Jerry Krause on a gorgeous late summer day, the shuffling clouds parting for bright blue skies, really was smiling down on his wife, Thelma, and the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 Thursday as the inductees were presented their emblematic blazers on the eve of the official enshrinement at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
"One of the first things I saw was his picture," Thelma Krause said about entering for the Naismith Hall of Fame for a press conference and gathering of the new class. "He smiled at me, so hopefully he does know. I'd like to think he does. He would be thrilled and honored and so happy his children and grandchildren were here to participate; he loved sports, he loved scouting and being part of organizations.
"I am so honored for him," Thelma said. "I know how much this would mean for him."
It was a joyful, yet bittersweet day for Thelma and the Krause family as Jerry, the Bulls general manager who oversaw six championships in the 1990s as part of a long executive career in basketball, received the ultimate basketball honor. But he was not there to celebrate since he passed away, actually just shortly before the announcement.
"I would have preferred at least he knew about it," said Thelma. "I think that's the saddest thing; not that he isn't here, which is sad in of itself, but the fact it was just a couple of weeks difference for when he passed away and the announcement was made."
Though it doesn't diminish the honor or the feeling of pride for his family.
"If the family wasn't here it wouldn't have the same meaning," said Thelma. "That helped me get through it. They were in the audience and I could look at them and it would have meant everything to Jerry, too."
Though it was the job first, and because it was and it was such a passion, the honor was perhaps inevitable.
"His accomplishments," Thelma said when asked about the sources of professional pride for Jerry. "The fact he really loved what he did and had the ability to do it and that he just was able to because of Jerry Reinsdorf; to do the job he knew how to do. It's fabulous he was able to be accomplished in both sports (with baseball scouting for multiple teams). He worked hard and got results. He knew his job and when he was allowed to do it he did it well; the results speak for themselves.
"He would say, 'I never worked a day in my life,'" recalled Thelma. "He was a kid in candy store."
Though Thelma acknowledged sometimes even Jerry admitted he stayed too long.
"He lived it," she said about Krause's legendary manic work ethic. "There was little separation. He admitted in his later years that he had his priorities wrong, that he gave far too much to whatever job he was doing, that he did not prioritize his family the way he later came to recognize he would have wanted to. I think what bothered him (overall) was the misperception, the willingness of people to never believe him and believe the other people who were more popular."
Still, Thelma didn't hesitate when asked of what Jerry was most proud.
"Giving Stacy away at her wedding," she said. "That's the most proud."