NORTH NEWTON—Franklin (Frank) Nachtigal was born in Hutchinson, the son of Jacob and Edna (Klassen) Nachtigal on February 9, 1940. Frank grew up speaking Low German which was the language of the home. His early years were spent in Buhler, where he attended elementary and high school. During his childhood, most activities were centered on the extended family within the Buhler community and the First Mennonite Church of Buhler where he was baptized in 1955 by the Rev. Henry Franzen.
During his elementary and high school days, Frank demonstrated a love of sports, which continued until his death on Aug. 17, 2020. He participated in football, tennis and basketball in high school and tennis and basketball in college. This love of sports developed into a life of participation and coaching, including joining many church and city league basketball and softball teams with friends. Frank coached basketball, tennis, and football in Kansas high schools, including Hartford, Tonganoxie and Campus High School in Haysville. In later years Frank spent many hours watching his beloved “Bethel Threshers” and enjoying every minute of the teamwork, drive, and competition of the Bethel athletic teams. Go Threshers! Roll on!
During his high school years, Frank, or as he lovingly became known to his high school and college friends, Fritz, spent summers doing custom harvesting with the Pauls and Elmer Adrian custom cutting crews, traveling to Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Montana, and beyond. For Frank who had never had the opportunity to travel, these were memorable days, which he often referred to in later years. The money he earned from this endeavor was used to pay his way through Bethel College.
After high school he attended one year at Hutchinson Junior College, and the remaining three years at Bethel College, graduating in May 1962. It was at Bethel College where he met his wife Helen Goering whom he married on Aug. 25, 1962, at Pretty Prairie Mennonite Church. His years at Bethel gave him many life-long friends who he remained in contact with until his death. Following college graduation Frank served his country by registering with the draft as conscientious objector and was assigned as a therapy aide at Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas. This experience of working with people with emotional challenges and mental illness made a deep and lasting impression on how he would compassionately treat people with challenges. Throughout life he demonstrated a spirit of inclusiveness for people of any ethnicity, minority or differences of any kind.
Following his two-year obligation as a conscientious objector he began his teaching career in Neosho Rapids and Hartford. Later he moved to larger schools, Tonganoxie and Wichita, to continue teaching Industrial Arts, Physical Education, and Drivers Education, as well as to coach. During these years he attended graduate school at Emporia State and received his master’s degree in 1966.
Frank and Helen wanted to start a family, and on Jan. 27, 1969, they welcomed their first son, Bradley Gene Nachtigal. Brad was born at Stormont-Vail hospital in Topeka. A few years later, their second son arrived, Eric Neil Nachtigal, on Feb. 21, 1971, during what Frank always liked to recall was the worst blizzard Kansas had seen at that time. Some of Frank’s best memories as a father came when teaching his two sons basketball, tennis, and softball. When they were old enough, they would play on the same church league teams with Frank and this made him very proud.
Frank continued teaching until 1974. In that year, Frank and his wife Helen and their two sons moved to Clay Center, where they began their retail career by owning and operating a Dairy Queen Brazier until 1989. This career proved to be very demanding, requiring 10+ hour working days, 7 days a week. Frank worked very hard and took great pride in their highly successful business. During his time running the Dairy Queen, he became the President of the Kansas Dairy Queen Owners Association, which was a role he enjoyed and strived to be a leader and help others. In 1989 Frank and Helen sold the Dairy Queen and moved their family to Newton, Kansas. At that time, their oldest son, Bradley, was attending Bethel College and their youngest son, Eric, moved with his parents to finish one year of high school at Hesston High School. Without the constant pressure and long hours of the Dairy Queen, Frank was able to watch his son, Eric, play basketball at Hesston High School, and later at Bethel College, as well as watch his son, Brad, play tennis at Bethel, which brought him immense pleasure.
Upon moving to Newton, Frank spent three years as the owner/operator of Newton Memorials. After selling the business Frank spent his remaining working years at Bethel College as set-up coordinator for the Maintenance Department. He loved working with people and could often be seen helping students or visitors on campus. He never met a stranger and Frank felt it was his special “mission” to be a good example for the students on campus. Many times he would bring students home to dinner or take them out for a DQ sundae. He treated every person he met with respect and always looked for the good in people and usually found it. Frank believed that God was a loving God and it was his responsibility to model this love to the students and others around him. He would say that he hoped those that he met would see a glimpse of Jesus in him through his actions. During his time at Bethel Frank was awarded the Gerry Sieber Service Award for his outstanding service to Bethel College and his actions that exemplify his servant leadership. These were special years for Frank and his family was extremely proud.
One of Frank’s greatest pleasures during his time as set-up coordinator at Bethel was to attend sporting events at the college. He rarely missed such an event. He also attended many musical and theater events because students he knew were in the productions and he wanted to support them. During these years his older son began his career as an Associate Athletic Director at KU, which brought Frank more sporting events to watch and hear about from his son. He loved these interactions and attended as many KU events as possible. At this same time, Frank’s youngest son become a teacher, counselor, and administrator in the Maize School District in Kansas, which Frank very much enjoyed hearing about and discussing with his son. Frank was extremely proud of both his son’s success and accomplishments and cherished the time they spent together.
Frank retired from his position at Bethel College in 2005 but continued working there part time until 2014. In addition, he enjoyed a variety of volunteer opportunities, including Kauffman Museum, the Et Cetera Shop, Camp Mennoscah, Rocky Mountain Mennonite camp, and other organizations affiliated with the Mennonite Church. After Helen retired, they both did extensive volunteering including several Mennonite Mission Network assignments. Combining two of Frank’s joys, volunteering and taking vacations….especially in the mountains….together with Helen, they enjoyed 7 summers of volunteer work at YMCA of the Rockies at Estes Park Colorado. One of Frank’s greatest loves was the mountains so their time volunteering in Colorado was very special to him and he shared stories and memories often with his friends and family.
During retirement, of the many different activities that brought happiness and joy to Frank, at the top of the list were the wonderful times he spent with his granddaughters, Madeline and Macy. Grandpa Frank had a loving and caring bond with both his granddaughters, whom he loved dearly. He kept them close to his heart and in his daily prayers, cherishing each time he was able to attend their musical, dance, sporting, and academic events. Frank would always tell stories of the times he spent with Madeline and Macy fishing, playing games on the lawn, reading them stories, and especially the train trip to the Grand Canyon. There was nothing Grandpa Frank wouldn’t do for his granddaughters. He loved them beyond words and was so very proud of their accomplishments.
Frank was preceded in death by his parents, Jacob and Edna Nachtigal, his brother-in-law Darold Wedel, brother in law Richard Schmidt, and nephews Brian Goering, Todd Goering, and Alan Schmidt.
He is survived by his wife Helen and two sons, Bradley and wife Jodi, daughters Madeline and Macy of Lawrence and Eric, along with his partner John of Wichita. He is also survived by two sisters, Geneva of Moundridge, Kansas, and Dorothy Wiens of Carmel, Indiana, and husband Bob Wiens, and one brother, Chester of Seattle, Washington and wife Anne. He is also survived by his sister in law, Josephine Schmidt, Brother in law Jim Goering and wife Shirley, Brother in law Homer Goering and wife Mary, Brother in law Vernon Goering and wife Jane, all of North Newton, Kansas.
Memorials have been established with Bethel College Athletics in North Newton, Kansas and The Heart of America Men’s Chorus in Wichita, Kansas. Contributions may be sent to Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, 120 East Broadway, Newton, Ks. 67114.
A celebration of life service will be at Bethel College Mennonite Church where Frank is an active member, at future date when all can be safe and celebrate Frank’s life together.