Medford L. Krieger, 1923-2012: WWII vet became theater owner


Medford L. Krieger, a former Sylvania resident whose boxing skills in the Army during World War II led to special treatment as a driver for U.S. generals in London in the lead up to the Normandy invasion, died Tuesday at Clare Bridge senior community in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Mr. Krieger, 89, died of dementia, his son John said.

Mr. Krieger and his sons John and James built the first movie theater in Lambertville in 1973. The Jerry Lewis Cinema franchise at Secor and Sterns roads stayed in the family’s hands until 1981, when it was sold. It closed in 1987.

Mr. Krieger was born in Adrian on Aug. 5, 1923, and moved to Sylvania at a young age, his son John said. He graduated from the former Burnham High School in 1942 and enlisted in the Army.

He was an infantry marksman who fought in the Normandy invasion in 1944 and in the Battle of the Bulge and in the Ardennes campaign in northern France, his son said.

He learned to box as a child. He and his brothers were given boxing gloves for Christmas by their father’s employer. The siblings would box each other and anyone else who wanted to take them on, John said.

“Nobody at school would ever mess with them,” said his daughter Paulette Balogh.

He honed his skills in the Army. “Because he was a boxer he got special treatment,” said his son. 

His boxing status led to a job in England driving U.S. generals to meetings in London for the planning of the D-Day invasion, son John said.

Mr. Krieger refused to teach his own sons to box, John Krieger said.

“Any discussion about him teaching us to box, he’d say, ‘You need to work hard and go to school. You don’t need to fight. If you fight someone and win, you lose a friend.’”

Two years ago, Mr. Krieger participated in an Honor Flight visit to the World War II memorial. His doctor ruled out flying because of a stroke risk, so after the breakfast for the participants, his sons John and James drove their father to Washington to join the group.

John Krieger said that trip helped his father open up about his experiences during the war.

Mr. Krieger owned a trucking business and a concrete business and usually held two jobs at once. He was a foreman for 20 years in the testing department at the General Motors transmission plant, now GM Powertrain, on Alexis Road. He went on disability in 1973, about two years after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor in his brain, his daughter said.

In 1971 he and his sons began building the Bedford Cinema after obtaining a franchise. He chose the Jerry Lewis franchise because it was family oriented, his son said.

“He always wanted to be in business for himself,” John said.

It was during that time he developed the tumor and his sons took over construction. Several weeks after the operation, Mr. Krieger was back on the site, pouring concrete and laying bricks, his son said.

After selling the theater in 1981 he retired, and he and his wife, Phyllis, moved to Traverse City, Mich.

His brain tumor returned in 1995 and a second operation followed.

Despite the two tumors, partial paralysis in the face, and balance issues, he soldiered on in everything he did, his son John said. “He wasn’t a complainer. He was a doer.” 

He returned to the Toledo area about five years ago when his wife of 59 years died, John said. He moved to suburban Detroit to be closer to his daughter Paulette.

Mr. Krieger is survived by sons John, James, and Samuel; daughters Patricia Whittman, Paulette Balogh, and Joan Vargas; 16 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his four brothers and a sister.

Visitation is to be 5 to 9 p.m. today at Reed Funeral Home, Sylvania, where the funeral is to be at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Memorials are suggested to Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Jim Sielicki,or 419-724-6050.