George Krumme – Centenarian
Life creeps up on you if you’re not careful. Those were the near exact words shared by our charming centenarian guest, George Krumme, on this special 100th episode of The Courageous Podcast. As you can imagine, being 100, George has packed a lot into his life including honor, legacy, duty, four great grandchildren and two love stories.
George shares a wealth of wisdom including how his life was forever altered by World War 2 — where he walked away with a Purple Heart and the Silver Star. He also provides sound advice for anyone looking to know the secret to a long, fruitful life with minimal regrets. Finally, George recounts his two marriages, the first one lasting nearly 70 years. Here’s to George and The Courageous Podcast reaching 100.
Ryan Berman 0:00
This is a show about facing fear, unlocking courage, and taking action.
Speaker 2 (Female) 0:05
Courage isn't necessarily a daunting thing.
Speaker 3 (Male) 0:07
It's going to give you more purpose, it's going to give you more drive.
Speaker 4 (Male) 0:10
It feels like making a courageous decision is going to get you closer to who you aspire to be.
Ryan Berman 0:14
It’s knowledge, plus faith, plus action equals courage.
George Krumme 0:19
I’d changed my major to pre-law, but then, the war came along and saved me from becoming an attorney, I might have been a lawyer if it hadn’t been for World War II.
(Intro Music 0:34-0:42)
Ryan Berman 0:43
I mean, to think back for me a thousand days ago and this journey on understanding courageous decisions that we make… It's funny, someone once said to me, “It takes you 40 years to figure out who you are, and the next 40 to be that person.” And I was always curious about how do you unlock people to be more courageous. And here we are three years later, and it has gone by in a blink. And we have arrived at the 100th episode of The Courageous Podcast, and we've just had the most amazing people join us. We've had athletes join us. We've had rock stars join us. We've had people that study the way that we’re wired join us. We've had CEOs come on the show. Never, until today, have we actually had somebody who… Well, it's the 100th episode, who's been 100 years old. And George Krumme is joining us, he's 100 years old. He's joining us from rural Oklahoma, I believe, and you can tell me if I'm getting this wrong, George. George has two sons, he's got four grandchildren, he's got four great-grandchildren, and he's been married for 70 years to the same woman. George, you give guys like me hope. I'm not even halfway to 100 yet. And so, let's just cut to the chase. Tell me, what's it like to be 100?
George Krumme 2:23
Well, actually, it creeps up on you. It doesn't come all of a sudden, so you gradually add that to it. Just through time, you go through 90s, and then, 95, and all of a sudden you're 100. But it's so slow it doesn't really change much.
Ryan Berman 2:42
I always say, George, that courage is regret insurance. In other words, I don't think any of us want to look back at our lives and have regrets that we didn't do something. So, at 100, I'm curious, when you look at the adventure of your life, anything you would have done differently, or any regrets?
George Krumme 3:08
Oh, well all of us have regrets, but I can say that this general thread of my life where I would have wanted to change most of my regrets are in the fields of where I was unkind to different people, and not considerate of their position and points of view. But then, if we worried about our regrets, we'd spend all our time on anxiety. And I can't say that it bothers me much even though there are numerous things that I wish I had done over a little bit differently. And by the way, I'm not in rural Oklahoma, urban to the extent that Tulsa Oklahoma is an urban community because I live in Tulsa, and I do live currently in a retirement. I only came to the retirement village, or establishment here, I should say, just last June. Until then, I lived by myself. And I have been married twice. My first wife and I lived 60, almost 70 years together. And then, after a year, or two, I married a second woman, a widow. And we lived together eight years. We married when I was 84… She was 84 and I was 90 years old. So, you see we had a little bit of courage there.
Ryan Berman 4:32
(Laughs) Tell me about the wedding.
George Krumme 4:35
Oh, well, all of her family was there and all of my family was there. We had a rather quite successful wedding at my church by her Minister, so we compromised on that but it was a joyous occasion. And her granddaughter caught the bouquet that she threw over her shoulder at the end of it. And sure enough, she was married within the next six months.
Ryan Berman 5:10
Oh wow. That's amazing. So, you have lived quite a life, George. Like you said, you've been married for 70 years to the first wife. I think it was Eddy who you met at Bristow Schools? Eddy?
George Krumme 5:30
Yes. Her nickname was Eddy. And yeah, we met when she was probably a freshman and, well, I was just out of the junior, so we had only one year of high school and then I went to college. But we went together from there on. She was really the only girlfriend I've ever had.
Ryan Berman 5:57
How did you know she was the one?
George Krumme 6:00
Well, you don't always find reasons, or excuse, or whatever. It's just simply that we were attracted one to the other, and enjoyed each other, and had a very good life together.
