Kruses’ 12 years in “God’s hotel,” King’s House

HENRY — The phone rang in the office of Gail Kruse at King’s House, the Diocese of Peoria’s well-known retreat center. Well, maybe not known well by everyone.

“Can I talk to Mr. King?” the caller asked.

“You sure can,” answered Gail, not missing a beat and referring to Christ the King, for whom the complex nestled on a 50-acre Illinois River bluff site is named. “Come on over.”

For more than a dozen years, Gail and her husband, Deacon Fred Kruse, have offered a welcoming spirit of hospitality to some 30,000 guests at what Gail refers to as “God’s hotel.” The Kruses, who recently observed their 50th wedding anniversary, are stepping down in the coming weeks.

The Diocese of Peoria has announced that a religious community new to the diocese, the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, will arrive in mid-October to manage the facility.

“It’s been a fantastic experience,” said Fred, a plumber by trade who served as director of King’s House and handled maintenance needs. “We’re truly going to miss it.”

Gail took care of office duties including telephones, scheduling, meal planning and advertising.

Deacon Kruse was selected by the Diocese of Peoria to direct King’s House in 1996 after it was obtained from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the religious order that built the complex in 1964 and managed it for 32 years.

The Kruses are the only full-time staff at King’s House, but they are assisted by a dozen part-timers including four in housekeeping contracted through Gateway Services of Princeton. Area high school students and “working moms” assist in the dining room and kitchen. A bookkeeper, Doris Brown, “keeps us on track.”

After leaving their residence at King’s House, the Kruses will continue to live along the Illinois River. They have purchased a home on River Beach Drive south of Chillicothe. Fred will continue his diaconate ministry at St. Mary of the Woods Parish in Princeville. They will have more time to travel and visit family, including their nine grandchildren.

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