PULASKI — This town and this county lost two of its stalwart pillars this month. Charles and Barbara Krupke, 82 and 83, married 63 years, passed away April 6, 14 hours apart in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse of respiratory complications.
By all accounts, they had a fine life, raised a good and well-respected family, were successful in a number of businesses, made a real difference in the community, and built a beautiful home on the Salmon River.
Charles and Barbara had three sons, one of whom, Bruce, the eldest of the three, predeceased them by only three weeks. Another, Dan, is supervisor of the town of Richland. He spoke about his parents in a recent interview.
“He was born in Connecticut,” Dan said of his father. But he didn’t live there long. Charles’ parents “migrated from New York City to Altmar. My grandmother was a French-Canadian, and my grandfather was from Germany. He came over to Ellis Island, and they met up in New York and got married. They lived there, I think, for the first four or five years of my Dad’s life, and then it was time to get out of New York, and so, my grandfather drove until he found a spot, with no real plan or direction, and they found a house in Altmar. So, they bought the house. They put in a little soda fountain-gas station.”
Like father, it seems, like son, for many years later, Charles bought his own soda fountain.
“Krupke’s Ice Cream,” Dan said. “It was right in the center of the village of Pulaski, where the Hometown Diner is now, Artie’s Diner. My Dad had that there for a number of years. As kids growing up, my brother and I, we worked that business with my father and helped behind the soda fountain. He had five pool tables in the back, full-size billiards. So, he had billiard tables and the fountain and a couple booths. It was a luncheon place. We used to make the ice cream floats using soda water and syrup and mixing it all together, the hard ice cream milkshakes, not soft serve like there is today. He had 16 flavors he advertised of hard ice cream. So, sort of a leader. He was open year-round, because it was, as it still is today, people go there and get their coffee and their breakfast or lunch. It‘s sort of a centerpoint of the community. So, if you talk to anybody around my age or older, they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember Krupke’s Ice Cream,’ and they’ll tell you stories about it.”
Dan’s mother was from Adams. Charles lived in Altmar. They met on a blind date. They married in 1957. Charles was 19. Barbara was 21. By 1963, they owned the ice cream parlor, and their life was in Pulaski. Barbara was “definitely involved” in running the family business, according to Dan, but also worked “for the telephone company. She was a telephone operator at one time, right here in the village of Pulaski.”
In 1973, Charles, known as Chuck, and Barbara, known as Jane, bought the 12-unit Redwood Motel. Dan grew up there. “We’d work as a family unit in the motel in the early years,” he said. “We actually lived there. I think I was 12 or 13 when we moved there.” Charles built on to the motel every two or three years. By the time he sold it in 2006, those 12 units had become 52.
“My father ran a bunch of storage units there in the village of Pulaski,” Dan said, “and he had like an office and there’s a retail shop out front. I’d get up most mornings, if I was going into work, I’d stop over before I’d go into work, we’d chit-chat. It might be five minutes, it might be 15 minutes, but we’d always just touch base, see what’s going on and talk about business. He loved talking about business. He thrived on it. I mean, that was his life.”
Thirty years ago, Dan and his father opened the Ponderosa restaurant in Pulaski. Fifteen years later, Dan bought his father’s share out.
“My father, you know, that generation of people, work was very, very important to him,” Dan said. “And business was very important to him. And to be able to succeed in life. My father came from pretty much nothing. I think he had maybe one or two semesters of college in Oswego. He made himself what he is today. I can tell you for a fact, nothing was given to him. He earned every dime that he got and worked very hard for it and managed his finances and took the risks that he needed to take to be successful. People today, they’re not so willing to take that risk, but timing is certainly very important to your business and your career, and he was very successful from where he started.”
But business wasn’t all Chuck knew or loved.
“He flew a plane,” Dan said. “Fifty years he’s had a pilot license. He went and got his private pilot’s license. He’s been flying for 50 years. He’s owned three planes at different times. We currently have one plane. It’s a Cessna 172 that he keeps up at the Richland airport. That was the last plane he owned and flew. I think he flew last summer. He didn’t fly outside of the area very much. He flew just locally, maybe to Watertown or Oswego, just to keep his skills up. That was one of his hobbies.
“And he played the trumpet. He was an excellent trumpet player. He played by ear mostly. If you whistled a tune, he could play it back to you. He was that good. He played with a number of people in the community. On a weekend, or a Saturday night, he’d go and they’d play some place. Corner‘s Restaurant was one of them. He’s played at a number of different places throughout his life. The last six to eight years, it’s been difficult for him to play the way that he used to, but he’d still pick it up and try to play.”
And he loved the home he and Barbara built.
