Former German exchange student donates $15,000 to THS STEM programs

Siegfried Nolte passed away Sept. 25, 2019


Courtesy of Dee Dreger

TOMAHAWK – In 1969-1970, a 17-year-old boy from Berlin, Germany arrived in Tomahawk as a high school exchange student. His host parents were Don and Janiece Hendricks, along with their family of five children. Don was the Tomahawk Middle School Principal and Janiece was a Tomahawk Elementary School teacher. This is how Siegfried Nolte was introduced to Tomahawk, Wis., and the United States.

Siegfried was admittedly not very fond of school; however, he did as he was instructed. He really enjoyed his science, math, and especially his physics classes with Mr. Braeman. He often said how much Mr. Braeman inspired him.

After finishing high school in Tomahawk, Siegfried returned to Germany to attend university. Those were the early years of computers, which Siegfried was intrigued by and drawn to study. Computers and IT became Siegfried’s lifelong interest and career.

However, Siegfried discovered a new passion once he was established as an adult, and that was for flying. Siegfried began flying in Germany, but upon a return visit to the U.S. to visit and reconnect with Janiece and family, he discovered that Tomahawk had an airport and a flight instructor, Bob (Tubby) Lussow.

Siegfried Nolte as he flew with Dee Dreger in the 2018 AirVenture Cup Race. “We came in 2nd in our Class. Look how happy he was!” Dreger said.

It was at the Tomahawk Regional Airport that Siegfried began flying lessons to acquire a USA FAA certificate. Not only did Siegfried earn his Private Pilot Certificate here, but he also earned his Instrument Rating here.

Siegfried returned to Tomahawk every year for the next 30+ years, sometimes twice each year, to not only visit his “American family,” but to enjoy his flying privileges in the U.S. Due to all the flight regulations and expense of flying in Europe, Siegfried stated it was much less expensive to fly in the U.S. He flew not only around the Tomahawk area, but he flew with his wife, Renate Rajek, around the country as tourists. He had many adventures through flying.

In 2017, Siegfried was diagnosed with colon cancer. He fought with a Herculean effort to battle this disease only to succumb to it on Sept. 25, 2019. He was 67 years old.

Prior to his passing, Siegfried made arrangements to settle his estate. With that, he wanted to disperse his wealth to those he loved and to institutions he cherished. Siegfried made a generous contribution towards a Learn to Fly Scholarship to be used at Tomahawk Regional Airport.

However, his most generous contribution was for $15,000 to Tomahawk High School to be used towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) instruction, projects and programs.

This check was presented to District Administrator Terry Reynolds on Sept. 23, 2019, just two days prior to Siegfried’s passing. Siegfried was scheduled to come to Tomahawk on Sept. 7, 2019, for one last journey “home,” but he decided he wasn’t strong enough to travel that far. He had wanted to present the check to Mr. Reynolds himself, but he asked Bill and Dee Dreger to present it in his absence.

Tomahawk is a wonderful place to live, learn and grow. For some, it might have taken a foreign citizen to show that. Siegfried will be missed, but very much appreciated for all his contributions.

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