Community mourns passing of two Georgetown volunteers

Helen Kruger, who passed away Thursday morning, is being remembered for her unending volunteer service to church, community and family. (Submitted photo)

GEORGETOWN — For Helen Jean Kruger, life was all about family, church and service to community.

Ms. Kruger, an honored volunteer in Georgetown and the state of Delaware’s 2014 Mother of the Year, passed away Thursday, Jan. 3 after a battle with cancer. She was 75.

“Where do you start with Helen?” said State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn of Georgetown. “She has done so much, from the Little League, her church, her kids, the chamber of commerce. There wasn’t much that happened in Georgetown that positively impacted the community that Helen was not a part of. She absolutely had a service heart. She cared deeply about her community. She cared deeply about the children in the community. It is going to be a huge hole that is going to have to be filled.”

“Helen was a person you would want to model your kids after,” said Georgetown Mayor Bill West. “She was a person that was very caring, a person that was willing to jump in and help anybody in any way with any project.”

The passing of Ms. Kruger followed the Dec. 31 passing of another iconic figure in Georgetown: Bill Bryan, 86, a longtime member of the Georgetown Fire Company and volunteer with the Georgetown Little League.

A Korean War veteran, Mr. Bryan was a 61-year member and past president of the Georgetown Fire Company. As a 52-year Georgetown Little League volunteer he took great pride in keeping the fields in perfect condition.

“Dependable, he was always at the ballpark,” Georgetown Little League President Dennis Swain said of Mr. Bryan. “He was there every day from 9 o’clock, 9:30 until 4 o’clock doing his thing. He cared for the community. He was at the ballpark 50 some years as a volunteer. That says a lot right there. When you went by the ballpark, you’d always see his truck out there. He was always out there working.”

Bill Bryan, who passed away Dec. 31, served more than six decades with the Georgetown Fire Company and as a volunteer with the Georgetown Little League for more than 50 years.

“He was 61 years with fire company, and 50-plus years of volunteering for the Little League,” said Mayor West. “He is the one that took care of all of the fields out there. He was out there every day.”

“This has been a historic week, with two icons of Georgetown passing,” said Jim Bowden, president of the Georgetown Historical Society. “That is pretty tough.”

“We have lost two great ones,” added Mr. West.

“They both devoted their lives to the public, to the community,” said State Rep. Ruth Briggs King. “They led good lives. They are surely going to be missed. They were very family oriented. They instilled that in their kids. It is that legacy they leave, not just from what they did, but how they instilled that in their family, too.”

Ms. Kruger and Mr. Bryan were both recognized by the town of Georgetown as Volunteer of the Year recipients.

Both were honored by the Georgetown Little League for their support through field dedications.

“They both have fields named after them,” said Mr. Swain.

The girls Major League field was named after Helen Kruger in 2016.

The Georgetown Little League dedicated the boys Major League field to Bill Bryan in 2008.

Bill Bryan: ‘He has done everything’

In 2006, Mr. Bryan was selected as the International Little League Volunteer of the Year in a ceremony held at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. There, he was honored by throwing out the first pitch and receiving an award from Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser.

“That is a big deal,” said Mr. Swain.

Mr. Bryan began working on the Little League fields in 1967, and he started constructing new fields at the present location in 1970. He served as league president and vice president and was on the board of directors for over 30 years.

Mr. Bryan is known for organizing the popular chicken barbecue for over 45 years.

Georgetown Fire Company president Michael Briggs spoke of Mr. Bryan’s commitment to the fire service and the Little League.

“He has done everything. He was huge in the community,” said Mr. Briggs. “Just like with the Little League, he dedicated 50-some years at the Little League. About a week before he passed away, he was up there working at the Little League park. We would go up there and help him on busy days or if it was hot, we’d stop by and help get the fields ready for the kids.”

Mr. Bryan for many years pitched in with specialty duty at the Georgetown Fire Company’s historic Oyster Eat. “He always made the popcorn for us. I’ve been in for 20-some years and he has always done the popcorn,” Mr. Briggs said.

Helen Kruger: ‘An amazing woman’

A lifelong Georgetown resident, Ms. Kruger for decades was active in the Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Georgetown-Millsboro Rotary, Georgetown Little League and then the Little League World Series when it came to Roxana, Georgetown Non Profit Alliance along with voluntary ties to other civic and community groups.

“She was an amazing woman. Her heart spoke for her,” said Linda Price. “Honestly, she was an incredible lady. I worked with her for years on the chamber and in Rotary. I don’t think she knew the word, ‘No.’ She epitomized was Rotary was all about, which was service.”

