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Loved ones grieve after local builder's death

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Don Kruger, 67, 39 Sunview Dr., died Saturday, August 15, after a brief stay at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Visitation will be held 4-8 p.m. Thursday at Bakken-Young Funeral and Cremation Services, 805 E. Division St. A memorial service takes place 11 a.m. Friday at the First Covenant Church,1374 N. Main St.

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Interment at Greenwood Cemetery follows the Friday service.

Kruger's family asks that if desired, gifts in memoriam be given to the First Covenant Church Building Fund.

A resident of River Falls since 1963, Kruger began a long career in home building at age 18. He worked for Herb Cudd alongside local friends Lawrence "Junior" Johnson, Johnny Cudd and Eugene Larson.

Kruger's son Brad said after a short period working in the Twin Cities, the four pals became partners and formed River Falls-based Quality Built Homes.

"To have four people work together all that time says a lot," said friend and partner Larson. "We worked together and played together."

He said Quality isn't a development company, it just builds good, custom homes.

He said though Cudd eventually branched off into business with his sons, the partners worked together around River Falls for many years. Larson remembers helping finish the bowling alley -- building walls and hanging cabinets over the bar.

The businessmen easily shared the checkbook and whatever duties needed doing.

"We kind of each had our own part of company to take care of," Larson said.

He said lately the company has been building fewer custom homes but helping with more additions and remodeling work. He said though he and "Junior" are both 70 and trying to slow down a bit, the business continues.

Brad said his father had experienced a number of health challenges over the years. He had a heart attack and bypass surgery in the early 1980s. Years later doctors found a benign tumor on the lining of Kruger's brain and removed it surgically.

Kruger hadn't worked since undergoing knee surgery in February this year.

Brad said, "That might have set something off, because he went downhill afterward."

Doctors are performing an autopsy to more precisely determine Kruger's cause of death but initially called it cardiac arrest. Brad, a physician's assistant, said if not for it being his father, the science of the case would be fascinating.

Examinations showed brain damage consistent with Kruger's brain not having oxygen for 15-20 minutes, but he was only without it for a few minutes. Brad said they even tested his dad for mad cow disease.

After Kruger's Feb. knee surgery but prior to his death, loved ones noticed small, subtle changes in him that only someone close might see. Brad said some of them are thinking Kruger may have had some brain damage already.

Through the years he'd been to many, many doctors, but most didn't think he had a serious illness. Kruger began to feel badly Aug. 11 and went to Mayo, then experienced cardiac arrest on Wednesday.

"There was something in the brain that caused organ failure," he said. "We won't know until after the autopsy."

Brad and Gary, Kruger's brother, agree that he was a quiet man who did a lot of work behind the scenes, like as a member of the First Covenant Church Building Committee. He used his carpentry skills to help repair and maintain the church.

He and wife Donna had been married 46 years and have two children and three grandchildren. Kruger's family said his greatest, recent joy was spending time with the grandkids.

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