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“He thought very highly of Stevens and wanted to see other young people get the chance in life that he got.”
Though they were related only by marriage, the De Gironimo siblings – Enrico (Rick), Frank, Jean and Joseph – had a close relationship with their uncle, Harold Kruger ’52, who passed away in September 2016 at age 94. Rick visited Stevens shortly after to discuss his uncle’s fondness for Stevens – and to deliver a seven-figure estate check for scholarships.
Harold, or Harry, as the family knew him, was born in Jersey City to a Polish family previously named Abramowitz. He enlisted in the Army during World War II, serving as a private until one fortuitous day when he was especially hungry.
“He walked by the officer’s mess and saw what they were eating and said, ‘that’s for me’,” Rick said. Harold applied for and was accepted to officer’s candidate school, later becoming a lieutenant and B17 pilot who rotated around the country in a homeland defense squadron.
After the war, Harold, like many returning soldiers, wanted to go to college. However, he found few options until Stevens accepted him, on conditions. “No one gave him a chance,” Rick said. “They all said he was too old – imagine now, saying 26 was too old for college. They told him he could take remedial classes to prove he belonged, and that’s what he did.”
Harold did belong at Stevens, even becoming the secretary for Alpha Sigma Phi. After graduating, he worked for several years in Hoboken at Keuffel & Esser, which produced the classic slide rules once so ubiquitous at Stevens and other engineering centers, but Harold really made his career working as a mechanical engineer for the United States Army at its Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County, New Jersey. He specialized in designing small weapons, including a series of 2.75 millimeter rockets used on attack helicopters. He also wrote a patent for a hand grenade pin.
Harold married Anna, who was the sister of Rick’s mother. Though they didn’t have their own children, they bonded with their nieces and nephews. “Harry and Anna were a team,” Rick said. “They lived way under their means, but they still enjoyed living and could afford to do whatever they wanted. And they were very generous with us.”
They eventually retired to Boynton Beach, Florida, where they enjoyed golf into their later years. Harold stayed sharp, finishing the Palm Beach Post crossword every day. “He was incredibly meticulous,” Rick said. “He had a very strong memory. If he asked me to get something from the garage, he could tell me exactly in what drawer and what I’d have to move to find it.”
Anna passed away of pancreatic cancer earlier in 2016, and Harold followed soon after. He had recently had a tube inserted to drain fluid from around his heart. “That was hard on him,” Rick said. “He called me later and said, ‘Rick, I made a mistake.’ Eventually the hospice told me he didn’t have long. I couldn’t get a flight until the next day, but I made it. I was with him when he died. He waited for me.”
Upon Harold’s death, Rick and Jean became executors of his trust and will, which included a large bequest for the university to use for scholarships. “Harry loved Stevens,” Rick said. “He went to many reunions and kept in touch with his classmates for decades. He thought very highly of Stevens and wanted to see other young people get the chance in life that he got. My family and I just want to make sure his wishes are fulfilled.”