Walter F. Krueger, who ran a greenhouse business with wholesale customers far beyond the family’s acres of glass in Lake Township, died Thursday in his Perrysburg home. He was 98.
His death was unexpected, his son, Walter, Jr., said. Mr. Krueger was mowing his half-acre yard the week before, but he later fell at home and failed rapidly within days.
Mr. Krueger owned and ran Lakewood Greenhouse on Lemoyne Road from the 1950s, taking over from his father, William Krueger, until about 1990. He took time off when his wife, June, was ill.
“He came back and worked every day for another 20 years, free,” said his son, who now is Lakewood Greenhouse president. A grandson, Michael Krueger, represents a fourth generation in the business.
“It gets into your blood — growing things, having that relationship with following crops, and the satisfaction of watching a seed grow and develop and turn into a flower,” his son said. “We bring a lot of joy into people’s lives. It’s a risky business, but if you stay on top it it, it’s rewarding.”
The greenhouse for years sold and delivered wholesale cut flowers to retail florists, in towns small and large, within a 150-mile radius. Mr. Krueger was a former president of the Allied Florists Association of Toledo. For the group’s display at the 1966 Toledo Flower and Home Show, Mr. Krueger received a national award.
Mr. Krueger adapted to market forces as customers found less expensive cut flowers from, at first, Denver and then Colombia. He discerned that potted blooming plants weighed too much to import cheaply. Those plants became Lakewood’s focus. The Andersons’ former general stores sold Lakewood’s plants, and area florists and Kroger stores still do. Most recently Lakewood opened its own retail outlet.
“He was a keen observer of small things, whether it was the quality of how a plant looked, or the operation of the business,” said his daughter Laurie.
The business started in the 1890s by the Krueger brothers in East Toledo. The business became landlocked by a burgeoning population, and in 1905 brothers Otto and William moved east to rural Lake Township and started a five-acre cut rose range.
“In those days cut roses brought in the most revenue,” Walter, Jr., said.
He was born Dec. 9, 1919, to Helmine and William Krueger, and by age 12 was learning how to turn the beds, tear out the cut flowers, steam and sterilize the soil — “all the things he taught me to do,” his son said.
He was a graduate of Lake High School and then studied business at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. Afterward, he went to Ohio State University, from which in 1942 he received a degree in floriculture.
Lakewood Greenhouse in time also grew carnations, snapdragons, peonies, standard chrysanthemums, and football mums.
“He liked to grow quality flowers,” his daughter said. “And he told me specifically, quality flowers and customer satisfaction were very important to him.”
He and his wife, the former H. June Davis, married in January, 1944. She died Feb. 12, 1994.
Surviving are his daughters Carol Sherman and Laurie Childress; son, Walter F. Krueger, Jr.; nine grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
Private services will be held later at Historic Woodlawn Cemetery. Arrangements are by Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, Perrysburg.
The family suggests tributes to Historic Woodlawn Cemetery.
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