‘I intend to stay here as long as I can’: Grandma Betty sets example for Baraboo teens

Clad in her purple sneakers and pink fleece vest, Betty Krueger zips around the Baraboo High School lunchroom. She carries a neon green reusable grocery bag. Like a sweet Santa, she bustles from table to table, asking students whether they want to try her white chocolate chip cookies.

“They’ll mind me or all I have to say is, ‘I’m cutting off your cookie supply,'” Krueger said.

She said she always wanted to be a teacher. She was past retirement age when she decided to take a job at the middle school, which is where she earned her title.

“You know what, why don’t you call me Grandma Betty or Grandma?” Krueger said.

The name stuck. As soon as Grandma Betty retired, she started missing her students. Now, you can find her most weekdays at Baraboo High School.

“If you don’t get busy, you stay stagnant. You get old,” Krueger said.

Most school days, Krueger is responsible for supervising the cafeteria and making sure students are checking in before leaving for lunch. She’s also on voluntary cookie patrol.

“She’s a good example of someone who can always see the good in everyone and always be good and be happy and always be positive,” senior Wren Benson said.

“We can really say whatever we want with her and be real, let her know we’re having a good day or bad day,” senior Oscar Fernandez Hydzik said.

“It’s like she’s a grandma,” senior Kaya Ramnarace said. “She takes care of us. She cares about us. It’s just normal.”

The students said they also recognize how busy Grandma Betty stays. Along with working in the cafeteria, Krueger bakes about five days a week. She also works with the 4-H Club on sustainable crafts, such as birdbaths made of used vases and “garden flowers” made of thrift store plates. She crochets most days, making hats, blankets, fingerless gloves and afghans for area hospitals or the UW Extension. On top of that, the breast cancer survivor runs a program called Betty’s Bosom Buddies, crocheting breast prosthetics for women around the globe.

“There’s always something going on,” Krueger said.

Grandma Betty turned 80 years old last week, but she said she has no thought of retirement.

“I like working with the kids, and I intend to stay there as long as I can, as long as they’ll have me,” Krueger said.

To her “grandkids,” Krueger truly is family.

“It’s like I’ve got another part of my family just by happenstance,” Ramnarace said.

Krueger said the feeling is mutual.

“They’re my adopted grandkids. I’ve adopted them especially,” Krueger said, “and they’re remembered in my will because they’ve all done something special for Grandma.”

Benson, Fernandez Hydzik and Ramnarace are among the students written into Krueger’s will. Most will receive some of the collectibles or knickknacks she has around the house that remind her of them.

Grandma Betty said she just wants to make sure her kindness is passed on to the next generation.

“I figure that if I’ve lit just one candle or given inspiration for even one child to do something, then my work is done. I’ve made something,” Krueger said.

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