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1927 Keith 2020

Keith Lee Kraft

May 7, 1927 — November 6, 2020

KEITH LEE KRAFT

May 7, 1927 – November 6, 2020

 

            Keith Lee Kraft, age 93, a long time Park Rapids, MN resident, peacefully passed into eternal life on November 6, 2020 at Heritage Care Center in Park Rapids. For decades, until 1989, he was the presiding Judge in Hubbard, Cass, and Itasca Counties. But his family will remember him best for his good nature, sense of humor, twinkly blue eyes, infectious laugh, and his love of eating fresh walleye.

            Keith was born on May 7, 1927 in Hampton, Iowa, to Raymond and Florence (Knox) Kraft.  His family farmed near Dows, Iowa, where Keith attended country school.  As a child, Keith moved to Adel, IA, State Center, IA, then Ankeny, IA. There, Keith attended school and established himself as a standout football player for Ankeny High School.  While still in the ninth grade, Keith started as a linebacker on the Varsity football team and started every game thereafter until his graduation four years later. 

            In 1945, Keith graduated from Ankeny High School, after having already signed, at age 16, a letter of commitment to enter the Marine Corps. On the day following his graduation ceremony, he boarded a train headed for the Paris Island Marine Base in South Carolina, where he completed his basic training.  Following that, he was selected to go to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago to play football for the Navy, because of his football and mathematics skills.  Later, he was offered a place at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, as well as a position with the Chicago Bears Organization, both of which he declined.

            After receiving his honorable discharge from the Marines, Keith attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and received his BA degree in 1950.  He gained employment working for the State of Iowa investigating welfare fraud.  He also joined the Iowa National Guard and earned the immediate rank of Sargent. His unit was activated by the Governor of Iowa to provide security at a packing plant in Waterloo where the employees were out on strike, and one of the striking employees had stolen a rifle from the National Guard. Because of his size and his excellent ability to communicate and relate well to people from many backgrounds, Keith was dispatched by his commanding officer to retrieve the stolen firearm.  Without question or argument, Keith immediately went out by himself into the strikers, not knowing what kind of violence might confront him. He returned a short time later with the rifle in hand. 

            In 1949, Keith was married to Mary Ann.  Their marriage was blessed with four daughters: Dianne, Liah, Katherine and Terra.  Throughout his life, he enjoyed house building, boat building, sailing, skiing, deer hunting, golfing, camping, and traveling with his family. Keith was also a member of St. Peter The Apostle Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, and Star of The North Marine Corps League.  In 1981, Mary Ann passed away from cancer.

            In 1951, Keith and his family moved to Park Rapids, MN, where he taught business and social studies at Park Rapids High School until March 1, 1955, when he was selected by then-Governor Orville Freeman to serve as Hubbard County Judge.  Keith learned that he had been selected as the new Probate Judge by reading it in the newspaper.  At that time, he became the youngest sitting Judge serving in the United States.  His career, first as a County Judge and then as a District Judge, spanned over 34 years. He was the last “lay” judge to come off the bench in the state of Minnesota. His reputation for extraordinary fairness, clear communication, and the ability to educate about the legal process led to his position of explaining the application of laws to new members of the Minnesota Legislature in St. Paul.

            During his years as a judge, he also served in the Minnesota National Guard, retiring as a Major, after 36 total years in the military. During those years, he was chosen for special military training and service at Ft. Lee, Virginia and at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

            In 1985, Keith was united in marriage to Margaret Ann Skoe on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  After retiring from the bench, Keith enjoyed winters in Florida for twenty years with Margaret.

            He will be lovingly remembered by his wife, Margaret, of Park Rapids; his four daughters: Dianne (Robert) Barry of Ft. Myers, FL, Liah (Jon David Alexander) Kraft-Kristaine of Eatonton, GA, Katherine Kraft of Ft. Worth, TX, and Terra Kraft Waters of St. Cloud, MN; five step-children:  Kathy (Jim) Tande and Sue (Dave) Harsha all of Park Rapids, Nancy (Kurt Heinritz) Skoe of Pottstown, PA, Doug (Teresa) Skoe of Montrose, CO, and Steve (Anne) Skoe of Sartell, MN; twenty grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren; as well as other relatives and many friends. He is also survived by his second wife, Lorelei Mickelson.

            Keith was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Ann, his parents, one brother, Kenneth, and one sister, Karyl Linda. A memorial service for him will be held in late summer, 2021, in Park Rapids, Minnesota.

     

 

      To leave online condolences or to view the video tribute please visit www.jonespearson.com

     

 

      To leave online condolences or to view the video tribute please visit www.jonespearson.com

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Keith Lee Kraft, please visit our flower store.

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