Ryan Berman 6:16
Married on December 14th, 1941. And just to put this… Why I'm asking this question, George, we have a lot of young and ambitious people who tune into our show, and any sort of quips, or tips that we can give them? I'm still learning, I want to know what the secret is. What was your secret for making it 70 years together?
George Krumme 6:44
Well, I guess what I really could say was we loved each other, and we never really had a serious separation from one another. And it's hard to analyze exactly why we just adapted to each other, made sure that we took care of one another in all the ways.
Ryan Berman 7:07
In life away from home -- and again, I want to tip my cap to you now and say, truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for your service to this country. It's just sort of, again, a show about courage, and you had mentioned that your time in World War II really changed your life. I think, beforehand, you were a music major in college, and World War II happens. Share the shift. What happened? What was it like?
George Krumme 7:46
Well, I fancied that I was a musician enough that I could be a band director after I graduated from high school. And so, I went to Oklahoma A&M college at Stillwater because the director there was a renowned bandmaster, Bohumil Makovsky was a [Inaudible 08:12] who was known throughout the country. He wrote numerous compositions for bands. But nevertheless, it didn't take me a full year to learn that I lacked the talent of being a good band director, so I gave up. And the second year, I changed my major to pre-law. But then, the war came along and saved me from becoming an attorney. I might have been a lawyer if it hadn’t been for World War II, but, of course, World War II changed everybody of my age. Almost all of us who are physically capable were in the war, either the Navy, or the Marines, or Coast Guard. In my case, I enlisted in the Air Corps, but the Air Corps in those days was part of the army. “Nothing can stop the Army Air Corps.” You perhaps are familiar with that song. When they closed a training program that I was in, my first year, they closed the program, and they sent several of us to the infantry, so I finished the rest of the war in the infantry.
Ryan Berman 9:39
I think I read somewhere that you were awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star, am I getting that correct?
George Krumme 9:49
Yes, that is correct. In our first action and our [Inaudible 9:57] in France, we had a rather serious confrontation with the Germans, and I did receive the Silver Star there. I was a machine gunner. Well, I'm sorry, I was a machine gun squad leader. I had been trained as a machine gunner, but I had a squad of four men; a gunner, an assistant gunner and two armor bearers. But it happened that my… Both, in this counterattack that I was referring to in our combat, both machine gunners in our rifle company were wounded and dropped the machine guns, and our company commander picked it up and said, “Could you fire this,” and so I did. But anyway, I got a Silver Star there. And within a few weeks later, I was promoted from a sergeant to a Second Lieutenant, I was given what they called a battlefield commission, and I finished the war. We didn't get there until Christmas eve on 19th [?484?]. So, it didn't take much just for five or six months before we ended the war. It didn't take us long to take care of it. But I did get scratches that really wasn't serious at all, and I'm a little sheepish about the fact that I got a Purple Heart for such a minor wound, but I did get a Purple Heart.
Ryan Berman 11:37
George, if you can recall, can you share a little bit about those first few days going into the military? Will you just spill, again, you going back to the… I have a hard time connecting that someone who had thought he was going to be a music, sort of entertainer, ends up on the front lines of a war. Were you scared when you went into World War II, or were you like, “Look, this is my contribution to this country”? Take us back to that moment.
George Krumme 12:16
Well, I can't say that I was motivated any more than all of us. It was called on us. Everybody was either being drafted or volunteering for something throughout that first year. And, when I was still 19, but I had reached 19, I didn't volunteer actually until I began to fear that I would be drafted so I can't say that I jumped into it very eagerly. But nevertheless, when the time comes, and you're called on, you have a duty, the thing you do is adjust to your circumstances. And, of course, I only served in the infantry before we’re sent overseas, a little less than a year, but you begin to bond with your fellow soldiers, and you certainly would not want to let them down. But we met the enemy really only about a week, or 10 days after we got to the front lines. The first few days we were on the run North of Strasbourg. But facing the line, the Germans were across the other side of the river. But then, The Battle of the Bulge had started just while we were on the train on our way to the front, and the river due far East be directly in The Battle of the Bulge. But all of the third army moved west to participate in the Battle of the Bulge, and thinned the lines so much that the Germans had their very last offensive of the war starting south in the Vosges mountains. The North Vosges are really more hills than mountains, but nevertheless, that's where we were called West about 40 miles to try to relieve the pack by an SS mountain troops two regiments that had just arrived from Finland. And our battalion was charged with driving them out of this little village, there were 725 of them. We learned later, we didn't even know who they were at the time, of course, but nevertheless, we were involved in that, and I've always been proud that our battalion got paid a Presidential Unit Citation for our activity there. At any rate, I was really fortunate only to be active that short a period in the war because the infantry had suffered most of the casualties. That, and of course, the Air Corps suffered an awful lot. But, nevertheless, I was lucky enough not to be seriously wounded. I appreciate that.
