At some point in our lives we are all guilty of believing that our current problem is the most important or worst possible thing we will ever encounter. Whether it be issues at work, relationship problems, or even disagreements with family members, sometimes we all lose focus on what’s really important.
Sometimes, things just aren’t as big a problem as we think they are. Sometimes, something suddenly happens to us, and we immediately realize that all of our other worries were truly trivial.
For Jason Krohn and his family, this dose of cold reality came in the form of the sudden and tragic death of Natalie Anne Krohn on September 29, 2012. The Krohn family didn’t just lose a beloved relative that day. Jason and Jennifer Krohn lost a seven-year-old daughter, while siblings, Samantha and Aaron, lost a little sister. It was a horror that is just unimaginable for any family to have to endure and forever changed the Krohns’ way of thinking.
“When something like this happens, you don’t move on for six months,” Jason Krohn says thoughtfully. “You relive the hurt every morning that you wake up, and you just do your best to get to the next day to fight through the pain all over again. You never truly mend. You are forever changed, but you find a way as a family to cope and persevere forward with a new way of seeing things.”
Jason Krohn has been around racing since the early 1990s. The Slayton, Minnesota, farmer became involved in the sport when a friend bought a race car. Jason spent a few years turning wrenches before getting behind the wheel for the first time in 1993 when the local Murray County Fair held an Enduro race.
“I was registering at the local NAPA Auto Parts, and they assigned me the number seven since I was the seventh registrant,” said Krohn. “I was really nervous come race day, but somehow I went out and outran 63 entries and won the deal. I was instantly hooked and No. 7 became my permanent number.”
Over the next few years Krohn began to expand his racing career. Working his way through the IMCA Hobby Stock and IMCA Stock Car ranks, he claimed dozens of wins in the late 1990s. By 2002 he was looking for a new challenge and bought his first Modified. And just as he did in the Stock Car world Krohn quickly excelled by finding Victory Lane early and often.
The 2005 season found Krohn traveling frequently as he pursued big money shows.
“I enjoyed traveling to new tracks and taking on tough competitors in the Modified ranks,” remembers Krohn. “I had big plans for 2006, but as often happens in life, my plans were abruptly changed.”
Jason’s father, Bill Krohn, passed away at the age of 88, and the younger Krohn was forced to park the car for the year to focus on obligations to the family farm.
Probably the biggest thing I have learned is that the greatest gift you can give others is your time. By giving someone your time you are giving something you will never get back. It’s truly life’s most precious resource.
– Jason Krohn
Despite not racing his own car in 2006, Krohn ran a few races in a friend’s car. He quickly discovered that not only did he miss going to the track every week, but that his children missed it, too. They were hooked on the sport as much as he was.“At the time, losing my dad was the hardest thing I had gone through,” Krohn says.
“He lived an amazing life, but it still hurt so bad to lose him. I thought that I might give up racing altogether, but then I came to the realization that I didn’t want to look back twenty years down the road and regret not enjoying life to the fullest. So we decided we were going to go full bore in 2007 with an aggressive racing schedule.”
In a true triumphant return to racing, Jason Krohn tackled the national scene in 2007 with the United States Modified Touring Series (USMTS) in a car built by Kelly Shryock. Krohn not only won his points region, but he also raced to the coveted USMTS National Championship in the season-ending “Hunt.”
Through the pain of losing his dad, Jason had learned to be stronger than he ever thought possible, and he learned to focus on new goals. With these lessons learned Krohn felt like he could handle anything dealt to him, but he would learn a few years later that for some things in life you just can’t be prepared.
While maintaining the family farm Krohn continued to race as much as possible, and his family loved every minute of it. His wife, Jennifer, attended the races as much as she could, while his children, Samantha, Aaron and Natalie, all loved going to the track. It gave them all a chance to spend quality time together as a family.
“Looking back, I obviously had no idea at the time, but those were truly the most amazing times of my life,” Krohn notes. “I’m truly blessed to have had those special days with all of my loved ones around me. Those are the memories you never forget.”
Seasons came and went on the track and in the farm fields. September 2012 found Krohn taking to the fields for the harvest earlier than normal due to a year of drought. By late September he was nearly done with his season’s harvest, and everything seemed to be moving along according to plan. However, life chose to cruelly intervene once again.
On September 29, 2012, Krohn was busily working while his seven-year-old daughter, Natalie, and her friend rode around the farm in the family’s Ranger ATV, as they often did. Jason let Natalie know that hauling trucks would be coming down the road soon so she should go park the Ranger to make sure she didn’t get stuck on the road with the trucks approaching. After their brief talk he ran into town. That was the last time he talked to his daughter.