“The matriarch of Georgetown, I call her,” said Rosalie Walls, president of the Delaware Mother of the Year organization and the 2012 Mother of the Year. “Helen was a dear friend and one of my Mothers of the Year.”

Ms. Kruger was a life member of the Georgetown Historical Society. Her community passions included American Cancer Society, Sussex Community Housing Services, American Heart Association, Sussex Central Boosters and Pop Warner Football.

Church was among her greatest passions. She was proud as a peacock of her perfect attendance record at Wesley United Methodist Church for more than six decades and was a Sunday School teacher for more than 50 years.

In addition, when health allowed, she worked part-time as a receptionist at Delaware Technical Community College.

In a 2016 interview, Ms. Kruger said her greatest achievements were “helping others. And church, I feel Sunday is not Sunday if I don’t go.”

For many years, Ms. Kruger spearheaded the Georgetown Phone Book fundraiser that supported both the Georgetown Little League and the Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.

“She is one that did the phone book for us. That takes lot of time to get ads together,” said Mayor West. “And it was a great success.”

Mr. Bowden recalls Ms. Kruger’s knack for enlisting volunteers.

“What do you say to Helen Jean when she calls you and asks you to do something?” said Mr. Bowden. “That was her big thing. She had built up such a networking of caring and giving that she helped so many people. When she called, you were in. You were there to help her.”

“No matter what she did, nobody knew how to say ‘no’ to Helen, because they trusted her, they loved her,” said Ms. Price. “So, when it was raising money for the phone book that benefited the Little League and the chamber, Helen worked tirelessly at doing that. When Rotary was doing Flags for Heroes, Helen again worked tirelessly at getting the word out and getting the people involved. She just had this heart that you couldn’t say ‘no’ to. She had such a dedication to everything that she believed in, and her family. That is why she was Delaware Mother of the Year. Her family was everything to her. There is nobody that can come close to Helen.”

“The biggest thing with Helen was she did a lot of things for a lot of people and a lot of organizations that a lot of people didn’t know about,” said Martin Donovan, her younger brother. “She was never the type to stand up and say, ‘Look at me. Look what I did for you.’ You didn’t see her doing it, so you didn’t know it. Example last year with the World Series. I needed more ads for the program book and she stepped up and filled it in. Healthwise she wasn’t the best, but she did it all by telephone. If there was a job that needed to be done … she did it.”

Georgetown Little League cast its nomination for Ms. Kruger for Delaware Mother of the Year, labeling her the “backbone” of the Little League for three decades and a role model for her three children and to the children of Georgetown.

Ms. Kruger three times was honored as the Georgetown Little League’s Volunteer of the Year. She was recognized for helping to raise money for the league, so every kid had a chance to play even though their parents couldn’t afford it.

“Helen, you are truly going to be missed,” said Penuel Barrett, Georgetown Little League past president.

Failing health did not entirely stop Ms. Kruger.

“The times when she wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t get out, she always had her phone, and would not hesitate to make phone calls and do whatever she could to help out whatever organization needed help,” said Sen. Pettyjohn. “In her life she made a huge impact in the community — a huge impact.”

“There is just nobody like Helen Kruger. From a heart standpoint, from a dedication standpoint, from a service standpoint there is nobody like her. We stopped doing the Georgetown Phone book because Helen couldn’t do it,” said Ms. Price. “The beauty of Helen is that it isn’t just ‘her.’ She wasn’t looking for accolades, a pat on back. She did what she believed in, whether it was from her church, whether it was from Rotary, or the chamber, or the Little League or the women’s softball league. It was all stuff that she had in her heart. I think that is what made her so endearing to everybody. It’s a huge loss for our community.”

“Last thing I remember about Helen Jean is her daughter called me and said, ‘Billy, mom wants to see the Return Day Parade, but she can’t be around a lot of people. What can you do for us?’” said Mayor West. “I had them park their car at the old Fisher’s building on West Market Street. She was able to sit there in the car with family and view the Return Day Parade. She just smiled and waved at me when we went by on the float. To me that was what Helen Jean was all about. She loved to be involved and she loved to see Georgetown shine.”

Services

Funeral services for Mr. Bryan will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4 at the Calvary Baptist Church, 22860 Dupont Boulevard, Georgetown, with time of visitation for family and friends after 11 a.m. Burial will immediately follow in Union Cemetery.

Arrangements for Ms. Kruger were not yet finalized as of press time.

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