Gerhardt Peter Kraske, the former president of the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites Inc., died Nov. 28 from lymphoma at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Columbia resident was 81.
Born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, Mr. Kraske was the youngest of eight children. His parents, Wilhelm Gustav Herman Kraske, a World War I veteran in France, and Clara Kraske, a homemaker and community worker, moved around frequently because of his father’s paper mill supervisory position.
The family eventually settled in Rumford, Maine, where Mr. Kraske graduated from Stephens High School in 1956.
Upon graduating from the University of Maine with an engineering science degree in 1961, Mr. Kraske was hired as an electrical engineer at Westinghouse in Baltimore. There, Mr. Kraske worked on radar systems, satellites and the B-1 bomber. By the time he retired in 2007, Westinghouse had been absorbed into Northrop Grumman Corp.
He met his eventual wife, Barbara Ann Manger, when he asked her to dance at the Cromwell Bridge Holiday Inn in 1966. That same year the two were married. The two had three children. “His friends were all intimidated by a pretty blond woman. He didn’t have any problem approaching her. That’s how the relationship got started,” said their son, Wolfgang Kraske. “They shared a lot of interests, including the Baltimore Colts. That became a common thread of interest.”
In addition to football, the couple shared many common interests, including the U.S. military, U.S. history, documentaries and books. The two would often spend anniversaries at battlefields and historic parks.
They visited Gettysburg a number of times, according to their son.
“History was an important thing to him and my mother,” he said. “She was a history teacher. He learned more about history from my mother. She was always more emotional about that. That’s why they got along.”
The two were also active members of the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association, which repaired, reconstructed and landscaped George Washington’s home.
Mr. Kraske also was involved in the lives of his children, participating in Howard County Youth Program football and cheerleading. In addition, he was a booster for the Liberty Belles Drum and Baton Crops. Other activities included playing board games, hiking, sightseeing, bicycling and swimming in the family pool.
Mr. Kraske spent about two decades working with the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites Inc. He was also very passionate about learning more about — and preserving — the history of Howard County, where he lived.
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“He wanted to maintain the heritage of the area — the traditional historical areas of Howard County,” his son said. “They also would look in Western Maryland and Baltimore to understand more of my mother’s family tree. They didn’t get to do much in Wisconsin, where his family was from.”
In a Baltimore Sun article in 2008 about a resident’s attempt to protect a small, nearly forgotten cemetery in Columbia, Mr. Kraske was interviewed in his capacity as president of the coalition.
“Most people, unfortunately, don’t have a sense of history, but sometimes they get awakened,” he said. “I see a curiosity in people, but it’s been sort of a hands-off curiosity. They come to us like we’re a multi-million [dollar] nonprofit that can step in and take care of things. You can tell they’re waiting for us to step in.”
In addition to his wife, who lives in Columbia, and his son, who lives in Pasadena, Mr. Kraske is survived by a daughter, Kristin, who lives in Ellicott City; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Two viewings will be held Monday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Slack Funeral Home, P.A., 3871 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City. Funeral services will also be held at Slack Funeral Home at 1 p.m. Tuesday with visitation from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Interment will take place at Holy Trinity Cemetery.