Judyrae Kruse gave Herald readers so much more than homespun recipes. With the Forum, her longtime column, she connected local cooks as Snohomish County neighbors. She shared stories of great meals, restaurant specialties, and how food and heritage are intertwined. And she offered glimpses into the life of the family she loved.
Kruse died Tuesday evening at Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood after a four-year struggle with cancer. She was 74.
“She made hundreds of friends through her column,” said Wayne Kruse, Judyrae’s husband of 53 years and a fishing and hunting writer at The Daily Herald. “She considered it talking over the back fence to people. It was interactive before interactive became a buzzword.”
He said his wife estimated that in 36 years she wrote 2,496 Forum columns and received about 14,400 letters.
The Forum was created by Nancy Erickson, a long-ago “women’s editor” at The Herald. Judyrae took over in 1977, lending her folksy voice to the recipe-exchange column. Although she retired in 2013, reruns of favorite Forum columns — among them a “just so good” dinner-in-a-pumpkin recipe — came back to the food pages in 2015.
“How’s the cookie jar at your house?” she once wrote in that friendly, unmistakably Judyrae style. “If it’s down to not much more than leftover bits and pieces and crumbs, it’s probably time to plump it up again.”
Surely what mattered to many readers wasn’t getting their hands on recipes for — yes — fish stick casserole or chocolate sauerkraut cake. The Forum was a venue for conversation.
Readers sent answers to others’ questions, and told their stories.
“Everyone who wrote in got their name in the paper,” Wayne Kruse said.
Judyrae Hardesty Kruse was born in Seattle on May 30, 1942, to Lola and Marsden Hardesty. She attended Seattle’s Lincoln High School and the University of Washington. Along with her husband, she is survived by sons Morgan and Murray Kruse; daughters-in-law Theresa and Lisa; grandsons Keegan, Conner and Tanner; and sister Marla Kringle.
Judyrae and Wayne Kruse settled years ago at their Lake Cavanaugh dream house in Skagit County, where they enjoyed the outdoors. Herald readers came to know their family through the Forum and Wayne’s articles.
He said his wife was a great cook who tried many Forum recipes for her family. She once wrote that “If I’m ever to see my husband and sons again, I’d better learn how to fish” — and she did.
She shared the family’s travels in the Forum. “What makes a meal memorable?” she wrote in 1998. “Personally, I remember with great delight a magical dinner with my husband and sons in Mystic, Conn.; wonderful oysters and a tableful of steamed blue crabs at St. Michael’s on Chesapeake Bay; incredible Hungarian food in Halifax, Nova Scotia; a magnificent and lifesaving steak pie in a small Welsh village; a fabulous feast at a Portuguese place in New Bedford, Mass.”
In a 1997 article about a fishing trip on the Snohomish River, Wayne Kruse wrote: “I poured a steaming cup of coffee from my battered old jug and unwrapped one of Judyrae’s sandwiches — a masterpiece of pastrami and poupon mustard.”
Wayne Kruse said his wife was a voracious reader who also grew African violets as a hobby. “She loved our dogs, usually Springer spaniels and Labradors, and our cats, Badger and Magic,” he added.
In a 2008 Forum column, with a note about Dr. Seuss-inspired “Who Cakes” at IHOP restaurants, Judyrae shared her love of reading and of her grandsons: “A good book is vastly improved by its audience,” she wrote, adding that her family was on its third copies of several children’s classics. “We started with sons Morgan and Murray, happily continued with grandsons Keegan and Conner, and here we are again, lucky, lucky, lucky, reading to our third grandson, Tanner the Toddler.”
As The Herald’s features editor from 1992 to 1997, I was also Judyrae’s editor. Her three weekly columns arrived like clockwork, ahead of deadline and typo-free.
She included contributors’ letters, most handwritten and some with coffee or food stains.
It isn’t easy, writing three columns a week for decades. Judyrae made it look easy. More than a how-to, her Forum was a comforting conversation — spiced with love.
No memorial service is planned. Donations in memory of Judyrae Kruse may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: www.stjude.org.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.