Ryan Berman 15:38
George, when you talk about your military stories to your grandkids, or I don't know how old your great-grandkids are, does it land with them? Are they like just sitting and appreciating? Look, I'm a 46-year-old man. And, for me, there is a part of me that wishes that every American should serve at some capacity. I don't mean I need to pick up a gun and do it that way, but I feel like I love this country, and I don't know if everybody else feels the same way about it as I do. So, I'm curious, when you talk about what life was like over there and going over there for World War II, today, is it interesting to them? Do they want to know about that, or are they just like, “Oh, there goes George again with his stories”?
George Krumme 16:41
I will say that I think that was like most veterans, we never talked about it to my grandchildren. I don't remember ever bringing the subject up, and I don't know until later years, and I'm speaking of the last five or 10 years, that we ever discussed it. And most of us just did… Now, I can't speak for everybody, but the ones that I know, most of us did not talk about our war experiences. And as far as service is concerned, I do think it would be helpful to have most young men in their early years either not necessarily in the army, but have some kind of service that they have to perform for our country, or our society. I think it would be helpful for them in the long run, and also, be of service to the country.
Ryan Berman 17:45
So, you can make a case that the war sort of got in the way of a lot of things for you. But it did change you. So, you come back from the war, and not only come back from the war, but I think you got back to school, correct? Can you share a little bit about where you went and what you did?
George Krumme 18:07
Well, the first thing I did was I had two years of college, and then, I had some additional training when I was in the Air Corps, when I first went in before I went to the infantry, so I only lacked one semester, my training, and I went back for the one semester and got my bachelor's degree, I guess it was a BA in Arts and Sciences, gosh knows. But it was that sort… Oh, it's kind of interesting, they were very obliging, and I'm speaking to most colleges were appreciative of the service of us veterans. And I had trained as an Air Corps. I actually had a college training there. Pomona College in Claremont, California. And I asked them how long would I have to go back to school to get my degree, and what they said was, “Well, we'll cooperate as much as we can, but you don't have enough advanced hours in anything except mathematics, and you don't have quite enough advanced hours in mathematics, actually, for us to give you a degree in mathematics, but we will create a special service,” section, I should say, “We'll give you a degree with a concentration in mathematics. You don't really have enough mathematics.” So, I was happy for that they would do it because l finished in just one semester. But I came back to go work with my father in the oil business, he ended up being an oil man. He really was a farmer as a young man but had gone into business as a merchant, pretty much. But, here in Oklahoma, the real prospects for success as far as making money was in oil and gas. And he began in his 40s, I guess, it would have been, to buy stripper production. And he offered my brother and me an opportunity to join him. So, we came back and borrowed money, we didn't have any money to speak of. But, nevertheless, we went on borrowed money, we began to buy and drill, and so forth. So, my entire business career for the next 50, 60 years, was in the oil business. But since I have no background in it, I went to night school here in Tulsa, at the University of Tulsa, and got a degree, a master's degree in petroleum engineering. And it took me five years of night school, and I was working all during that time. So, I spent another 10 years and got a doctor's degree in sciences, geology. So, I'm an educated son of a gun.
Ryan Berman 21:29
George Krumme 21:30
But [Inaudible 21:31] I enjoyed going to school, but I kept in business for another 20, or 30 years, whatever, and didn't retire until I guess it was 2013, or 14. But I've been retired almost 10 years now.
Ryan Berman 21:47
So, you worked up till 90?
George Krumme 21:49
Yes, I worked till I was 90. I'm hard of hearing, so sometimes I miss what you say, Ryan.
Ryan Berman 21:56
Well, I have a tendency to mumble, so I could be better on that side too. But, it's funny, my father is 80, and he is not a golf club type of guy, his hobby… It's funny you talked about you might have been a lawyer if it wasn't for World War II, my father is a lawyer, and he has his own firm. I have a sneaking suspicion, and I'm curious to get your take, that it's not just a job for him, it's a hobby, and he enjoys his family law, and he enjoys trying to help people, and do what's right for the family. And that's why there's still joy, and that's why he's still working. As you shift into the family business, in the oil business, is it something that you just… Was it a hobby for you? Did it turn into something that was, like, you love doing it, or…?
George Krumme 23:02
I would hardly call it a hobby because it was so serious, but I did enjoy it, yes. It's challenging, and not every company made it through all the ups and downs of the oil business. And so, the fact that our little company is still there, and my grandson is looking after it, and that's for the last 10 years, say. And he has been able to hold it together even through the hard times. But yes, I enjoyed my career, and I have to say, as far as attorneys, and, of course, we always joke about attorneys -- what a professional burden is to be joked about -- but I can tell you being in business, we appreciate good attorneys, and certainly, it is a service not just in business, but also in all of the difficulties that people go through in life, to have a good attorney, so they perform a real service.
