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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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December 7, 2022

6/15/2013 7:30:00 AM
Hans Nienstaedt

Hans Nienstaedt, 90, formerly of Rhinelander, died in his home in Morelia, Michoacan state, Mexico, on May 27, 2013.

Hans was born Dec. 23, 1922, in Copenhagen, Denmark, to L.R. Nienstaedt and Inger Andersen Nienstaedt. Nienstaedt served briefly in the Danish Navy and was interned during World War II by occupying German Wehrmacht forces. Hans immigrated to the United States in 1946 where he earned his Ph.D. in Genetics from the Yale University School of Forestry.

Working for the State of Connecticut Department of Forestry, Nienstaedt did pioneering work breeding resistance into the American chestnut which had been severely weakened by a fungal blight disease first introduced into the United States in 1876 with a Japanese garden ornamental chestnut species. That work is carried on in Connecticut today by Dr. Sandra Anagnostakis.

Nienstaedt began work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, in the early 1950s moving from St. Paul, Minn. to Rhinelander where he became the first project leader of the then newly established Lakes States Forest Experiment Station, today the Northern Research Station Forestry Sciences Laboratory west of Rhinelander on Highway K. Working with many other scientists over the years, Nienstaedt retired from the Forest Service a project leader in 1984.

In retirement, Nienstaedt served during the 1980s as an adjunct professor of Forestry, teaching Genetics at the Chapingo Autonomous University, an agricultural college in Texcoco, Mexico.

Nienstaedt met Marj Giefel at Yale where she was earning a master's degree in Horticulture. Hans and Marj were married in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Sept. 12, 1949, and remained married 54 years until her death in Morelia in January 2004. The Nienstaedts raised six children, five of whom - Marianne, Mark, Patty, John and Lisa - survive.

Nienstaedt, a man of woods and forests, a hiker, bicyclist, and canoeist, maintained a love of the outdoors his entire life. As a boy in Denmark, he was very active in the then strong Danish Boy Scouts movement, adventuring widely in Denmark and Sweden. With hundreds of other young scouts, he participated in the World Jamboree of Scouting in the Netherlands in 1937. He took a bicycle trip into northern Germany in 1939 just months before the outbreak of World War II.

Nienstaedt, a lifelong reader and storyteller, learned the bookbinding trade from an aunt in Denmark. He shared his bookbinding tradecraft with at least one merit-badge-earning Rhinelander Eagle Scout, Sean Conlon. He was always capable of sharing a good story with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and his scouting tales were famously his best.

A memorial for Nienstaedt, attended by family, household staff, and Mexican friends, was held in Nienstaedt's beautiful garden in the hills of Lomas de Santa Maria, Morelia, Mexico on June 2, 2013. Nienstaedt's cremated remains will be interred at Saint Benedict's Abbey, Benet Lake, Wisconsin, alongside those of his third-born son, Kristofer "Kit" Nienstaedt, and beloved wife, Marj.

A date for that service has not yet been set.

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