‘Decisive leader’ mourned

Jack Kruger, search and rescue co-ordinator for the RCMP G Division in the NWT has been running the winter preparedness course in Hay River for 15 years.  Photo by Sarah Ladik NNSL

Jack Kruger, search and rescue co-ordinator for the RCMP G Division in the NWT has been running the winter preparedness course in Hay River for 15 years.
Photo by Sarah Ladik

Former RCMP officer, blue-beret, and father Jack Kruger died suddenly and unexpectedly Thursday June 19 at a hospital in Edmonton at the age of 68.

Retired Staff Sergeant Raymond John (Jack) Kruger was most recently the search and rescue co-ordinator and training officer for the RCMP’s G Division in the Northwest Territories, but before that had a storied career as a police officer across Canada and the North spanning decades. Wherever his work took him – from the Hay River detachment to the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary – he was known as a strong leader.

Born in Ottawa Jan. 16, 1946, Kruger was raised in Eganville, Ont. – the only child of Gladys Iona McDonald and Raymond Joseph Kruger. After graduation in 1964, he joined the Canadian Forces’ 2nd Battalion Black Watch but left to join the RCMP after two years. He served in British Columbia and Ontario before transferring to the Northwest Territories’ G Division in 1982. In 1992 he served on the UN Mission in former Yugoslavia and returned to G Division in 1993.

“At work, he was such a competent and decisive leader,” his wife Marny Twigge, told The Hub last week. “He did not suffer fools lightly and if you did something wrong, you would hear about it.”

While Kruger applied the same staunch code of ethics at home, Twigge said there were times when he made exceptions.

“Some things baffled me,” she said. “Sometimes when it came to decisions about where to go on vacation or which vehicle to buy, he could be a little wishy-washy – which was so weird because at work it was the complete opposite.”

Twigge joked that when the conversation turned to who wore the pants in their relationship, she would reply that really there was only one pair of pants and she and Kruger shared them, each with one leg in, albeit sometimes grudgingly.

“The one thing, and this was at work and at home, was that he detested being lied to,” she said, noting that the kids could get away with a lot, but lying was never a safe bet in their household.

“It didn’t matter if you had screwed up, as long as you owned up to it, he would deal with it, or maybe tell you that he had made the same mistake once and laugh it off, but he would not be lied to.”

First meeting
Twigge first met Kruger in Rankin Inlet, where he was working as a cop and she at the local bank. Although she had been to the community before on short transfers, this was the first time she was there for an extended period of time and had brought along some comforts from home. The bank manager had asked Kruger to help Twigge with her boxes, leading to perhaps their first less-than-auspicious meeting.

“He was an ass,” said Twigge.

“He was grumpy and clearly didn’t want to be doing it, and all I could think was ‘well thank you to you too, then.'”

Many years of marriage and four kids later, Twigge said Kruger’s defence was that he had had a lot on his mind that day and little time to be chauffeuring bank-workers around.

“I like to think I’ve softened some of the edges,” she said.

Kruger’s Northern career began in 1982 and included postings in Rankin Inlet, Hay River, Yellowknife, and Iqaluit before returning to Hay River. Despite retiring officially from the RCMP in 2003, he returned to work the next day as a civilian member, maintaining an office at the Coast Guard base in Old Town, from which he co-ordinated search and rescue operations and training opportunities for police and military outfits from across North America.

“In creating his own job, it was a lot of work, but he managed to make it work,” said Twigge.

“He was passionate about what he did and he loved Hay River.”

Search and rescue
Kruger, by force of will if nothing else, combined local and territorial RCMP resources and efforts with Coast Guard and federal departments and the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary to the betterment of all.

“During Jack’s 24 years, he has grown the CCGA Arctic District from two units which were Yellowknife and Hay River to 11 units serving the North which now include Inuvik, Fort Chipewyan, Fort McMurray, Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet, Pangnirtung, Kugluktuk, Tuktoyaktuk and Aklavik,” said Ross Potter, Deputy District Director of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Arctic Region and Kruger’s close friend.

Since 2003, Kruger co-ordinated more than 700 search and rescue operations within the NWT, including marine, inland waterways, and ground search and rescue situations and has successfully achieved above-average standards with respect to vessel operations.

“He was an awesome man and no matter what I say, it would not even start to show just how awesome a friend or co-worker he was,” said Potter.

“They don’t build them like that anymore.”

Kruger was also a mentor and tacit leader for many who passed through the Hay River detachment, even after he was no longer technically in charge of it.
“No amount of words can accurately sum up what Jack Kruger meant to the RCMP, not only in Hay River, but all across G Division and surrounding divisions, said Cpl. Greg Morrow, acting detachment commander.

“Jack was a wonderful man who had a wealth of experience and knowledge and wasn’t afraid to pass that onto many generations of Northern Mounties.

“Jack served in many capacities during his 48 years of service to the RCMP and has shaped the RCMP in the North. His leadership, mentorship and most important, his friendship, has ensured that his legacy will live on long after his passing.”

Next steps
Twigge said she doubted whether one single person could ever fill Kruger’s shoes professionally, but very much hoped that the work he did to meld different levels of government and emergency response measures locally would not be lost.

“If nothing else, if people could take a second thought when heading out,” she said.

“Tell someone where you’re going, don’t drink and drive any kind vehicle – they don’t mix. He loved his work, and he would always go out and help people, no matter how dumb they were to get stuck out there, but there are so many dangerous situations that can be prevented with a bit of forethought.”

Predeceased by his parents, Kruger has left Twigge to mourn his passing, daughters Jacky, Natacha, Paige and Meg; sons Reiss and Chad; sons-in-law Brent Babiuk and Kris Rewega; grandson Cash and granddaughters Daphnee, Avianna and Nola.

-Sarah Ladik