Ryan Berman 24:18
As you think back to just experiences over your life to date, are there constants that you now recognize? Like you said, I'm sure throughout your 100 years, you've now can spot the realities of there's going to be ups and downs. Is there a key insight or an observation that you've made that's just a reality of life that you can share with us?
George Krumme 24:48
I'm not sure that more than just the platitudes and the various things that all of us know, but I would say that one of the real things that I appreciate is the fact that we were fortunate about, and I think that we conducted our business with integrity. And I'm pleased to be able to look back and never remember anything that we did in our enterprise that we would be unhappy about, or dissatisfied with. We had a very successful… We never were very large, but we were successful in our business, and that's certainly a pleasure to look back on.
Ryan Berman 25:42
Because this is a show about courage, is there a single moment in your life that you believe… Maybe not even in the moment, by the way, but when you really look back at it, was there one moment, a courageous moment that sort of bubbles to the surface? And, by the way, this could be personal life or professional life.
George Krumme 26:09
I don't know, Ryan. I wish I could think of something, but I really can't recall any specific event or circumstance that would really fit that. In that sense, I have lived a fairly calm life filled with lots of challenges, all of our lives are filled with challenges in certain, I can say. I suppose I could say this, that my first wife had dementia and faded away. In both cases, my two wives lived with the long goodbye because my first wife took about eight years after she began to suffer from dementia, and I took care of both my wives. Aldean, my second wife, was 84 when we remarried, and she lived to be 92. Although, I had checked our life expectancy because I was 90, and neither one of us was supposed to live more than four years according to the statistics, and yet, she lived eight years. Her last half dozen years, she was handicapped. So I could say that I did have some courage to take care of them, both of them, as long as they were alive, and I will have to say I was able to do so. I've been frequently asked what kind of a life I have lived to live so long, and I will burden you a little bit in telling you what I tell other people that it’s because I've lived a perfect life. I have absolutely no faults whatsoever, except that I tell lies occasionally.
Ryan Berman 28:11
George Krumme 28:12
So, it pays to have a sense of humor about taking care to live a long time.
Ryan Berman 28:19
What do you have in store for the next 100 years?
George Krumme 28:23
(Laughs) Well, I'll be happy to live another year or two. I'm in pretty good health except for my hearing, which really is a problem. But aside from that, I'll walk a mile, and we claim it's a mile. I have a friend that walks with me, and we claim it’s a mile, but it’s actually 8/10th. I do some arm exercises, I lift weights too. So, I think that definitely has helped me to be in as good shape as I am, and I hope that’ll live another year or two, we just have to see.
Ryan Berman 28:58
What do you want us to take away from it all? Other than it sounds like in the next 100 years, you expect to walk 8/10th of a mile a day and lift some weights, is there any other thing like… What advice would you give a guy like me? That’s if I'm lucky enough, I’m just about halfway through it. What do you have for me?
George Krumme 29:20
Well, I will say this is, be ye kind to one another. I think if you follow that, you will have reasons to be happy, and being happy, I think, does add considerably to your life. Aside from that, of course, as we all know, we have to meet some various disappointments and challenges that come to all of us either in our personal relationships, our business relationships, or our health, and we all recognize that a lot of things we have to go through. But you live day by day, you try to do your best.
Ryan Berman 30:06
Well, George, I cannot thank you enough. When I look back at what I think I know about your adventure here, you're kind of like a walking textbook in a movie all in one. There's honor, there's service, there's legacy, there's at least two love stories, I know there's probably more. There's duty and service, and now, I hear there's a lesson behind it all, which is make sure you keep your sense of humor as you go through it all, and try to stay true and do things with integrity.
George Krumme 30:47
Well, thank you much, Ryan. I have enjoyed my life. If my health stays, and I’m hopeful that I don't have to go through the long period. Death comes to us at all, and I’m not looking forward to it in anticipation, but, at least, I look forward to it with comfort and hope that my health stays up for a while. So, it's very nice talking to you.
Ryan Berman 31:17
Georgia, I feel the same about you. And again, thank you so much for sharing some of your wisdom with us today. George, thanks so much for joining. It's great to hear your voice and have this conversation.
George Krumme 31:31
All right. Well, thank you very much, Ryan. I enjoyed it.
Ryan Berman 31:36
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Courageous Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don't forget to rate and review us on Apple podcasts so more people can find us. See you again next week.
(Outro music 31:46-32:00)
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