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Anatomy of an ‘Our Heroes’ story

By Staff | Nov 8, 2015

While we think about the “Our Heroes” magazine a little bit all the time, we start getting serious about it in September each year.

And, Oct.1 is my self-imposed date to get a couple of potential names of veterans and start doing some research.

Richard Henry Krumm’s name had actually been on my list of possibilities for some years. But all I really knew about him was that he was killed in Vietnam.

While researching through some books of old newspaper clippings of Faribault County servicemen and women, which are kept at the Etta C. Ross Museum, I came across a story of his death. It was pretty short, but I decided then and there it was time to write about this particular local vet, killed 50 years ago in a war I knew all too well.

My first stop was with local historian A.B. Russ. He actually knew Richard Krumm and had been on the Blue Earth wrestling team with him. That got me some yearbooks and Richard’s class pictures. A.B. also had some information about Richard Krumm that had been read at a Memorial Day program a few years ago.

I called Rob Norman at the high school and he suggested I call former principal Jack Eustice. I did. Jack was a wealth of information about Richard as a wrestler and the Richard Krumm wrestling award. Later Jack stopped at the Register office with a Blue Earth wrestling history book from 1973.

He also gave me the names of three of Richard Krumm’s best friends in school. One was Don Armon and I interviewed him. After 50 years, it was still very emotional for Don to talk about his best friend Rich.

I now had some good information, and lots of pages of notes, but not enough to do a full story.

Then I remembered the short story from the 1967 Blue Earth paper mentioned Richard’s parents and two sisters. One sister was a Mrs. David Williams of Rochester.

There are still three David Williams listed as living in Rochester today, so I started to call all three. My second call hit pay dirt. While shocked to hear from me, Barbara Williams was happy to talk about her brother. She also had me talk to her sister, Mary Alice, who had been closer to Richard in age.

Mary gave me a lot of background on Richard, their parents and themselves.

She also gave me the name of David and Barbara’s son, Peter Richard Williams, named after his uncle.

Peter, it turns out, is a history teacher living in Norway and teaching at an international school there. And he has done a ton of research on his uncle Rich.

Peter called me one morning (late afternoon for him) and we talked for quite some time, both about his uncle and about Peter himself and why he is teaching in Norway. But that is a whole other story.

He also gave me a tip that was the mother lode, the gold ring, the jackpot.

The name and contact information of a soldier who was there in Vietnam with Richard the day he was killed.

And Edwin Henderson’s eyewitness account of that day made it all real for me, and I hope, for you, the reader.

Now, armed with a multitude of pages of notes, it was time to write the story. All of these interviews had taken place over a span of a few weeks, and were usually done after I finished work on the current week’s edition of the Register, and the story itself was written over a few days.

As I looked through the notes and wrote the story, one thing became abundantly clear to me.

Everyone I had talked to had the same two things to say. They were extremely happy I was doing a story about Richard Krumm, and they all said he was a great guy and a true hero.

I agree. I think he had a lot of character, and I think he was a character.

As a kid he liked to have a little fun. His sister, Mary, remembers that when he was a young boy he had a pet raccoon named Sputnik which he brought into the house and turned loose on his older sisters just to torment them. And you just have to look at that one wrestling team picture to know that Richard had just kicked or poked the teammate in front of him, just before the picture was being taken, and they are both grinning at each other.

And Don Armon will also tell you that Richard was a great friend, who liked to fun around, but also who would do anything for you. The very best friend you could have.

He had such strong moral character and sense of responsibility, as well. While some young men were trying to avoid going to Vietnam, Richard Krumm volunteered to join the military and go there. And while his family and friends urged him to join the less dangerous Navy, he wanted to be a Marine and go where he was needed the most and could serve his country the best way he could.

He paid the ultimate sacrifice for his decision and he died as a true hero.

I tend to get a little more involved in some stories more so than others.

This was one of them.

It really hit me hard when I stopped in at David and Barbara Williams’ home in Rochester the morning after the BEA State Football game. They were FaceTiming with son Peter in Norway and we had a wonderful visit.

I also picked up the photo of Richard in his uniform that is in the magazine. It has hung in Peter’s bedroom for the last 40 years.

I would have liked to have known Richard Krumm. I think I would have liked hima lot.