Ken Krueger passed away on Saturday, November 21, 2009. As had Shel Dorf, Ken had been on dialysis for an extended period of time. Then late last month, Ken had broken his hip in a fall, and while recuperating he contracted pneumonia and then finally succumbed to a heart attack. He will be sorely missed by family and friends.
As a teenager, Ken Krueger attended the first-ever science fiction convention, the 1939 Worldcon. As an adult, thirty years later, he helped create what has become the premier comics and pop-culture convention, Comic-Con International, for which he served as chairman of the first full convention in August, 1970. In the intervening and subsequent years, Ken was active as a mail-order book seller, book store owner, small-press publisher, periodical distributor and distributor’s rep, and all-around friend to fans and fandom, serving as mentor and life coach to many young fans and aspiring professionals.
In the sixties and seventies, society in general looked down on science-fiction fans much more so than today, but even science-fiction fans looked down on comic fans. Not so Ken. He always made us feel welcome. Ken even went on to become an indie or underground comics publisher himself, publishing some of the first professional work of Scott Shaw! and John Pound.
Back in the early Comic-Con days, Ken was busy with his book store and happy doing his own thing and didn’t seek responsibility and position for himself. But when the need was there, he could be counted on to step in and do what was necessary. Ken knew how, if you will forgive the indelicate expression, to not take crap from people. That was a valuable skill, and among our little first-year convention committee, he alone had mastered it. When convention day rolled around and the inevitable problems with people, things, and situations cropped up, unflappable Ken could be counted on to fill in the cracks, smooth over the bumps, and keep things rolling along.
Ken and Shel were good friends and they kept in touch throughout the years. They first met at the bookstore that Ken co-owned with long-time fan John Hull in San Diego’s Ocean Beach community. Eventually, Shel would spend a number of years living in spare quarters at that store, during which time he and Ken really got to know one another. They shared great regard and appreciation, each one for the other.
All of Ken’s friends and admirers can be take comfort in the knowledge that Ken was able to enjoy two very special events just four months ago. First, the Comic-Con committee generously flew Ken and his daughter-caregiver to San Diego to be a special guest for the 40th Comic-Con celebration. There, Ken appeared as a star member of the “Secret Origins of Comic-Con” panel during the first day of the convention. Then the night of that same day, there was a special dinner honoring Ken at one of his favorite restaurants from his old San Diego days, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto in San Diego’s Little Italy. The dinner was a wonderful experience for all who were there, and was organized by a great friend of Ken’s, comics creator and publisher Jim Valentino. (See a gallery of Jim’s photos of this event at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=32490&id=1312309500&l=c8b8d60a5d.)
We expect to have more to write about Ken in the days ahead but for now we will close by saying that Ken had a full life and made a special place for himself in the hearts of so many others who will miss him now.