Newspapers are all about the names of people readers know, and the Daily Union printed a lot them last year.
Many area folks made headlines because they received statewide and national honors. For instance, Sullivan and Jefferson East elementary schools art teacher Chelsea Miller was named Wisconsin’s Elementary Teacher of the Year, Fort Atkinson’s Rockwell Elementary School art teacher Susie Belzer was recognized as Wisconsin Art Educator of the Year, Whitewater’s Steve Meisner was inducted into the Polka Hall of Fame and Aztalan’s Danielle Chwala was crowned as Wisconsin Hereford Queen.
Two area women, Lake Mills’ Cassandra Krull and Milton’s Abigail Martin, were among the top five finalists for Alice in Dairyland, with Martin capturing the crown. Jefferson’s Ryan Nelson was named “Ironman” for being the most physically fit among his fellow U.S. Marine Corps boot camp recruits; Dave Stedman of Fort Atkinson was selected to put on the ritz and dance at a National Kidney Foundation fundraiser; and Kayleigh Borchardt of Palmyra was the No. 1 Girl Scout cookie seller in Wisconsin, having sold 4,316 boxes of the sweet treats.
And then there was Lisa Jensen of the Town of Jefferson. An employee of Fort HealthCare, she was the Palmyra-Eagle High School nurse who, along with her trained team, saved the life of a teacher who suffered a major heart attack while in class.
Watertown’s Dale Reich washed the graves of 1,500 veterans and their spouses in Jefferson County cemeteries; Dwight Watson was named chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater; PBS television host John McGivern debuted his “Around the Corner” episode in Jefferson; Jefferson Middle School’s investment team placed second in state competition; and Fort Atkinson’s David Stedman danced with the stars to promote organ donation.
Longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner announced he would not be running for re-election, and state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald said he would run for the 9th Congressional District seat. The 50th anniversary of the moon landing was celebrated in Fort Atkinson with native John Wolfram speaking on his experience as the first Navy “frogman” to greet Apollo 11 after splashdown.
Sadly, Jefferson County bid farewell to a lot of people during 2019. Among them were Lake Mills Fire Department Capt. Chris Truman, who was fatally struck by a car on Madison’s Beltline while helping a stranded motorist on a snowy New Year’s Eve; and Florence Falk, the retired Fort Memorial Hospital obstetrics nurse who was a “mother” to three generations of babies born under her watch.
Then there were World War II veteran Lavern Borchardt of Fort Atkinson, who turned 100 years old in May and served as the city’s Memorial Day parade marshal, and fellow centenarian Fannie Hicklin, a trailblazing retired theater professor at UW-Whitewater who passed away at age 101.
Many well-known folks retired from their jobs last year, including Barb Frank after 22 years as Jefferson County clerk; Joe Nehmer as Jefferson County Parks Department director for four decades; veteran Waterloo Fire Chief Vern Butzine and longtime Johnson Creek Fire Chief Jim Wolf.
Dr. David Rutledge retired after leading the Rock River Free Clinic, and was succeeded by Mary Beck-Metzger. Jefferson County Dental Clinic director Barb Morrison Gudgeon also retired, replaced by Cori Olin and Gabby Rizzo.
Barb Endl, the sparkplug who ignited Tomorrow’s Hope and kept it going for more than 22 years, retired as the health charity’s president, with Amanda Barber and Todd Wiederhoeft stepping in to fill her shoes. Lisa Patefield and Sara Lastusky retired as executive director and community outreach coordinator, respectively, of the Humane Society of Jefferson County, having played vital roles in the animal shelter’s construction project, growth and programming efforts. Also, longtime Jefferson educator, coach and administrator Dan Wilharm announced his upcoming retirement at the end of the semester.
Hundreds of alumni and family members showed up at Fort Atkinson High School for a reunion of one-room schoolhouse attendees from throughout Jefferson County, and the Class of 1962, the first graduates of Lakeside Lutheran High School in Lake Mills, got together at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fort Atkinson after 57 years to reminisce.
Speaking of reminiscing, we’re finally done for 2019.
And we look forward to covering all the people, places and things in Jefferson County in the days and months to come.