Friends remembered Katie Kroeger Thursday as someone who worked tirelessly to keep kids off drugs and who had an impact on those around her.

The 1993 Effingham Daily News Citizen of the Year died Wednesday at the age of 94.

Carol Mills of Effingham nominated Kroeger for Citizen of the Year.

“She was a kind and wonderful lady that worked tirelessly for the Effingham County Drug Alert Council,” Mills said. “All the work she did on the council was her life.”

“She gave her time and talent to the teens of this community to stay off drugs,” Mills said. “She brought a lot of speakers into Effingham County to the different schools for the youth.”

Kroeger was a member of the Effingham County Drug Alert Council. The group formed in 1972 through the efforts of several local community organizations and was named after a national program of the Kiwanis Club called Operation Drug Alert.

After formation of the Effingham County Drug Alert Council, Kroeger founded a group called Operation Snowball, a drug and alcohol prevention program for high school students.

June Cheatum remembers when she started having annual Snowball conferences for teens at Camp Walter Scott, south of Effingham.

“She was very organized,” said Cheatum.

Another group consisting of seventh and eighth graders developed later called Operation Snowflake. They met every fall at different schools in Effingham County.

Kroeger was involved with Operation Snowball for 35 years serving as area director until she retired from the organization in 2014. Rob Grupe became area director after her retirement.

“Katie was an amazing woman,” Grupe said. “I met her back in 1987 at Snowball.”

Grupe said Kroeger had an impact on his life.

“Here was this lady telling me it’s OK to be drug free,” Grupe said. “She was a whirlwind of a lady and had the ability to get people to do what needed to be done and make it seem like it was their idea to do so.”

“She is a big part of what made me the person I am today,” Grupe said. “She taught me how to be a leader.”

“She was a big influence in my life,” added Grupe.

For her work, Kroeger received the 1992 Enrique Camerena One Person Can award in Chicago by the Illinois Drug Education Alliance.

Jane Loy Ries remembers Kroeger as being instrumental in getting the Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum started.

“When we were first trying to get the museum off the ground, Katie was one of the ladies who went around to businesses and banks trying to get support for us,” Ries said.

Ries said Kroeger would volunteer when she could. She liked to work at the Old Settlers Reunion membership table, Ries said.

“Katie was pretty much a giver her whole life,” Ries said. “She was a good person all of the way through.”

Maxine Dehn became friends with Kroeger when Dehn moved to Effingham in 1948 and remained friends throughout the years, even talking to Kroeger just before her death.

“I just said goodbye to her just two days ago,” Dehn said. “We were very close.”

Dehn remembers how welcoming Kroeger was when she first came to Effingham.

“She introduced me to a lot of people,” she said.

They both lived on the same block and each had a child under 2 years old.

“So we spent a lot of time together,” Dehn said. “We could always find something to laugh about.”

Dehn said as they grew older, their friendship continued over the phone. They still managed to laugh even though they couldn’t get together in person.

Dehn also remembers Kroeger as someone who always wanted to help people.

“She worked very, very hard at it,” she said.

“Effingham should be very proud of all the work she did with the youngsters when drugs first became a problem,” Dehn said.

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.

Reporter/Videographer

Charles Mills is reporter and videographer for the Effingham Daily News. A 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, he worked as senior video editor for a Nashville television station. He is a native of Vandalia.

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