Even before Carl Kroening’s booming voice became a fixture at the Minnesota Legislature, it was known in the classrooms and hallways of several Minneapolis public schools where he taught chemistry and served as assistant principal.
Kroening used his powerful voice to make a difference, especially for those living on the city’s North Side.
“He really was an advocate for parks and a defender of the river and the North Side,” said Brian Rice, attorney for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. His father served in the Legislature with Kroening.
The longtime educator and legislator died June 29 at the University of Minnesota Medical Center following a stroke, said his daughter, Kathryn Kroening-Smith of Champlin. He was 89.
Kroening was born in Minneapolis, the oldest of five boys. His father worked on the railroad and moved the family to Princeton, Minn., after he got laid off during the Depression.
Carl and his brothers walked 3½ miles to town to attend a one-room schoolhouse. “He always said later that some of the best teaching comes from other students explaining it to another student,” Kroening-Smith said.
When he became a teacher, he used that approach to get his students to work together and learn.
He graduated from John Marshall High School and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry and educational administration from the University of Minnesota.
At one point, he and his brothers were all at the university at the same time.
Kroening started his teaching career at John Marshall High. Later, he taught chemistry at North High in Minneapolis — his favorite job, his daughter said. He went on to become an assistant principal at several Minneapolis schools.
His entry into politics began with a simple desire.
“His dream was to be on the other side and help make the laws that really helped people,” Kroening-Smith said.
In the Legislature, he represented north Minneapolis in the House from 1975 to 1981, and in the Senate from 1981 to 1997.
“He was tough, he was thorough. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t get done over there,” Rice said.
Among his accomplishments: creation of the North Mississippi Regional Park to serve people on the North Side. “He always said there’s nothing in my district,” Rice said, referring to a lack of parks. “He and Bill Luther, who served in the Senate with Carl, got together and created it, and he also funded it for 30 years.”
Today, an interpretive center at the park bears Kroening’s name.
One of his biggest fights was over a plan to build a garbage burner on the Mississippi River in his district.
In the early 1980s, the Hennepin County Board had the votes to sell land on the North Side that became the Upper Harbor Terminal.
“The South Side decided it was going to shove the garbage burner into north Minneapolis,” Rice said. Kroening and Rice’s father, Jim Rice, succeeded in getting a law passed preventing the construction of a waste facility at that site, Brian Rice said.
“If that had been built there, the river would’ve been condemned to industrial use for another 60 years.”
In addition to his daughter, Kathryn, Kroening is survived by daughters Judith of St. Anthony, Cynthia of Golden Valley, Rosemary of St. Cloud, Anne-Marie of St. Louis Park, and Carole of Minneapolis; former wife Ruth of Minneapolis; two brothers; seven grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.