Hans Kruck emigrated from Germany in 1979, traveled the country in search of adventure
By Hilary Reeves
In 1979, 18-year-old Hans Kruck bought a one-way ticket to the United States and never looked back.
Born in the Federal Republic of Germany – West Germany, as it’s more commonly known – Kruck grew up in a rural community located between the north-coast town of Bremerhaven and the larger cities of Hamburg and Hanover to the east and south. After finishing high school outside of Hanover, he began a Machinist Apprenticeship with concurrent schooling equivalent to a community college program in the States.
“My major was mechanical engineering with a minor in industrial electrics and electronics,” he said. “Growing up, I knew that my destiny would be in the mechanical or electrical field. Being proficient with power tools and arc welding equipment at age 12 was not something my parents had looked forward to, but they tolerated it, and my father and grandfathers made sure I played it safe and they laid certain ground rules.”
Kruck left the country prior to full graduation for what he describes as personal reasons – among them a culture of all work and no play. His father, a civil engineer who constructed commercial high rises and bridges, had difficulty separating work from family.
“The greatest influences during my childhood were both of my grandfathers, my father and mother, and my high school history teacher, who opened my eyes to the rest of the world – specifically the United States,” he said.
Kruck landed in New York City and spent a week in a downtown Manhattan hotel, sightseeing and – most importantly – car-shopping. He found. 1969 Ford Mustang for sale in the Bronx. After a brief visit to Niagara Falls, he left New York, driving west, zigzagging from north to south.
“In Wyoming, the car needed some mechanical work, and one thing led to another.”
Between 1979 and 1982, Kruck made his living as a ranch hand, cowboy, machinist, mud logger, and snow machine guide in Wyoming, Texas, and plenty of
places in between. He spent several years as a volunteer EMT in rural Wyoming.
“Eighty miles to a hospital in either direction is a long time in an ambulance, but it was very rewarding,” he said. “Honestly, I was just trying to figure it all out.”
In the year that followed, Kruck landed a job MSHS, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, his entrance into the marine vessel industry. He was the small, growing service company’s eighth employee.
“I started servicing European propulsion engines and equipment on ocean-going vessels,” he said. “It was mostly very old equipment.”
Kruck worked in Florida for more than a decade, advancing from the position of Service Technician to Service Engineer, and finally Service Manager. He traveled most of South America, the Caribbean, and the eastern and western coasts of the United States to attend to everything from major marine casualties and routine overhauls. He also received advanced factory training from several European engine builders and equipment suppliers, and advanced training in in-place machining and line-boring of engine blocks and reduction gears, and the mechanical, optical, and laser alignment of all equipment.
“By 1994, I needed a break,” he said. “I didn’t want to follow my father’s footsteps into early retirement.”
The following year, Kruck began work as a marine/mechanical consultant and manufacturers representative. During his five-year consultancy stint, he spent more than two years at the GE Diesel Engine and Locomotive plants in Grove City and Erie, Penn. on behalf of Deutz/MWM during the prototype and production work on GE’s new locomotive and current new marine engines. In 2000, he joined a tug company in Valdez, Alaska, where he worked as a Senior Port Engineer and then as Engineering Manager.
“We maintained the Valdez Tanker Escort and Response Fleet – 10-plus tugs and eight-plus unmanned response barges,” he said.
In 2010, he joined Foss in the company’s Rainier, Ore. shipyard. Among the shipyard’s most memorable achievements in the year that followed was the new construction of the Capt. Frank Moody, a shallow draft tug for Delta Western in Alaska. Kruck managed the machinery installations, commissioning, and sea trials. He spent the six months between October 2011 and April 2012 in Chimbote, Peru, on a contract to help build three high-speed crew boars, as well as firefighting equipment and a generator for two newly built Panama Canal tugs.
Kruck has been back at Foss since August of 2012, helping to re-power the Tidewater Captain Bob, and managing all the machinery installation on the brand-new state ferry, the Sanpoil, and the Foss Arctic Class tugs.
“We really do build boats down here,” he said in jest.
After his father’s early retirement due to work stress and related health issues, he and Kruck’s mother enjoyed long annual camping vacations to the United States, mostly traveling the west and Alaska, fishing and sightseeing. He died in 2011. Kruck’s mother, a homemaker and the best cook he knows, is enjoying her senior years living with his little sister in Germany and visiting Kruck every few years.
“She’ll be 80 in March, and it will be my turn to visit Germany,” he said.
Kruck said he is most proud of leaving Germany when he did. He never married, but instead is looking forward to his own retirement spent traveling the parts of the world he’s not yet been, fishing, hunting and boating, and inventing new ways to accomplish mechanical and electrical feats.
“I’ve visited all 50 states and most U.S. Territories,” he concluded. “I guess I’m always just waiting for that next interesting project.”
When asked why he chose the United States as his destination all those years ago, Kruck smiled.
“When I was still in school (in Germany), there was a certain mention made of the USA that stuck with me: ‘America, das Land der unbegrenzten Moeglichkeiten.’ Translated: ‘USA, the country of unlimited possibilities.’ I have found this to be very true.”