A armed forces veteran and member of the Stoughton Police Department, Paul Kraby was honored by both last week.
Stoughton American Legion Post 59 commander Sonny Swangstu and finance officer Jim Oler visited the police station March 21 to present a $1,000 check to the department’s Paul Kraby Memorial Fund. The SPD uses the fund honoring the fallen officer to provide a scholarship for a high school senior going into law enforcement.
Born in Toten, Norway, in 1889, Kraby moved to Stoughton in 1907, following in the path of several uncles who had recently emigrated here. During World War I, he served in the U.S. Army 37th Infantry Division, seeing combat in France and Belgium during the final months of the war.
In January 1934, he joined the Stoughton Police Department as its third member. According to a history of Kraby’s life written in 2016 by his relative, Stoughton resident Bob Burull, the Depression-era times hit the area hard, with scarce money and jobs and plenty of illegal liquor. It wasn’t a great time to be an outnumbered police officer, but Kraby nonetheless joined in the “fight the growing evil of illegal activities.”
“Stoughton at the time was in spiritual and bad moral straits,” Burull wrote. “There was a lot of bootlegging, some prostitution, and some of the businessmen had been compromised.”
During the early morning of September 30, 1934, while Kraby was walking the beat along East Main Street by the railroad depot, a gunman stepped out of the shadows in ambush and shot him in the head, killing him instantly. Kraby is Stoughton’s only known officer to be killed on duty.
A suspect in Kraby’s murder was put on trial but acquitted, and the murder remains unsolved. It also remained forgotten for decades until 2016, when Stoughton police officers Steve Gracy, Lt. Daniel Jenks and Sgt. Nathan Hartwig discovered his story while searching a national database listing police officers killed in the line of duty. When they saw there was nothing around the city to honor their fallen comrade, they arranged an honor guard memorial ceremony with Kraby’s relatives in October at his graveside, and the dedication of a plaque in his honor at the department and establishment of the scholarship.