Nicholas R. Hirsch

Colonel Nicholas R. Hirsch (USMCR Ret)

Died peacefully at home with his family, on Friday, Jun 10, 2022, age 85. Beloved husband of Rita (neé Kostner), dear father of Lisa (Clint) Murray, Nicholas J. (Lisa) Hirsch, Regina Hirsch, and the late Christopher Hirsch. Cherished grandfather of Ian (Jennifer O’Brien) Martin, Connor Martin, Nicholas A. (Abby) Hirsch, Christian Hirsch, and Samuel Hirsch. Big brother to the late Jeanine Mason-Campenni, Walter (Patty) Raap, Joe Rapp, and John (Tammy – deceased) Nelson. He was a loving brother-in-law and uncle to many, many others. Preceded in death by his parents, Robert Hirsch and Jeanette Nelson, and grandparents Jacob and Christine Schaff.

Raised by his grandparents on a farm in Northern Wisconsin, Nick learned the value of hard work that would serve well him throughout his life, but quickly decided he didn’t like farming. A devotee of weightlifting and bodybuilding from a young age, Nick saved the money he earned to buy his first weight set from a catalog. He continued his devotion to lifting weights throughout his life, yielding results that were legendary among even his grandsons’ teammates.

His hard work in high school was rewarded with a full scholarship to the college of his choice. He first enrolled at the University of Texas to study chemical engineering, but it was soon evident that he had made a mistake. Not only did he hate chemistry, he was also too far away from the love of his life, Rita, who was finishing high school in Medford. The following year he transferred to UW-Madison where he got his degree in Mechanical Engineering. Nick and Rita were married in August 1957.

After graduation, his first job with Rocketdyne took Nick and Rita to Sherman Oaks, CA where they welcomed their first child, Lisa. Being one in a sea of engineers did not suit Nick so he joined the Marine Corps to become a fighter pilot. While in jet training Nick developed issues with his eyesight and transitioned to the Fleet Marine Force. While attending The Basic School in Quantico, VA their second child, Nicholas, was born. After completing TBS, Nick was assigned to a Hawk Missile battery in Twentynine Palms, CA. Here they had their third child, Regina.
After completing his initial tour of duty with the Marine Corps, Nick joined Mercury Marine as a project engineer and the family moved to Oshkosh, WI. In January 1968, Nick and Rita were blessed with their fourth child, Christopher. Soon after Christopher’s birth, Nick took a job with Harley-Davidson as the Chief Engineer and moved the family initially to Wauwatosa, before settling into their long-term home in Brookfield, WI. Not wanting to uproot his family again, Nick looked for local opportunities and in 1977 he was hired by Teledyne Wisconsin Motors as Vice President of Engineering. Nick and Rita later moved to the passive solar home Nick designed in Pewaukee, WI.

In 1983, after many years of working for others, Nick ventured out on his own and founded Advanced Engines Development (AED) in Butler and then relocating to the shadow of the Miller Brewery in the Menominee Valley of Milwaukee, WI. For almost 40 years, AED was on the cutting edge of designing, developing, and testing internal combustion engines; a true “SkunkWorks” corporation. AED specialized in creating lightweight, power dense diesel engines for some major corporations and the U.S. Government. One of AED’s crowning achievements was the development of a bio-diesel-powered Harley-Davidson motorcycle with his friends – “The Gray Eagles”. Those who ventured into AED were always welcomed with a cup of strong coffee, mini candy bars and treated to hours of either technical or personal conversation, boasting about one of his children or grandsons.

Nick was immensely proud of his family. He always made an effort to attend every event his family was participating in, whether it was a football game in the freezing rain of northern Michigan or five hours away in Eau Claire, hours- long swim or track meets, and any play, musical, concert or graduation. Those events were invariably followed by a meal out at one of his favorite Mom and Pop diners that he was always able to ferret out. Nick loved football and most of all he loved to coach football. His coaching career started while he was in the Marine Corp coaching the base team, and he later coached his son’s 8th grade team to a perfect 10-0 season. When presented with the opportunity to coach his grandsons’ teams he jumped at the chance to co-coach with his son, even though it meant driving more than an hour to and from practice and games. Nick loved to dance – many polkas and waltzes were danced with his beautiful dancing partner, Rita. After retirement from AED, Nick honed his skills and his passion for cooking becoming a master baker and perfecting his muffins, cakes, pies, and “secret” pancake recipe. He approached baking like engineering gathering several recipes trying them out and then creating his own version from the best of each.

After his active-duty career ended, Nick continued his military career in the Marine Corps Reserves for more than 30 years, retiring as a Colonel. His years in the Marines shaped him in many ways from his booming voice to the way he carried himself. Nick made many lifelong friends and his love and dedication to the Corps and his belief in God and the power of prayer never wavered. In the last weeks of his life, he shared with his doctors that he had prayed as a boy that he might go to college, that he might find a woman to love and marry, and that he might have a family. He told us often that he was blessed. God had answered his prayers and so he kept turning to prayer throughout his life.

It can be said with confidence that Nick loved people and he loved a good party, using any excuse to gather family and friends either at his home or workplace. It can truly be said that Nick had a multi-generational positive impact on the world.

‘If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives.’ – Robert South

By all accounts, then, Nick’s life is immeasurable.

Funeral services will be held at St. Charles Catholic Church, 313 Circle Drive, Hartland, Wisconsin on Friday, June 24, 2022. Visitation begins at 12:00 PM, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 2:00 PM and a small reception at the church immediately after.

The family asks that donations in lieu of flowers be made to The Gathering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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