LaVern Junior ("Sonny") Krause, 90, of Sheboygan, passed away on Wednesday, November 25. Sonny had been hospitalized after suffering serious injuries from a fall a couple of weeks earlier. Sadly, because of COVID safety restrictions, his wife of over 65 years, had been unable to be with him.
Sonny married Jeannette Louis (Jenna) Senkbeil on May 7, 1955 in Holy Name Catholic Church. Over the years, Sonny's love and appreciation for Jenna grew deeper. Sonny celebrated two milestones this year-celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary and his 90th birthday.
In addition to his wife, Sonny is survived by his daughters, Diane Mary Krause-Stetson (son-in-law, James Lee Stetson) and Sarah Ann Endres (son-in-law, Donald Herbert Endres); two granddaughters, Madelaine Jeanette Joy Majors (grandson-in-law, Devonte' Majors) and Eleanore Louise Diane Endres; and, step granddaughter, Shannon Marie Endres. Sonny was predeceased by his parents, Ferdindand F. (Fred) and Mary J. (Braeger) Krause; son, Peter LaVern; and parents-in-law, Clarence E. and Ursula J. (Pilon) Senkbeil.
Sonny was born in Sheboygan on September 2, 1930, in Sheboygan, WI. Sonny attended grade school at Trinity Lutheran School. He attended Sheboygan Central High School, where he played both basketball and football. Sonny was selected for the Fox River Valley All-Conference teams for both sports. He graduated from high school in 1949. Fifty years later, he was inducted to Sheboygan South High School's Wall of Fame. Sonny remained in contact with high school friends and looked forward to reunion planning committee meetings.
Sonny earned a full football scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, but after one semester, he and one of his childhood friends enlisted in the Navy. He completed basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Academy in Illinois and was stationed for a time at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina and at Camp Pendleton in California. Sonny wrote to President Eisenhower requesting that he be sent to the front lines, and the federal government obliged. He was assigned to combat duty in Korea as a navy corpsman attached to the Marine Corps as part of Able Company, 1st Marines, 1st Battalion. Sonny served in the Navy from January 16, 1951 through December 1, 1954, when he received an Honorable Discharge. As with so many of his generation, he rarely talked about the war. It was only later that he started to recount some of his experiences. One of the most harrowing battles, which was reported in the Sheboygan Press at the time, is now documented in the Korean War Project.
Last year, Sonny participated in the Stars and Stripes Honor Flights program, arranged for him by his daughter, Sarah, who accompanied him. A group of veterans traveled to Washington, D.C. and spent the day visiting the memorials and experiencing a day of honor and thanks. Sonny, who had resisted air travel for years, relished this experience. This year, his name was added to the Sheboygan County Veterans Memorial, as a birthday gift from his daughters.
Sonny worked briefly at the Kohler Company upon his return from Korea, prior to joining the Sheboygan Police Department on April 23, 1955. He had a long career on "the Force", retiring as a Lieutenant on January 8, 1988. He began as the cop on the beat and believed in the importance of community policing before it had a name. He served as a detective in the Criminal Division for seven years, before returning to the Uniformed Division. He said that one of the most fulfilling roles was a shift commander and mentor to the younger officers. He was well-liked and highly respected. When on the department's Pistol Team, he was both a competitive and accomplished marksman and a firearms instructor. He expressed his artistic abilities by carving his own pistol grips of exotic woods. In 1963, he graduated from the Keeler Polygraph Institute becoming the City's first operator of "the lie detector". When Herbert Hoover campaigned in Sheboygan during the 1968 presidential election, Sonny was one of the officers who assisted the Federal secret service agents. In 1971, he attended the 88th session of the FBI National Academy. One of the highlights of the graduation ceremony was when he, Jenna, and his daughters met then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at the reception.
When the uniform came off, Sonny transformed back to being an athlete. He played racket ball and tennis competitively at the YMCA and in City leagues. He also liked to ride his 10-speed around the City. When his knees no longer held up to competitive sports, he took up fishing. After his knee replacements, he started to play golf which he played well into his 80s. While he enjoyed the game, he cherished his friendships with the golf group. Several guys had been childhood friends who became reacquainted after having raised families and most being retired. The golf group transitioned to a circle of friend and spouses who continued to get together socially. Several of those friends have already been great comfort to Jenna.
Sonny carried himself with warmth and a gentleness that belied his imposing figure. He also had a sense of humor. His daughters often had to reassure their suitors that dad was a nice guy and really not so scary. He started to go bald by the time he was 30 years old and shaved it ever since. He was compared to Yul Brenner, Mr. Clean, and Kojak, the cop on the TV show. Little kids who took tours of the Police Department often sent a bag of lollipops with their thank you notes. Sonny was friendly and outgoing. He loved getting to know the neighborhood kids and watching them grow up. Several neighborhood kids remain in contact with Sonny and Jenna, even taking the time to stop in when returning to Sheboygan for a visit. In the early years, Sonny was the guy in the neighborhood who always had just the right tools to borrow when tackling a project and who ran his snowblower up and down the block to clear the snow for others. Later, he became the sage, the storyteller, and the honorary grandpa. One of the neighbors dubbed Sonny as "the Mayor of N. 7th Street". Sonny was blessed with several wonderful neighbors who now keep a loving and watchful eye on Jenna.
Sonny was addicted to Facebook, spending countless hours connecting with family and friends, and loved perusing their photos. He followed politics intently on television and on the internet. He loved inspirational memes and was a fan of cute animal videos. He had a soft spot in his heart for animals and had loved his cats and dogs over the years. He often said, "If there is a heaven, I know that God will let us be with our pets again". Sonny was a deeply religious and spiritual man. His Bible was never more than a couple of feet away and the prayer book he had in Korea is well-worn from his daily worship and contemplation.
Sonny was the best daddy a girl could ever have. Sonny loved his daughters, Diane and Sarah, and would look forward to their almost daily phone calls or FaceTime. He used to be the all-knowing Mr. Fix-it, but he learned to swallow his pride and often called Diane for technical help with his iPad or iPhone. Many of those calls eased into deep conversation, both current events and reminiscenses of Sonny's childhood. He never stopped sharing his concerns or offering fatherly advice. He regarded his daughters' husbands, Jim and Don, as sons. He absolutely treasured his granddaughters, Madelaine and Eleanore. Sonny was so happy and thankful to have been able to participate in Madelaine's wedding to Devonte' Majors this past August. He was looking forward to Eleanore's college graduation from college next year.
Sonny had gone through several medical challenges these past few years that had kept him mostly homebound. One of the blessings was the relationship he developed with Alan Mitchell, his nephew-in-law. Alan visited several times a week. While Sonny was grateful for all help with strenuous or heavy household and yard tasks, he cherished the time spent discussing sports, politics and, mostly, Alan's children and grandchildren.
The family would like to thank Theresa, Pam, Vicki and all of the medical professionals in Dr. Michael Johnson's office, as well as the caregivers at Sunny Ridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. He really enjoyed getting to know the folks who cared for him over the years, and he cared right back.
A private graveside burial service, with high military honors, will be held at Calvary Cemetery on Wednesday, December 2. The family is planning to hold a memorial service this Summer, after is it safe to host a larger gathering of Sonny's extended family and many friends.
Contributions in Sonny's memory can be made to Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, Inc. (starsandstripeshonorflight.org) or to any charity of choice.
The family appreciates Fawn Schaefer at the Ballhorn Funeral Chapels for her compassionate assistance with the arrangements.