Soon after, Jason received word that the Ranger had rolled over in a ditch. Natalie had not been wearing her seatbelt and was ejected from the driver’s seat, while her friend remained secured in the vehicle. Sadly, the vehicle landed on Natalie, resulting in severe injuries. Her friend ran a half mile to the Krohn family home to get help.
Natalie was rushed to the emergency room, and despite the best efforts of the physicians, she passed away from internal injuries. At only seven years old, Natalie Anne Krohn was laid to rest.
“I had seen friends deal with losing a child, and I thought that I had a pretty good idea of how they felt and what they were going through,” Krohn explains. “However, I quickly learned that I had no idea how bad it was going to hurt. It was tough losing my dad, but he lived a nice full life. To lose a child at just seven years old—that’s something totally different.”
The Krohns did their best to find a way to deal with their loss, and it wasn’t long before Jason realized what he had to do to get through it.
“In a situation like this, every member of the family grieves in a different way because we all lost an individual, specific part of our lives when we lost Natalie,” he says. “I decided I had to do something productive to take my mind off things, so I decided to go back racing in late October. It proved to be the best thing that I could’ve ever done.”
Jason Krohn and his family had experienced an outpouring of love and sympathy from the local community, and they also received extensive support from the racing community as well. But, the Krohns were soon to see exactly how special the racing family can truly be.
“We decided to go and run the big Modified show down at Southern New Mexico Speedway [Las Cruces, New Mexico] in late October 2012,” Krohn remembers. “[Track owner] Royal Jones found out we were coming and told me he wanted to pay tribute to Natalie. He found out her favorite song, which was ‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepsen and that she loved fireworks. From that he put together this amazing fireworks display that was set to her favorite song. It was beautiful. It meant so much to us, and I know Natalie was smiling down upon us as she watched it all from heaven.”
Yet that wasn’t the end of the story. The Krohns learned that sometimes tragedy leads to something meaningful and productive. As they continued to deal with their loss, Jason embarked on another busy season of racing in 2013. During his travels early in the year, he sat at the airport one day, preparing to head to Texas, when fate found him crossing paths with Jessica Miller from the organization Karsyn’s Krusaders.
“I had heard of Karsyn’s Krusaders, and I knew that they helped families dealing with childhood cancer,” Krohn says. “As I sat there at the airport that day talking to Jessica, my heart was moved to hear what they did to try and ease the pain for these afflicted families.”
For Krohn it was a no-brainer that this was the type of effort he could really support.
“I immediately knew that this was a cause I wanted to help,” he explains. “In Natalie’s memory I wanted to do whatever I could to raise money to help these parents during their darkest of times. From my own experience I knew I could never take the pain away, but if I could help lessen it for even a little bit, then my goal would be achieved.
Since that fateful meeting in February 2013, the Krohn family has now raised thousands of dollars for Karsyn’s Krusaders, as well as other charities. A recent promotion in 2014 found Krohn and Rodney Sanders, who just happens to be the boyfriend of Jason’s daughter Samantha, competing in a good-natured rivalry that raised over $8,000 for the foundation.
Just as when his father passed away, Krohn made the decision to forge ahead in racing and try something different after his daughter lost her life. He purchased his first Dirt Late Model in 2013 and began sharing the seat with Sanders, when not competing in the Modified ranks.
“I was reminded again that you just have to live life and make the most of it,” Krohn says. “I always wanted to try driving a Dirt Late Model, and my family encouraged me to keep going, so I got one. I realized that you can’t look back and wish you had done something, and it just happens. At the end of my time I don’t want to have any regrets, so I’m going to live life.”
When something like this happens…you are forever changed, but you find a way as a family to cope and persevere forward with a new way of seeing things.
“I know people don’t want to mention Natalie because they worry that it will upset me, but the reality is that I already think about Natalie every day. When they mention her name it just makes me happy because it shows me that they still think about her, too. She was a very special little girl, and now she’s my special little angel.”
While the farm is still top priority for Jason, he loves spending time at the track with his family as much as ever. His 18-year-old son, Aaron, now races regularly, and his daughter frequents the track as much as possible. A relatively new addition to the family is Samantha’s daughter, Bella, who is now four years old.
“Any grandchild is going to get spoiled, but Bella is really spoiled by me,” Krohn says with a laugh. “She is very unique, but also in so many ways she reminds me so much of Natalie. I greatly value our time together, and she is a true blessing.”
Speaking of time well spent is Jason’s best piece of advice to families in their daily life.
“Probably the biggest thing I have learned in dealing with the loss of Natalie is that the greatest gift you can give others is your time,” he says. “You only have a certain amount of time. You can always go and make more money to buy worldly items. However, by giving someone your time you are giving something you will never get back. It’s truly life’s most precious resource.”