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Bob Lind column: Man's life full of fish, flowers, the famous

This is a story about some well-known people, both locally and nationally, and some fish. The bitty and colorful aquarium-type fish. The common denominator of the story is Fred Krueger, Fargo. He was acquainted with all them -- the famous people ...

This is a story about some well-known people, both locally and nationally, and some fish. The bitty and colorful aquarium-type fish.

The common denominator of the story is Fred Krueger, Fargo. He was acquainted with all them -- the famous people and the fish.

Fred's retired now. He lives in a house with a view near Hector Airport where he spends much of his time designing and setting up aquariums; he's presently working on a six-footer for Good Samaritan Center in Barnesville, Minn.

It comes naturally. Fred was one of the first tropical fish dealers in the Red River Valley. And he did it out of a floral shop.

Fred, born and raised in Fargo, attended several schools: Roosevelt, Clara Barton, Horace Mann and Fargo Central High, as well as the old lab school at what is now Minnesota State University Moorhead.

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One of the students he came to know at Roosevelt was the first person he met who later would become famous: Roger Maris.

Fred worked as a youth at Ulsaker Printing Co., Fargo, and learned about types of print, which would prove invaluable over coming years when he would be in public relations. One of the shop's customers he worked with was Harold Schafer, who one day would found the Gold Seal Co.

Fred graduated from the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., served a hitch in the Army, then landed a job as a financial reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, which made Fred's father back in Fargo very proud. "Everyone in the Rotary Club heard about it," Fred says.

Fred went on to join the public relations staff of American Hospital Supply Corp., Evanston.

Fred admires Francis McGaw, the founder of the company, because he gave away much of his fortune while he was still alive. He gave Northwestern University an athletic facility, named McGaw Hall, and a chapel, something that, Fred says, "was badly needed for religious functions."

"I will always admire his (McGaw's) belief that you should do such things while you're alive so you can prod 'whatever' along," Fred says.

Fred then joined the community relations department of the Encyclopedia Britannica in Chicago, where he came to know its publisher William Benton and became a close friend of one of Benton's children.

Benton, a native of Minneapolis, earlier had joined Chester Bowles in starting the Benton & Bowles advertising firm in New York in 1929. After becoming publisher of the Britannica, he became assistant secretary of state, was instrumental in the forming of the United Nations and became a senator from Connecticut.

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"I loved every minute of my adventure in Chicago and its environs," Fred says. "EB (Encyclopedia Britannica) was peopled by the very best men and women Bill Benton could hire -- even cajole -- into his employ."

Flowers and fish

Fred returned to his hometown of Fargo after he retired from Britannica and plunged into something he'd become interested in as a young teenager: tropical fish.

"My dad bought an awful steel framed aquarium with a thick tar bottom in 1938," Fred says. "I've often thought he was just as fascinated with fish as I was. We even used his den at 1250 3rd St. N. as a spot for the first tank.

"The following summer John Shotwell I, who then had a store at Broadway and Front Street (now Main Avenue), offered to let me sell fish from his store in exchange for floral labor, dethorning roses and the like. I loved it: flowers and fish.

"John Shotwell had a marvelous personality who knew how to make everyone feel at home; a truly fine gentleman."

One of Fred's first tropical fish customers was Harold Schafer.

"He'd learned from someone in Rotary," Fred says, "that I had something unusual for him to see. So one day after school, here comes Harold with his 6-year-old son Eddie to get some tropical fish."

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Young Eddie went on to become North Dakota governor. Fred says Gov. Ed had an aquarium in Bismarck and still has one in his home.

Fred also tells of installing a 90-gallon aquarium in the Fargo Clinic (now MeritCare) some 55 years ago at the request of C. Warner Litten, then the clinic's business manager.

"We stocked it with 'kissing gourami,' the pink-eyed creatures that spend waking hours bussing each other," Fred says. Warner, he says, had the aquarium placed in the OB-Gyn department for the enjoyment of the women patients. That, Fred says, "was a very special effect."

There's no sign Fred will ever quit working with aquariums. It's a fascinating hobby/part-time vocation for him.

Were he to leave it, there's no doubt he'd be like a fish out of water.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or e-mail rlind@forumcomm.com

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