who had helped him, but also, I think, to let everyone know how thankful he was for those extra 31 years with his wife.

Mel closed that letter to the editor with this: “Carolyn met her Lord and Savior Feb. 28, 2008. She is not in pain. She is not confused (she had Alzheimer’s disease) and she is walking through heaven’s flower gardens and whenever I see a daffodil, I know that is Carolyn is sending me all her love.”

That all might sound corny to some of you. But what I learned from Mel’s letter is that hugs mean a lot to some people, so maybe people like me shouldn’t feel so awkward giving them. And as much as Mel loves his children and grandchildren, he loved his wife even more.

Sometimes, no matter how good a judge of character you might think you are, it takes a while to figure a person out. I always knew Mel Kruse Sr. loved his family and was a good man. Sometimes I thought he couldn’t see past the accomplishments of his children. Now I know better.

So, Mel, I just might have to give you a hug the next time I see you. Just don’t expect it to become a regular habit.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at jgilliland@timesgazette.com or 937-402-2522.