January 21, 2022

Bond between a family and a Catholic school has grown every year for seven decades

Every year for 70 years, at least one descendant of Ambrose and Mary Rose Kruer has attended Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville. Here, five of their great-grandchildren pose for a photo with one of their children, Norman Kruer. Sophomore Nina Kruer, left, and senior Peyton Kruer are in the front row. Senior Eli Krussow, left, senior Grant Williams and sophomore Luke Kruer are in the back row. (Submitted photo)

Every year for 70 years, at least one descendant of Ambrose and Mary Rose Kruer has attended Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville. Here, five of their great-grandchildren pose for a photo with one of their children, Norman Kruer. Sophomore Nina Kruer, left, and senior Peyton Kruer are in the front row. Senior Eli Krussow, left, senior Grant Williams and sophomore Luke Kruer are in the back row. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

As they worked together on their farm in southern Indiana, Ambrose and Mary Rose Kruer knew the power and wonder of seeds—how something so small could grow into something so sustaining and life-giving.

As the parents of 11 children, Ambrose and Mary Rose also believed there were certain seeds that needed to be planted in their offspring’s lives—the strength of family, the foundation of the Catholic faith and the opportunity of a Catholic education.

So when the oldest of their children, Evelyn, was ready to go to high school in 1951, Ambrose and Mary Rose considered it a gift from God when Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville opened that same year, giving Catholic youths in the southern part of the archdiocese a place to continue their Catholic education.

What Ambrose and Mary Rose never imagined is how that shared beginning for a family and a school would grow into something wondrous.

Consider this reality: Ever since Evelyn attended Providence in the fall of 1951, at least one descendant of Ambrose and Mary Rose has been a student at the school in each of its 70 years of existence.

A family and a school bound tightly together for seven decades.

Creating a legacy

“My parents had 11 children who all attended Providence,” says Norman Kruer, the sixth of the 11 children and a 1963 graduate of the school. “They also had 34 grandchildren who all attended Providence. There have been 19 great-grandchildren who have gone or are now going to Providence through the 2023-24 school year.”

Norman isn’t done: “Two additional great-grandchildren will be starting at Providence for the 2022-23 school year, which currently will continue the legacy through the 2025-26 school year. Then, of course, there are great-great-grandchildren on the way.”

The start of that legacy came with a challenge. To get to Providence from the family’s farm in the community of Starlight, Evelyn had to take two school buses. Then she entered a cab, which was paid for by one of the pastors in the area, to complete the journey to school.

That’s how much it meant to their parents to have their children get a Catholic education.

“They were strong believers in the Catholic faith and the education that went with it,” Norman says. “They felt giving us a Catholic education was an obligation. They wanted us to stay in that culture. They believed in Catholic schools, and they passed that onto us, and we passed it on to our children. That’s how the legacy was built.”

Norman’s part in that legacy is an interesting story in itself.

An e-mail address says it all

A self-described “studious” student during his four years at Providence, Norman wasn’t involved in any sports or activities at the school because as soon as his classes ended, he had to return home to help with the chores on the farm.

Still, he considers those four years as the greatest influence of his life because of the faith-filled education he received, including a career-shaping class in bookkeeping.

“That got me interested in accounting, and that led me to go to college at Bellarmine, a Catholic college, where I majored in accounting,” says Norman, who retired in 2018 as the chief financial officer of a construction company.

Providence also had an impact on his life romantically, as he married Kathy Howell, a 1965 graduate of the school that has the nickname “Pioneers.” In fact, Providence is so much at the heart of their relationship that their e-mail address begins, “pioneer6365.”

And when their only child, Brad, was born, it was already determined where he would go to high school.

“If you talked to all my brothers and sisters, there wasn’t any doubt where our kids would go to high school,” Norman says. “Kathy and I look at high school as an investment for the future. We always thought Providence was a good investment because of the teaching, the culture and the faith.”

Brad, a 1993 graduate, and his wife Kim had the same belief in Providence for their three sons. Landon graduated in 2021 and now is at the U.S. Naval Academy. Luke is a sophomore at Providence. And Lincoln will be a freshman there in the fall.

The connection between the Kruer family and Providence also led to a memorable celebration last spring. Landon and Luke played together on the school’s baseball team that won the Class 2A state championship of the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

“Oh, my God, it was awesome,” Norman says. “It was fun not only for watching our grandsons play but the whole team. The coaches put together a great team that all got along.”

‘It felt like home’

There are five descendants of Ambrose and Mary Rose who are currently students at the school: Luke and fellow sophomore Nina Kruer, plus three seniors, Peyton Kruer, Eli Krussow and Grant Williams.

“Providence means a lot to me,” Luke says. “Ever since I shadowed here when I was in the eighth grade, it felt like home. Actually, being here at school now is even better. I’m appreciative of all that it offers—great athletics, great academics, great faith.”

Similar to Luke, Peyton embraces the family’s 70-year connection to Providence. Her grandfather, Merle Kruer, is a 1959 grad and her father, Merle John, Jr., is a 1990 grad. And her sister Madison is a 2019 graduate.

“It honestly feels like an honor being part of a family that’s so passionate about this school,” Peyton says. “I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity as well. I really like the environment here. Everyone is nice, there’s a positive energy, and everyone is close to one another. It makes a difference.”

She especially focuses on the difference that Providence has made in her faith life, with weekly Masses and opportunities for eucharistic adoration.

“It brings me closer to God,” she says. “It also brings me closer to my classmates.”

Norman Kruer knows that such praise from their great-grandchildren would touch the hearts of Ambrose and Mary Rose.

That feeling flows through him as he considers the legacy of his parents, a legacy that includes other branches of the family tree besides the Kruers—families named Book, Costelle, Holden, Kraft, Krussow, Lilly, McPhillips, Nett, Schellenberger and Williams.

“I think my parents would be surprised that it has continued,” Norman says. “It was never on their mind that they were starting a legacy. Still, they’d be proud and appreciative of everything that’s been done. And they’d be proud and appreciative of Providence for all it’s done for us.

“Our whole family is proud of this legacy.”

The seeds of two parents’ faith continue to grow in a wondrous way. †

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