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Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly

Last Revised 01/22/2010


Kramer/Malsch Wedding

Kraemer family helped shape Sussex

SUSSEX LEADER - Sussex leader From left: Madeline, Betty and Chris Halquist pose for a photo taken in 1998 in Fort Meyers, Fla., with the late James Kraemer, 1921-2010, and his wife, Mary (second from right). James was a former Sussex fireman, Sussex WWII veteran, executive at Mammoth Springs Canning Co., President of the Sussex Athletic Club, Sussex School Board Member, Commander of Sussex VFW, a Sussex Lion, and the school board member responsible for Maple Ave School in 1960.


The Kraemer name is one of the great names in Sussex history. A street or park should be named after the Kraemer family, who were in Sussex from 1920 to 1973.

James Kraemer, son of John P. Kraemer and wife, Laura, died in a hospice in central Florida on Monday, Jan. 11, at age 88.

In 1920, his father and mother came to Sussex to be part of the biggest business the community had, the Mammoth Spring Canning Co., financed and constructed by the Kraemer family.

Now James' father is considered the modern father of Sussex, as in 1922 he was the driving force to organize the Sussex Fire Department, serving as a fireman and department officer for over 30 years.

Then in September 1924, John was one of the 16 signers to incorporate Sussex-Templeton into the Village of Sussex. He proceeded to become an elected trustee for 32 years. He served from 1924 to 1956 and then went on committees and boards.

In 1939, he and school Principal Winston Brown started the Sussex Lions Club, becoming its sixth president in 1944-45.

In 1958, John helped start the Sussex Park system, as he was behind the purchase of the Sussex Village Park and served as an early member of the Park Board.

John and Laura had four children, James Kraemer being the firstborn.

James started working at the canning company in the late 1930s, doing a lot of low-level dirty jobs, as he was being trained to someday take over for his father in an executive position.

On Dec. 7, 1941, he was listening to the Chicago Bears-Packers football game when he heard that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. In 1942, James was drafted, and in early 1943 he was in training at Keesler Air Field in Biloxi, which was followed by U.S. Army/ air corps training in New York. Then it was onto the Queen Mary with 17,000 other military people, with James going to Flixton Air base in England.

His job was to load bombs onto B-24s and to add ammunition to the .50-caliber machine guns that protected the planes.

At the close of the European war against Germany, Kraemer was flown back to the United States, going to Tacoma, Wash., to train for operations in the Japanese war, but the atomic bombs finished the war before he could go over the Pacific to the B-29 bases.

He was quickly discharged and came back to Sussex in October 1945. His father, on his very first day back, shook him awake early in the morning to tell him he was needed at the Mammoth Spring Canning Co. because there was a big contract with the government for a mega order of canned beets.

 He joined the Sussex VFW and in 1948 also joined the Sussex Fire Department, which he served on for 12 years, until 1960.

In 1950, he was the president of the Sussex Athletic Club, which produced the grand championship of the Land O' Rivers basketball leagues and a league championship and grand championship game finalist 1955-56 team.

He served as the commander of the Sussex VFW from 1949-50. He joined the Sussex Lions Club in 1948 and served until 1973. In later life, he became a longtime member of the Sanibel-Captivia Lions Club in Florida.

In 1951, he married Mary Lundahl, who was also a WWII veteran. They would build a home in Lisbon Lawns.

He, like his father, became active on the local school board, and in 1960, he had a huge impact on Sussex, as he was the driving force behind acquiring a large land mass on the old Bob Stier farm to build Maple Avenue School.

He pulled up stakes in 1973 and moved to Fort Myers, Fla., where he became a developer and bookkeeper while his wife, Mary, became a docent at the Sanibel Shell Museum.

They adopted two daughters, Lori Brown, who preceded him in death, and Lu Ann Thomas. His wife, Mary, also preceded him in death.

James died at Deland, Fla., and was cremated. His cremains were spread at Sanibel Island, which was close to his home in Fort Myers.

James is survived by his sister, Marjori (Mike Asztalof) and brother George (Nancy), who is in the Sussex Baseball Hall of Fame. He is also survived by a daughter, Lu Ann (Dave) Thomas. His daughters had three grandchildren for James: Stephanie Thomas and Heather and Sharon Elizabeth Brown.

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