Betty Jean Klug Krueger (Mrs. Paul Joseph Melee) passed away peacefully in her sleep at about 6:30 P.M. on June 4, 2020. (DOB March 31, 1923) A big thanks to Parkhaven Assisted Living and Compassus Hospice for giving Betty exceptional care and a beautiful transition to heaven.
Betty! Only the truly remarkable bear this name. An original swing kid, she and her younger sister, Lorraine, (the two middle girls of the “Dorothy, Betty, Lorraine, Phyllis” call of Ma, Marie) used to ride the street car to the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, the same place Betty Hutton and her younger sister used to dance. The Hutton girls and Krueger girls attended the same high school in Motor City, and all of them were gorgeous enough to be painted on the sides of B29 bombers (a distinction only the Hutton Betty achieved, yet to my Betty’s credit, a Hollywood career pales in comparison to getting the handsome Naval Aviator in real life!). Michigan summers were hot, and Marie’s girls dreamed of meeting men in uniform who weren't "4F” (a term no-longer acceptable to say). Swing music and big dreams got them all through dark times. Three of the four Krueger girls did meet and marry US service men returned from WWII or Korean Conflict. The 1940s were the days when teens tried to look older and gain good workplace skills so that they could get jobs and help their families continue to recover from the Great Depression and survive wartime rationing. The Krueger girls used to wear roller skates to put away hand-washed dishes in their Ma’s basement where they raised Airedale Terriers (like Asta from “The Thin Man,” as the Myrna Loy fans of this readership will recall) to make ends meet in the 1930s. Ma was a factory line worker (yes, a Rosie the Riveter type) at Ford Motor in the 1940s and was kept on after WWII to retire as a line manager in the 1970s. The daughter of a working mother, Betty was among the pioneering “greatest generation” of women who experienced the post-war Civil Rights and Women’s’ movements first-hand. My Betty, mom, met her service man, Paul, in 1950s San Francisco, near the intersection of California Street and Divisadero. Their first date? O Club at Alameda Naval Air Station, to a big band swing dance, ‘natch! The only sister to "get away", Betty Jean worked as an Executive Secretary at two legendary SF law firms in the 1950s with partner names on the doors that have cache to this day: Sutro, Bancroft, McAllister, O'Brien, Marshall, Kaapke . . . anyone with a thirst for knowledge will understand how those advocates made historic changes to business and industry (and sometimes all the way to the legendary 9th Circuit) in the rebuilding of USA after WWII and the Korean Conflict. Did a secretary make history? Well, at least she typed up the content of it for the file. Betty's favorite job in San Francisco was her first, as a "girl in the stenography pool" at the Palace Hotel on Market Street, where she got her start “running up and down the back stairs to the rooms of famous people like Josephine Baker and Nelson Eddy to write their dictated letters for them and take them to the P.O.” Another favorite job was typing for a young journalist named Herb Caen, who later became a famous columnist for the S.F. Chron. Betty loved journalism and the law, theatre, singing, and . . . sewing. She could make anything after looking at it once and drawing it on a piece of newspaper.
Betty settled on marrying Paul, the Navy fly boy, after deciding that the Hungarian Freedom Fighter, one of the dashing, famous and revolutionary 56ers, was too mercurial. In 1961, Betty and Paul moved to Auburn, California and started two small family businesses (law and property management) which they ran in the Placer and Sacramento County areas for about 60 years. Advocates for the common people, open minded and flexible about folks from all walks of life, whip smart, down-to-earth, and tireless, these two still found time to serve as Girl Scout and 4H Leaders, provide countless hours of pro-bono work, and have a sense of humor with political incorrectness (yet great respect for everyone) that would make a sailor blush. These two were together for 48 years (46 married, and both after failed first marriages). However, when my dad passed in 2007, Betty said, “Oh, I’ve lost my dancing partner!” Well, my dear, who is dancing now? “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places.” You go, Betty Jean, with a twinkle in your eye, your love of Edgar Guest’s poetry from the The Detroit Free Press, and your love of Baseball (Tigers! Giants!), and your ability to research any detail and type 120 wpm accurately with no errors and your eyes shut! Your ability to listen, never bear a grudge, drive a candy-apple red 1965 Ford Mustang like a pedal-to-the-metal racecar, and words of wisdom - “never judge anyone in their best or worst moment, least of all a child” - are your epitaph. Only the tragic Tubbs Fire of October 2017 wrested you out of your comfort zone of Sonoma County and made you a Montanan, but now this obit has made you a much-deserved Legend of the Wild West. The last song you sang to me was Marty Robbins’ “Red River Valley”, so I guess this Gallatin Valley made a lasting impression on you. Thank you, Mom, for bringing me into this world when you were 42, so I could be the “young daughter of an old ma,” hahaha. They just don’t make people like you anymore! I love you forever, and the story of your life continues to inspire us all.
In memoriam, Betty’s family requests that you hold nurses and certified nursing assistants close to your heart. If you desire to send flowers, please contact Budget Bouquet in Bozeman.
Visitation will be held from 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. on Sunday, June 7 at Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com [dokkennelson.com]