Library plans to honor him with history room
By Dave Fidlin
From his early days as a local athlete to his staunch advocacy of the library system, Fred Kraege’s imprint has been left throughout Whitewater.
Kraege, known more recently as an authoritative expert on Whitewater’s history, died last week. He was 85.
Although he retired from the General Motors Plant in Janesville in 1982 after 30 years of service, Kraege never fully retired – not in the traditional sense, at least.
In recent years, he worked with staff at the Irvin L. Young Memorial Library as planning for a history and genealogy room got underway.
“It’s been his dream,” Library Director Stacy Lunsford said. “He loved this library. He often referred to it as one of the sacred spaces in Whitewater. He had great reverence and spent a good amount of time researching here.”
Kraege’s dream, sadly, did not come to fruition before his passing. But Lunsford said plans for the history and genealogy room are moving forward. Conceptual documents have been developed and are being reviewed by the Library Board.
Lunsford said the addition to the library will be a fitting homage to Kraege. She has in her possession 120 notebooks filled with Whitewater-centric information Kraege compiled over the years. Those notebooks will be made available for viewing at the library.
“He loved history. He loved Whitewater,” Lunsford said. “He was very passionate about what he did.”
Ellen Penwell, president of the Whitewater Historical Society, agreed Kraege was passionate about his research work.
“(He) contributed enormously to our community’s understanding of its shared past,” Penwell wrote in an email. “He compiled countless volumes on local history subjects, scanning the Whitewater Register for related articles that brought together content that will be appreciated by researchers today and in years to come.”
Thanks to Kraege’s research, Penwell said the historical society will be able to share hard-to-find information for generations to come.
“(The historical society) benefited greatly from Fred’s dogged pursuit of obscure facts that help everyone get history right,” Penwell said.
Kraege’s love of Whitewater history is perhaps best displayed in the 2006 book he penned, “Images of Whitewater.”
Kraege wrote the book as a concerted revitalization effort was taking place downtown. It also was released as a 100-year recognition of Whitewater’s first historical book, “Early Annals of Whitewater.”
Kraege spent most of his life in and near Whitewater. At age 4, he and his family moved to Lima Center. He graduated from what was then known as Whitewater City High School in 1945.
Throughout his teens and 20s, Kraege was an avid baseball player. On his 16th birthday, in 1943, he played his first game for the Whitewater City team. He also played for Milton and Plainfield before ending his baseball career in Whitewater in 1953.
Kraege served in the military for nearly a year-and-a-half. In 1946, his unit was sent to Europe, but Kraege returned and was discharged after five months due to illness.
He continued a lifelong support of the military, serving as a longtime member of the American Legion Post in Whitewater, a charter member of the Clarence Chesney Chapter Post No. 22 of the Disabled American Veterans in Whitewater and as a lifetime member of the Blackhawk Chapter of the DAV in Fort Atkinson.
Kraege is survived by his wife of 58 years, Joan, sister-in-law Vivian Henderson and cousins and friends.