Ron Krueger was a good businessman with a generous spirit; when his employees suffered personal troubles, he always pitched in to help. And when the Salvation Army band played Christmas carols in the lobby of one of his theaters, Mr. Krueger, a sturdy bass, could always be heard singing along.
Ronald Paul Krueger, the third-generation president and CEO of Wehrenberg Theatres, died Wednesday (Oct. 21, 2015) of congestive heart failure at St. Clare Hospital. He was 75.
“Ronald Krueger was a big man with a big heart,” said Bill Menke, chief operating officer of Wehrenberg and a 20-year employee of the company. “He was willing to help people in any way that he could if he found someone in need. One gentleman who works for us was in need of a new wheelchair, and Ron provided the money for one. He wanted to do it anonymously, so he worked through an agency to provide it.”
Mr. Krueger was a dedicated supporter of the Salvation Army; he was a past chairman of the Midland Division regional board, and a life member of the advisory board. The entire company was involved with the Cans Film Festival, on the first Saturday of December each year, when patrons may see movies for a donation of a few cans of food.
A graduate of Westminster College in Fulton, he was also a 33rd degree Scottish Rite Mason and a Past Potentate of Moolah Shrine Temple.
“He loved music,” Menke said. “He had this inventory of songs, and he was ready to burst into a tune all the time.”
Hal Maples, a fellow bass in the Ambassadors of Harmony barbershop choir, sang with Mr. Krueger in the early 2000s.
“We were at an area lunch for barbershoppers one day, when Ron came up and offered to put up slides for AOH in his theaters. It was free advertising that put our name in front of thousands of people, and it was very generous and gracious of him.”
Mr. Krueger was born in St. Louis, the son of Paul and Lillian Wehrenberg Krueger. His grandfather, Fred Wehrenberg, named Ronnie’s Drive-In for him when it opened in 1948; he worked there from boyhood, leading pony rides or taking his place as a carhop.
In the 1980s, the drive-in was torn down, and a six-plex and shopping center were built on the property. The current 20-screen cinema has a children’s play area that’s a replica of Ronnie’s Drive-in, an homage to its history.
“He was a go-getter,” said Menke, who said he counted Mr. Krueger as a mentor. “He was very competitive in the marketplace, wanting to be No. 1. He always wanted to be on the cutting edge, whether it meant putting up a new building or adding stereo sound. He was an aggressive businessman, willing to put the money up to build a new megascreen, and put up the first Imax in town. He hired good people and kept them. He was a true icon, a movie theater mogul from the golden age.”
A fisherman and big game hunter, Mr. Krueger kept some of his trophies in the company’s corporate headquarters in Des Peres.
Mr. Menke recalls trips to the Ozarks for catch-and-release bass fishing. “We shared a few hours in boats with him; he’d take 10, 12, 14 of us to enjoy good food and company, to see who could catch the biggest fish and the most fish for the day.”
Mr. Krueger is survived by his wife of 38 years, Midge Deppe Krueger; two daughters, Michelle Bayless and Heather Hicker, both of St. Louis; a son, Ronald Krueger II, of New Orleans; and six grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Kutis Affton Chapel, 10151 Gravois. A memorial service will be held at 9 a.m. Monday at Ronnie’s 20 Cine, 5320 South Lindbergh Boulevard. Interment will be private.