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In an era when big brands mass-produce butter around the clock, Eugene “Gene” Kruckeberg stuck with the old-fashioned approach. At the Hope Creamery in tiny Hope, Minn., Kruckeberg churned out one small batch of rich, beloved butter at a time, tweaking the process, then scooping the butter out by hand for packaging, and even making deliveries.
The head butter maker for one of the last independently owned creameries in the state died July 25. He was 78.
“Without Gene, Hope Creamery wouldn’t be open,” said Hope Creamery’s owner, Victor Mrotz. “He was paramount in our decision to buy the creamery and paramount in our ability to continue making butter.”
Kruckeberg was born Feb. 12, 1939, in Owatonna, Minn. and grew up on a farm west of Bixby. He came of age at a time when nearly every little town in Steele County had its own creamery.
In 1958, Kruckeberg began his career at the Bixby Creamery. He joined the Hope Creamery in 1964, where he quickly earned the titles of manager and “Hope Butter Maker.”