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September 18, 2001


Missing DPS Badge Travels Home

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Like Rip Van Winkle, a mystery memento reappears and awakens memories of the proud past of a Texas law enforcement family.

The artifact was a Highway Patrol badge-missing since the 1930s--that was found in a Dallas-Fort Worth area creek decades later. It had belonged to a young Texas Highway Patrolman who later became a Texas Ranger. Discovered by chance--or fate, it eventually made its way back to the original owner's son--himself now a retired Texas Ranger. But that's just the beginning of the story.

Jerry Beck Jr. remembers that day well. Beck, his wife and their dog were taking advantage of a sunny spring afternoon in 1990 near Everman on the outskirts of Fort Worth. There, partially buried on a sandbar in the middle of Village Creek, his wife spied the sleeping keepsake.

"I thought it was a toy badge when I first picked it up," recalls Beck, a security guard at Alcon Laboratories in Fort Worth.

Immediately fascinated with his new find, the badge quickly became a source of pride. Beck prominently displayed his archeological find in a shadow box on his wall. The mystery badge inspired many a conversation as guests often inquired as to its origin. There it sat for more than 10 years. Its onetime owner, meanwhile, passed away.

At the end of 2000, work-related circumstances brought Beck into contact with Robert Gaines, a Texas Department of Public Safety License & Weight trooper stationed in Cleburne. The conversation eventually turned to the memento--and the investigation was on, as Gaines eagerly offered to help track down the owner.

For the next few weeks, the two talked almost daily--sometimes over lunch--as Trooper Gaines updated Beck on their search for the man behind the badge.

Gaines' efforts paid off when he tracked down retired Ranger Glenn Krueger in Beeville. They quickly realized that the badge had belonged to Krueger's now-deceased dad, who had retired from the Rangers in 1969. He had died in 1994 at the age of 90--four years after his old Highway Patrol badge was found. A homecoming was set in motion.

After the heirloom was reunited with the family in February, Beck spoke with Krueger by phone. He remembers an emotional conversation. Krueger's wife was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery.

"He told me this was one of the few good things in his life right now and that he felt like he was getting a piece of his dad back," he recalls a choked up Krueger saying.

The Department of Public Safety had only been in existence for two years when Bennie Krueger joined the Highway Patrol in 1937. A year later, the new patrolman proudly wore this same badge as he lead a parade in Llano on his motorcycle.

It was shortly afterward that Krueger believes the badge was stolen during a home burglary while his family visited relatives in Washington on the Brazos in 1938. Just 12 years old, he remembers seeing five men having car trouble on the side of the road as they returned from an outing. The men would not make eye contact when his dad asked if they needed help.

The suspects and the jewelry were never seen again. The badge, amazingly, resurfaced 52 years later and nearly 200 miles away--an echo of an earlier time, reuniting a son with his late father's legacy.

Krueger had followed in his dad's footsteps, joining DPS as a Highway Patrolman in 1948 and retiring a Texas Ranger in 1986. He helped crack the Witte Museum heist in San Antonio in 1968 when the world's largest canary yellow diamond was stolen. (The diamond was never recovered.)

"I'm just indebted to the men who helped bring this back into our family, it means so much to me," said Krueger, whose wife is now fully recovered from her bout with cancer. "My dad has an exhibit in the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco--and this will probably end up in a museum someday."

For his part, Trooper Gaines feels like he helped make history right.

"It's the story behind the badge," said Gaines. "This man was somebody who paved the way in some small way for the rest of us here at DPS."

Beck still cherishes the experience and his role in bringing a piece of Texas history full circle.

"This is the kind of story you read in books and I was a part of it," says Beck. "I've always admired the Texas Rangers, so that's just icing on the cake."

But maybe the best story hasn't even been told yet. It fires up the imagination to wonder what journeys and intrigues a lawman's badge witnesses in the company of desperados in the rough and tumble 30s and 40s.

"If only that badge could talk," Beck wonders aloud.

Then again, it might simply say; "It's good to be home."

Career notes: Bennie Krueger's DPS career lasted from 1937 to 1969. His Highway Patrol assignments included Austin, Federicksburg, San Antonio, Del Rio and Corpus Christi. His Ranger assignments included Austin, Alice, George West, Fairfield and Athens.

Glenn Krueger's DPS career spanned 1948 to 1986. His Highway Patrol assignments included Falfurrias, Harlingen, Beeville and Kingsville. His Ranger station was Beeville.