Ron Kraus wasn’t around when the current Lake Hopatcong train station was built in Landing in 1911, but he has been overseeing the building’s rebirth ever since the Lake Hopatcong Foundation purchased it five years ago.
The mild-mannered 72-year-old Michigan native, now a resident of Landing, was recruited by LHF Board Chairman Marty Kane to serve as project manager for the ambitious LHF renovation.
“Ron has been volunteering at the train station from the beginning,” said Kane. “Whether it’s showing contractors around, waiting for deliveries, sweeping, supervising a movie shoot, dealing with running water, or simply keeping me out of trouble, he has always been up to the task.”
Kraus has a slightly different take on how he became involved. He recalls having heard about the LHF from Kane and fellow LHF Volunteer Lee Moreau who he had worked with at Picatinny Arsenal.
“Lee told me when the [LHF] purchase of the train station was in the works and that Marty would be contacting me. Marty did contact me,” said Kraus, wryly, “and basically told me I was going to be the project manager for the train station renovation.”
Familiar with Kraus’s work history at Picatinny, Kane had good reason to single out Kraus for the task, and it was the LHF’s good fortune that he agreed to take it on as a volunteer. Kraus had been the Director of Public Works at the Arsenal from 1990 until his retirement in 2001, and had a substantial history in the field.
Kraus, in 1985, had been Deputy Director of Public Works in Fulda, Germany, home of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which guarded against Soviet troop movement into Western Europe during the Cold War. A couple years later he served in the same role in Aschaffenburg, Germany, supporting the 3rd Armored Division.
In 1988, with the same title, he was stationed at the Hanau [Germany] Military Community, home to more than 24,000 troops living in 7,000 family housing units. Being a ‘landlord’ for that many people was “interesting, to say the least,” said Kraus.
“Ron is hands-down our No. 1 guide whenever we’re open to the public. His experience as an engineer and past chief of public works at Picatinny has been invaluable,” said Kane. “He makes himself available 24/7 and his ideas and thoughtfulness are a major reason the train station restoration has been a success.”
Kraus grew up in Standish, then a community of about 1,000 in the thumb crook of Michigan’s “mitten.” He graduated from Lake Superior State College with a degree in mechanical engineering and was subsequently commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Engineer Branch of the U.S. Army.
Having completed flight training, Kraus piloted “Huey” helicopters on combat missions in Vietnam during 1971 and ‘72. Later assigned to Fort Lewis, Wash., where he was a mechanical engineer in the Directorate of Public Works before being granted release from active duty in 1975.
He then launched a 26-year career with the Department of the Army Civilian Service, with the pre-Picatinny years featuring a dizzying array of duties, including nine years as a U.S. Army Reserve Chinook helicopter pilot.
“We performed [Chinook] demonstrations throughout Washington and Canada,” recalled Kraus. “We landed on the 10,000-foot summit of Mount Baker, at high elevations on Mount Rainier, and saw molten lava as we hovered in the crater of Mount St. Helens after the eruption [in 1980].”
Life is quieter, these days, for Kraus and Barbara, his wife of 22 years and also an LHF volunteer, whom he met while they were both employed at Picatinny Arsenal. The family includes two daughters and sons-in-law, 12 grandchildren and a great grandchild. Travel is on the Kraus’s bucket list, as is the successful completion of the train station project.
“What I enjoy most about volunteering for the LHF is that I always get thanked and that my efforts, however big or small, are appreciated,” said Kraus, who has also volunteered for the annual LHF Block Party. “I enjoy Marty’s passion for the train station and I wasn’t sure where it would all lead when I agreed to do this gig, but it has become a big part of my life.”
Kane and the staff of the LHF are, of course, thrilled that it has.
“Ron gets along with everyone, never worries about himself, and always shows up to help with a big smile,” said Kane. “He truly typifies the best in volunteerism.”