BLISSFIELD - Grace I. Krueger, whose homemade gooey coffee cakes and fresh doughnuts had people lining up to buy them at farmers markets in Toledo and Ann Arbor, died Tuesday in her home of complications from congestive heart failure. She was 88.
Her baking skills were learned after her marriage to Leonard Krueger in 1944 after her first husband died in a work accident, Mark Krueger, her son, said.
The couple moved to Mr. Krueger's farm north of Blissfield where, with advice from her mother and mother-in-law, Mrs. Krueger taught herself to cook. Until then, she made meals from food acquired at small groceries in Michigan towns where she lived.
"My dad was a farmer's farmer," her son said. "When they got together, everything they ate came out of the barn or out of the garden. They raised all of their food, and Mother wasn't quite used to it.
"She said that was about the biggest adjustment she ever made. It was so much different. It was so much harder. But they adjusted to life quite well."
Mrs. Krueger began selling baked goods from her home to neighbors and friends at Emmanuel United Methodist Church, where she was a member. On the 55-acre farm, her husband grew corn and lima beans, kept milk cows, pigs, and chickens.
She took her baked goods to sell when she accompanied her husband to farmers markets in Toledo, beginning in the late 1950s. They sold under the name the Sweet Spot Orchard.
"Her specialty was the doughnuts," her son said. "There would be people waiting there so they could be the first ones while they were still warm in the package."
Another favorite was pecan caramel coffee cakes. She once made 500 coffee cakes over several days. "When she got there, people were buying them by the half dozen."
To get all her baking done, she used three huge ovens and a large table in her kitchen to prepare her sweets. She and her husband remained affiliated with the Toledo Farmers Market until 1981.
Mrs. Krueger was by nature an optimistic person, her son said. "She was a very forgiving person," he said. "She was always looking on the bright side of everything and everybody."
Even after her son's divorce left lingering tension, his mother kept in touch with his former wife, sending cards on birthdays and at Christmas.
"I would say she was that way because she had Jesus in her life," her son said. "You could see that in her face."
A graduate of Napoleon High School near Jackson, Mich., Mrs. Krueger enjoyed oil painting.
Her first husband, Herschell Brown, died in 1942. Her husband, Leonard, died in 2001.
Surviving are her daughters, Sally De La Cruz and Linda Bassett; sons, Lee Brown and Paul Krueger; sister, Donna Hamlin; 16 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. today at Emmanuel United Methodist Church. Arrangements are by the Tagsold Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to Emmanuel United Methodist Church or to the Hospice of Lenawee.