When I entered college my parents, who were farmers in North East Township, were already paying for my older brother’s college expenses. A contract from Smuckers to provide elderberries had led them to plant several acres of the bushes in an open field on their farm near the I-90 interstate. The income would have met all the expenses for both of their children. Just north of the elderberry field was a large vineyard. During my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin, Madison the interstate sprayed a weedkiller called 2-4-D on a windy day. The chemical blew onto our farm completely destroying the elderberry bushes and damaging the grapes in the vineyard so badly that they did not produce a crop for four years. Needless to say, it was a devastating loss.
Phil Hirtzel, through his scholarship foundation, paid all the expenses for the remainder of my bachelor’s degree. He helped to provide me with a foundation that would support me throughout my adulthood. After that completely unexpected and thankful beginning I continued my education by pursuing a masters and a PhD, taught and wrote articles. Like hundreds of others my education and my career were affected by Phil Hirtzel.
But his influence went beyond that. He was an inspiration — an example and role model for how to be a good citizen of any community. His actions helped me to understand how important it is to support beneficial organizations, projects, and institutions and to help others whenever possible. I know first-hand how meaningful that can be. I suspect that other recipients of his generosity were similarly motivated. The entire North East community has benefited and owes much to Phil Hirtzel and his wife.