Richard Kraham, educator, athlete, decorated WWII veteran
CHATHAM — Richard Kraham — noted area educator, baseball player and highly decorated Army Air Corps veteran of World War II — died September 13, 2011 with his family at his side. He was 89.
Mr. Kraham was a respected Chatham High School teacher and principal from 1950 to 1977.
He was born in Cooperstown November 14, 1921, the son of Sarah and Michael Kraham. He graduated in 1940 from Cooperstown High School, where his exceptional baseball skills were noted by the New York Herald Tribune, when the paper wrote an article about him: “Birthplace of Baseball May Spawn Star.” While working in advertising in Manhattan in 1941, Mr. Kraham had a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers and went to spring training with the team and was assigned to the Olean farm team in the New York Pennsylvania League. World War II cut short his professional baseball career.
Mr. Kraham enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was part of the 15th Air Force 98th bomb, 345th squadron. He flew 50 missions over Nazi-held Europe from bases in Tunisia, Libya, and later Italy in B-24 aircraft as a radio operator and waist gunner.
While on a bombing mission over Toulon, France, Kraham’s flight warming suit, connected to the plane’s electrical system, caught fire as the fleet was being strafed by German ME 109 aircraft. At his personal peril, he continued fighting from his waist gunner position and shot down three enemy fighter planes. He was awarded one of the Air Force’s highest honors, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, for his heroism. The citation read: “This medal is awarded to Richard Kraham of the Armed Forces of the United States who distinguished himself in combat in support of operations by heroism while participating in an aerial flight.”
After the war, Mr. Kraham met and fell in love with Jane P. Harris of Lockport, and the couple wed June 29, 1946.
Mr. Kraham graduated with a B.A. in history from Hartwick College in Oneonta and later obtained his M.A. from the University of Buffalo. In 1950 he and wife, both teachers, were hired to teach in the Chatham School system. Mr. Kraham taught history.
In 1961 he was made high school principal, a position he held until 1978. He was later a member of the school board.
Mr. Kraham was a member of the Sanford W. Smith Hook and Ladder Company of the Chatham Fire Department and was its president in the mid-’50s. He was also a member of the Chatham Blue Sox team of the Columbia County Twilight League and even at the advanced sports age of 36 still drew the attention of professional scouts. He also coached Little League teams and was JV baseball and football coach at Chatham High.
Mr. Kraham is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Jane; his daughter, Robin Julian (Robert) of Amherst, NH; son Keith of Cooperstown; and sons John (Michele) and Rich (Sally) of Chatham and Socorro Uribe Kraham of Chatham. He is also survived by his sister, Frances Watson, and brother, William Kraham.
He also leaves his grandchildren Sarah Kraham, Zachary Kraham, Kathryn Kraham, Kevin Kraham, Brendon Kraham, Caitlin Julian, Brendan Julian, Alexandra Kraham Willhite and Bryan Kraham. He is survived by eight great grandchildren.
Mr. Kraham was predeceased by his beloved granddaughter Meghan Kraham and by his sisters Helen, Kathryn, Mary, Gertrude, Madeline, and brothers Robert, Paul, Charles and John.
The wake is planned for Friday, September16 from 4 to 7 p.m. at St. James Catholic Church in Chatham. The funeral is scheduled for Saturday, September 17 at 9 a.m. also at St. James. Burial will be later that afternoon in Cooperstown at the Catholic Cemetery. Donations in Mr. Kraham’s name can be sent to the Chatham Central School in care of the Richard Kraham Booster Club Award.