“It’s a beautiful setting on the river,” Dan said. “They’ve got a nice stretch of river to look out at. It’s just very beautiful, very scenic. After running the business and the motel for so many years, they sold out, and 20 years ago, they built their own house to get away from the business and not have to live there and run it day to day, so, something they were very proud of being able to build and to buy such a nice piece of property, it’s just amazing to build it up and have a beautiful home there.”
And Barbara? “She loved having family gatherings, absolutely,” Dan said. “She enjoyed that a lot. Christmas time of the year was probably one that she looked most forward to, where all of her grandchildren and children would all be there and we’d celebrate. She’d make up her spaghetti sauce, and the last few years everybody’d bring a dish and we’d all get together. Every year, we’d get a family picture taken.”
Dan’s brother, Bruce, passed away March 15. “Things spiraled very quickly,” Dan said. “He passed away on the 15th and then, my parents two weeks later.
“Within three weeks, three people. All three family members. You know, in our immediate family, we’ve never had that kind of a hardship, or any hardship, I should say, of that kind of a loss. And my father was saying not too long ago, he says, ‘You know, we‘ve been very fortunate as a family, and blessed as a family to have the health and such that we’ve had.’
“With my brother passing, I think it just put a lot of stress and worries on my parents. It just caught them off guard with things.
“My father passed away at two o’clock in the morning. My mom passed away at four o’clock in the afternoon, so 14 hours apart. It was pretty tough.”
The funeral will be small. “Only seven people are going to go,” Dan said. “That’s the way things are today. It was their wishes to have a Catholic service, and we’re going to abide by that.
“We’ve received very, very many cards, and people have reached out to us. We’ve been very blessed to have the number of people that reached out and gave us their support and their prayers over the last few weeks.”
Thinking perhaps about his own future without him, Dan reflected on his father.
“His will be a tough legacy to fill, if I ever do. I don’t think I could do that. He loved this community, and he loved giving back to his community.”
It often seems those who leave a great legacy are remembered best by those who will leave one too. Douglas Barclay is certainly one of those men.
“Chuck and his wife were remarkable people,” said the former state senator and U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. “They really did so much for Pulaski and Oswego County. They had a really good feeling for what should be done. I was involved with them in several areas. One is that we needed more leadership in the area, and Chuck came up with the idea of putting together a group to build housing, high-income housing, in order to bring people in, like lawyers, doctors, and so forth, that would buy a house and then participate in the community. We built maybe eight or nine houses, and it was successful.
“But he also had a much broader viewpoint. He did a great job with the Seaway Trail, and he understood tourism. And, of course, he had been in that business for years. He had that ice cream store in Pulaski, which he started out, and it worked extraordinarily well. And then he moved on to get into other operations, motels and so forth. He was a leader. He was very influential in the Pulaski Medical Center, NOCHSI, which went back maybe 40 years. He got that founded, and it gave medical support to all of the eastern part of Oswego County and in the north. He was a guy that really participated. He put his money where his mouth was. He did the right things, and we’ve lost a real leader here, which we’re all concerned about.
“His wife was spectacular. She helped him all the way along, and he built a really nice operation for himself and his family, and his family is extraordinary. They’re into everything. Dan Krupke is the supervisor for the town of Richland, and the family stretches out all over. So, it’s what you would want to have a leader do, and he did it. He was involved in everything, but he was the sort of guy that stood back and had somebody else run for office.”
“There couldn’t be a nicer family than Chuck’s,” said Barclay, “and I’ve been here all my life, all 87 years. This is what makes a community like Pulaski, the town of Richland, and Oswego County go. He had some strong ideas, and not everybody always agreed with him, but the end product was a good product.
“His daughter-in-law, Patti, worked for me for a number of years, and she was extraordinary. So, we’ve had a close relationship all along. It was my pleasure and honor to work with him through the years. He was a remarkable guy. I don’t know he’s ever given up, I think he was 82, he still had an airplane. I’ve flown with him, and he was great.
“He did a little bit of everything. He had racehorses. He ran them at Saratoga, which is a great experience. He was a guy for all seasons, as was his wife. They always had a Christmas party which I enjoyed going to. You know, he was a musician also. Into the party, maybe an hour or two later, he’d get on and start playing. He was excellent.
“They had a delightful home on the river, and he thought a lot of the river. And of course, what we’re all trying to do is make this the Lake Placid and Saratoga of the west. Saratoga has the horse racing, and Lake Placid has the winter sports, but we’ve got the river. It’s one of the great rivers in the United States. And Chuck was pushing it, as is his son, Dan.”
And how did Chuck do with his racehorses? Barclay laughed quite heartily at the question. “He got rid of them,” he said and laughed again.
An old friend giving an old friend one more laugh. A rather beautiful legacy in itself.