BRENHAM - A trailblazer in Brenham business has passed away.
Ed Kruse died early Wednesday in College Station after a lengthy illness. He was 87.
Beginning in 1951, Kruse served at the helm of Brenham's Blue Bell Creameries and helped oversee its expansion to a national brand.
In a written statement, Blue Bell representatives told News 3, "His contributions to our company, the Brenham community and so many will never be forgotten. While we mourn the loss of a great man, we also celebrate his remarkable life. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend. He will be greatly missed by many."
Ed F. Kruse was born March 15, 1928, in Brenham, Texas. He began his career at Blue Bell Creameries in 1941 at the age of 13, working for his father, E.F. Kruse. Ed and his brother, Howard, made and wrapped ice cream sandwiches by hand.
Mr. Kruse attended Brenham High School, was co-captain of the football and basketball teams and was senior class president in 1945.
Mr. Kruse left Brenham to complete his education at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. While at the university, he was a distinguished military student in the Corps of Cadets and lettered on the varsity swim team in 1948-49. He graduated in 1949 with a B.S. degree in dairy manufacturing.
Mr. Kruse came back to Blue Bell full-time in 1951. At that time, he supervised the growing creamery's deliveries, made sales calls and set up in-store displays. Late that year, Ed was made manager of Blue Bell Creameries following the passing of his father, E.F. Kruse.
In 1968, he was named Chairman, President and General Manager, and in 1986, Chief Executive Officer. In 1993, Kruse moved into a part-time role with the company. He served as Chairman of the Board until 2014. During his years at the helm of Blue Bell, Ed saw the company grow from selling ice cream exclusively to Brenham and surrounding communities to a distribution area that included seventeen states.
Ed Kruse is survived by his wife, Evelyn, a son and daughter and numerous grandchildren.
Mr. Kruse has served on the Texas Lutheran College Board of Regents and has served as chairman of the Lutheran Foundation of the Southwest. He received a Honorary Doctorate from Texas Lutheran College in 2001. He is a past president of the Brenham Industrial Foundation, Brenham Rotary Club, Dairy Products Institute of Texas, Dixie Dairy Products Association, and St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Brenham. He is past Chairman of the Board of MBank in Brenham and the International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers.
In 1987 he was named Washington County Man of the Year, inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 1993, and in 1995 was named Lutheran of the Year by the Lutheran Social Services of the South; and was inducted into the Dairy Products Institute Hall of Fame. In 1998, he received the Soaring Eagle Award from the International Ice Cream Association for service above and beyond the call of duty.
Mr. Kruse received the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award, as well as the Association of Former Students Distinguished Alumnus Award. In addition, he received the Ruby McSwain Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association.
The Kruses have long been philanthropists in the Brazos Valley.
Kruse has actively supported Texas A&M University over the years through the establishment of Corps of Cadets scholarships, gifts to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, an endowed Chair at the Bush School and regular support for the 12th Man Association. Most recently, he made a significant donation to the renovation of Olsen Field. In 2011, Mr. Kruse was the first recipient recognized for lifetime achievement award from the Texas A&M Letterman’s Association. He was also named as Person of the Year by the Blinn College Ex-Students Association.
In December of 2013, Ed and his wife Evelyn Kruse signed over 100 acres of land just east of Home Depot in Brenham for a new city park.
They also made numerous contributions to the athletic department at Brenham High School, including the funds for the Kruse Athletic Field House on the High School campus.
The Kruse family also made a significant gift to the Blinn Foundation for the design and construction of the Kruse Center, a new recreation, activity and athletic center to be constructed on Blinn College's Brenham campus.
Blinn College district president and CEO Dr. Mary Hensley said, "The Blinn College community is deeply saddened by the passing of Ed Kruse and would like to extend its heartfelt condolences to the Kruse family. Mr. Kruse leaves behind a legacy not only as a successful businessman, but as a philanthropist, community leader and strong supporter of higher education who has made an impact on the lives of countless Blinn College students through his leadership and generosity."
A memorial service for Mr. Kruse will be held at Brenham High School, Saturday at 2 p.m.