Bio: Medenwaldt, Don & Jane (Lifetime Achievement Award - 2012)
Contact: Robert Lipprandt
Surname: Medenwaldt, O’Brien
----Source: The Tribune - Phonograph (Abbotsford, Clark Co., Wisconsin) Wednesday, February 8, 2012, pages 1 & 16
Medenwaldt’s mark 46 years of serving Abby community; by Kevin O’Brien
Ever since Don and Jane Medenwaldt moved to Abbotsford in 1966, they’ve been contributing to their community, both as public educators and advocates for the city they’ve decided to call home.
Outside of their respective careers in public service, Don spent 35 years as a teacher at Abbotsford High School and Jane worked for 34 years as the city’s library director. The couple has given their time and talents to various civic groups and city endeavors. "We believe in being involved in the community and we believe in public service," Don said.
The Medenwaldt’s will be honored for their contributions with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Abbotsford-Colby Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet on Sunday in Curtiss.
The Medenwald’s first moved to Abbotsford in the mid-1960’s after Don accepted a teaching job at Abbotsford High School. Having earned his teaching degree at UW-Superior, he had been employed at Melrose-Mindoro for two years previously. He went on to cover a wide range of subjects in Abby, including history, economics and psychology.
They had driven through this area numerous times before moving here, and during one of these trips on Memorial Day weekend, Don used a local phone booth to call up the newly build high school and inquire about job openings. By Friday of that week, he has a new job a as teacher in Abbotsford.
The couple’s first son, Todd, was one year old at the time, so Jane stayed at home to raise him. Eventually, the couple had two other sons, Chris and Paul, and all three went through the Abby school system.
Don said the demographics have changed quite a bit since 1966. "When we first moved here, it wasn’t unusual to have families that had five to seven kids," he said. "Gradually, the families got smaller."
The also recall several major developments, including the formation of the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department in 1969, the arrival of Abbyland Foods and the East Town Mall in the 1970s and ‘80s, and the construction of the STH 29 bypass in the 1990’s.
Jane, whose education was in the medical field, started working in the city’s library in 1977 and eventually became its first-ever certified director. She helped usher in the construction of a new library before retiring at the end of 2011.
Don said they never seriously considered moving out of Abbotsford, and after a few years of renting a place on Third Street, they build their own house on Hickory Street in 1973.
"We always said the smartest thing we did was build a house a block from school and a block from church," Jane added. "There’s none of this hauling kids around."
The Medenwalts are members of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, where Don has served on the parish council and the finance council and taught CCD classes, while Jane taught a pre-school religious class and was head of what was once called the Altar Society.
The couple also joined the Abbotsford Jaycees, which ran a summer recreation program, did Christmas Tree pickups, sold beer at Abby Dairy Days and did several other civic projects. Don went on to be president of the Jaycees. "We had just a real good bunch of people," he said.
In his 35 years as a teacher in the Abbotsford School District, Don witnessed a lot of changes, including the arrival of the first computer in the mid-1970’s to the proliferation of computer labs in the 1990’s.
But the most memorable aspect of his job, he said, was watching his students grow up and start their own careers and families. In some cases, he taught three generations of the same family. "I have tremendous memories from my students," he said. "You’re always happy when you see them having success."
Aside from teaching, Don also coached football, basketball, track and field and baseball. And Jane was always there at the games, cheering on her husband, one of their three sons, or, in recent years, their granddaughter, Madison. "I’ve always said I’ve been sitting on the bleachers since 1966," she said. "That keeps you involved with kids and keeps you positive. You see the good in kids."
When Don retired from teaching in 2001, he wanted to stay involved in the district, so he successfully ran for school board the next year and continues to serve as its president, 10 years later. Don says his experience on the board has offered him a different perspective on public education. "The basic difference is that you’ve moved to the other side," he said. "You’re answering to the taxpayer a lot more than you’re answering to the parents and their student."
This new perspective was put to the test in the lead up to the 2007 referendum, which resulted in the construction of a new elementary school. Don said the board took a supportive stance, but also welcomed public input to make sure the community was on board.
"In general, our community was really receptive, at all age levels." He said. "And we had tremendous support from our educational staff."
Both Don and Jane have served on planning and fundraising committees for al the new public facilities in Abbotsford, from the elementary school to the new library/city hall and public safety building.
As library director, Jane was particularly involved in trying to generate support for the new municipal center. "There was controversy at first, but once it started happening - when the dirt started flying - there were so may people who stepped forward and said ‘look what we’re doing!" she said.
Like her husband’s career as a teacher, Jane said her years as a library director were immensely rewarding. "Watching some little kids, for the first time, sound out words in a book," she said. "That never gets old."
While he was still teaching, don earned his realtor’s license in the late 1970’s and started working for Schiferl Realty during the summers. He continued to work at what is now Kramer/Schiferl Realty, and he sees the job as being a promoter of the Abbotsford area.
Jane said it helps that they’ve lived in the city for so long and raised a family here. "If you’re not living in it yourself, you’re not doing it justice," She said.
As someone who was invested in the city’s future, Don also participated in the development of its comprehensive plan and continues to serve on the planning commission.
Don also volunteered as an EMT for 25 years, from 1977 to 2002, and he watched the department grown to what it is today from a crew of just five people using a hearse-style ambulance. "Sometimes, we were very busy," he said. "Gradually, we got more and more people interested in being EMT’s"
An avid fishermen and hunter, Don has been a member of the Abbotsford Sportsmen’s Club for 40 years, serving as a president for a time and helping build the clubhouse north of town. He’s also been a member of the Conservation Congress, representing Clark County, for 12 years.
With all of his time-consuming activities, Don said his wife was always there to keep him going. "If I was busier than Jane, then, well, she was the support," he said.
As the parents of three boys, both Don and Jane also participated in the Cub Scouts in the 1970’s and 1980’s. "Every parent should have to do that once," she said. "It’s very humbling."
The couple has also been involved in the Abbotsford Christmas Parade since its inception in the early 1970’s. "We’ve always been associated with the Old Lady and the Shoe," He said. Don continues to help get the floats ready and put them away before and after the annual parade.
Don said they are also proud of their work with the Abbotsford Education Foundation, which started in the 1990’s and provides scholarships and funding for arts and curriculum enrichment, among other things. "Our biggest project right now is providing for the all-school reunion here this year, which will take in students from 1920 through 2011," he said.
Don and Jane have three granddaughters, including Madison, who graduated from Abbotsford High School and is now in her third year at UW-Stout. The other two, Kajen 10, and Jersey, 7, are the daughters of their son Chris, who lives in Brodhead and works as an assistant principal in Elkhorn.
Jane says they have always hoped to lead by example, and she sees that in their kids and grandkids. "One of our granddaughters, who is in third grade, organized a penny collection fundraiser," she said. "I thought to myself "Yeah, she gets it."
It also fits with her general philosophy on community service: "You don’t have to do bit things. Little things count too."
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