ABERDEEN, S.D. — Mary Anne Krause isn’t like most grandmothers. She used to work for the CIA.
Krause joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1987, when she was 48. A Java native, Krause worked for the intelligence agency for 17 years, spending two years each in Venezuela, Jamaica, Israel and Hawaii.
Krause, who worked as an executive assistant, had some interesting times in the CIA. Because her job was covert, she can’t talk much about them.
But she did have a code name. And when she worked in Venezuela and Jamaica, her employer’s main concerns were preventing the importation of drugs into the U.S., she said. When she worked in Tel Aviv, Israel, the focus was the peace process.
While in Israel, Krause said she worked in the control center that coordinated one visit by Hillary Clinton and three visits by then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Krause, 73, has lived in Aberdeen for about five years. She has 11 grandchildren and three great-granddaughters. This summer, she’s a volunteer campground host at Mina Lake Recreation Area.
“I think of myself as the mother of the campground,” she said.
People asking her about firewood don’t realize how good she is at putting out fires.
Krause enjoyed her time with the CIA, but it was stressful. That was because of government red tape and having many levels of superiors. Plus, she sometimes lived in countries that were not friendly to the U.S.
She had temporary duty assignments, lasting 62 days each, in Havana, Guantanamo Bay, Monrovia, Alaska, Guatemala, Mexico and Argentina.
“I say I went from the gutter, as in Kingston, Jamaica, to the mountaintop, as in Mount Sinai, Israel, where Moses got the Ten Commandments,” she said. “I’ve gone from Alaska to Argentina, from Moscow, Russia, to Hawaii.”
Her first tour of duty, which was in Caracas, Venezuela, was challenging. She was “fresh off the farm,” didn’t know the language and the streets were not arranged the way she expected, she said. But she survived.
She enjoyed her time in Israel the most because she felt she was doing something important.
Krause was living in Minneapolis when she joined the CIA. As part of the screening process, federal employees came to the Java cafe to check her background, she said. When she arrived in the Washington, D.C., area, she had to take a polygraph test twice. The testers, not familiar with Midwest values, thought she seemed a little too naive in the first test, she said.
Krause, who was born Mary Anne Anderson, has long been interested in seeing the world. When she was 3, she climbed up on a windmill to see what was on the other side of the hill.
Krause divides her life into five stages — so far. Married at 18, she gave birth to seven children while living on a farm 5 miles north of Java. After a divorce, she moved to Aberdeen in 1977, bringing three kids with her. Two others were in college. She worked 10 years for Control Data Corp. in Aberdeen.
Then in 1987, after all of her kids were older than 21, Krause moved to Minneapolis. For six months, she worked as director of advertising for the Orrin Thompson Homes company.
Her CIA experience began when she saw an ad headlined “Want to see the world?” in a Minneapolis paper. The interviews, conducted by the CIA, were at a Holiday Inn. Driving on the highway on a snowy day, she saw the hotel, but had trouble getting to it. After two misses, she told herself that if she didn’t make it on the third try, she’d go home. But she made it and was on her way to a career of gathering intelligence.
Krause has collected interesting items from around the world. Her attitude when traveling is “look like you belong and you can go anyplace you want to.”
She was well-compensated during her work around the world, she said. When she moved to Minneapolis, she had only her Ford Escort, some clothes, a TV, a sewing machine and $500 in cash.
She now owns, among other properties, a condo in Reston, Va., a twin home in Aberdeen, a condo in Hawaii and a three-plex apartment house in Aberdeen, which used to be on the farm where she raised her kids near Java.
Krause doesn’t know if she’s in Aberdeen to stay, but her future won’t include as much traveling as her past.
“I’m finally settling down,” she said.
But she’s open to further adventure.
Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com