Wilbur Charles Kraft, 97

Published 8:42 am Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wilbur Charles Kraft, 97

Wilbur Charles Kraft, 97, passed away on Thursday, May 2, 2019, in the Sanford Bemidji Hospital following a surgical procedure.

He was born on Nov. 30, 1921, at home in Dexter, Minnesota, to William Jacob and Ethel Wighann Kraft. Wilbur was raised and educated in Dexter, Minnesota. As a young man, he farmed with his parents, using teams of Percheron and Belgium draft horses and working with two, three, and five horse hitches.

Wilbur was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. His basic training was done at Fort Barkley, Texas, after which he was transferred to Camp Roberts, California, where he worked with a hospital surgery unit. In July 1943, he boarded a British hospital ship with the 77th Station Hospital and sailed to Norwich, England, avoiding many enemy ships during the crossing. Following the Battle of the Bulge, Wilbur was transferred to the 845th Truck Master Company. His duties included transporting ammunition, gasoline and supplies. Much of this was done at night during blackout conditions. At times, his duties included transporting wounded and deceased soldiers. Wilbur was honorably discharged from the Army on Nov. 10, 1945. He made many lasting friendships with men from different parts of the U.S. during his time in the Army, remaining in contact and occasionally visiting them long after their service had ended.

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Upon returning to civilian life, Wilbur worked briefly for Hormel Foods in Austin, Minnesota, and for a streetcar company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1947, he began working for Wilson and Company in Albert Lea, Minnesota, retiring in 1979. On Dec. 14, 1946, he married Janet Miller. Together they had two daughters before divorcing in 1958. On Aug. 28,1964, he married Leona Quint. They were married until her passing in 1990. Wilbur and Leona enjoyed traveling in their motor home, visiting friends and family, enjoying bluegrass and ethnic festivals and steam engine tractor shows. Winters were spent in Harlingen, Texas, from 1980 until 2003.

At the age of 86, Wilbur made the decision to move to Bemidji, Minnesota, to be close to his daughter, Connie, her children, and their growing families. In Bemidji, Wilbur quickly made many friends. He had many regular card games and loved to visit with anyone who crossed his path. His incredible memory and easy manner made for an engaging conversation. Wilbur was also an avid reader and keen investor with an intellect that belied his basic education.

Wilbur is survived by daughters, Bonnie (Jerry) Bolinger and Connie (Larry) Jacobson; sister, Carol Hamilton; sister-in-law, Verna Kraft; stepchildren, Bette (Murray) MacRichie and David (Marilyn) Quint; grandchildren, Roxy (John) Medd, Brenda Hatlei and Erika (John) Ahlbrecht; and five great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Ethel Kraft; wife, Leona Kraft; brothers, Lawrence Kraft and Leslie Kraft; sisters, Wilma Johnson, Florence Plath and Elinor Hertle; and grandson, Karl Jacobson.

A celebration of life coffee will be held for Bemidji friends at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, 2019, at Birch Haven Assisted Living Apartments. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 11, 2019, at Clasen-Jordan Mortuary with the Rev. Liz Erickson officiating. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service on Saturday at the funeral home. Interment will be in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin with military rites conducted by Olaf B. Damm VFW Post 1216 and Austin American Legion Post 91.