Walter George Kruse was born on Jan. 1, 1945, in Teulon, Man., to George and Helen (nee Dyck) Kruse. At home in Inwood they spoke German—until he started school in 1950, running at recess from the post-war playground bullies who did not appreciate his German ancestry. His mother’s Russian Mennonite faith did not encourage him to fight back.
In 1956 the family moved to Brandon to operate a restaurant for the Canadian Pacific Railway, and in 1960 was transferred to Moose Jaw, Sask. Walter and his younger brother Alfred rode the trains selling drinks and sandwiches. That fall he returned to Brandon for high school. Alfred urged him to attend a Crusade where he heard the good news about Jesus Christ and believed it.
In 1964 Walter dropped out of his mechanics course for several months of solo bicycle backpack travels across Europe, visiting his father’s family. The next year he attended Steinbach Bible Institute to make up for his high school deficiencies, and met EMCers for the first time.
In the fall of 1966 he was in Teachers College in Brandon when he met nursing student Anne Martens at a birthday party. He was baptized by the Kola EMC and they were married on Aug. 12, 1967. Children born to this union were David, Krista , Erika, Rolf, and Paul.
While working and being a husband and father, he continued to study at Brandon University, graduating in 1978. He did not use his education to belittle those who had less, but to enlarge their view of the world. He taught school in The Pas, Churchill, Kola, Virden, and Paraguay (Tres Palmas/Lucero, and Loma Plata) where he made friends and many memories for his students.
Walter also worked with his hands, helping his in-laws in agriculture and logging, and doing his own carpentry career. He built a house and cabins, signs, boxes, boomerangs, and toys. In mid-life he worked with a stone mason, and was in his 60s when he did “penance” for all the trees he had cut down as a young lumberjack: he joined a tree planting crew.
His hands were also artistic, writing letters in flowing script, communicating in sign-language, and playing musical instruments. He sang tunefully, learned Low German as an adult, and was known as a storyteller. Some of his stories were published in the waning months of his life.
Walter was a member of the EMC in Kola, but was also part of evangelical fellowships in Ridgewood, Virden, and Rosenort. Baptized as an infant in the United Church, raised Lutheran, awakened in the Alliance, discipled in the Salvation Army, “re”-baptized in the Evangelical Mennonite, embraced by the Baptists, and appreciative of the Anglicans, he was at once an orthodox churchman and a childlike realist, seeing the good and the beautiful in people.
Alongside a commitment to Anabaptist theology, he respected the military heritage of his ancestors. Though he read widely, he was simple in his theology: “I wanted to be honest with God; the Gospel just makes sense.” He was an encouragement to the faith of those with little left of their own.
In his last years Walter insisted he was neither suffering nor battling. Rather, after a long conversation with cancer, on May 6, 2017, the conversation was over. Jesus will have the last word.
– His Family