Nicholas William Kitzhaber
July 7, 1960 - June 16, 2020
Nicholas (Nick) Kitzhaber, Arden Hills, MN passed away at home peacefully, with his family and rescue dogs by his side after a two-year courageous battle with cancer. Nick was born July 7, 1960 in Waukegan, IL to Bonnie (Verhagen) and Ronald Kitzhaber. His family moved to Greenwood, WI when he was 9 months old in order to farm. As a farm kid, Nick learned how to fix just about anything. He also learned the value of hard work while laboring alongside his parents and his siblings on the dairy farm. As a young man, he worked at a variety of cheese-making and milk-hauling jobs which paid for his schooling at Eau Claire Technical College, where he received a degree in Fluid Power Maintenance in 1982. Upon graduation, he moved to the Twin Cities and found a job in mechanical maintenance at Strite-Anderson in Fridley, MN from 1982-1989. When Strite-Anderson was sold to Kurt Die Cast, Nick stayed with the company as a maintenance supervisor until his death.
Nick married the love of his life and best friend Jeannine, in 1983. They met in 1977 when he was a junior in high school and she was the 13-year old sister of his close friend Margie. When Jeannine turned 18 years old, they began dating and married a year later. Together they had three daughters: Stephanie (Andy Raddatz), Nicole and Katelyn, all from the Twin Cities. He was a compassionate and loving husband, father and grandfather. His life was divided between family and work, with occasional fishing trips and bowling matches with friends. He was a huge supporter of his daughters’ lives, in their many interests and the homes they made. He helped all of his daughters move countless times, repaired things around their homes and counseled them with any advice they needed. Nick was passionate about recycle and reuse programs and the idea of repurposing materials instead of throwing things away. His garage was so full of items waiting to be designated recyclable and things he could see a purpose for, that there was no room to park the family car. He could find a use for anything and was inventive in how he reused materials around the home.
Nick was a hard-working man who rarely missed work, even while going through chemotherapy and radiation. He was known as an understanding, but no-nonsense kind of boss who mentored many who worked at the plant. He valued honesty, hard work, believed in second chances in life and was empathetic towards his co-workers and employees. Prior to his death, his co-workers sent him videos, texts and cards expressing their appreciation and respect for Nick and he was overwhelmed by their outpouring of support.
Nick cared about everyone, especially the disadvantaged and vulnerable. He understood and believed that he had a great life, had access to many opportunities and was lucky in many ways. Nick wished he had more time, yet realized it’s the quality of life that matters, not quantity. As a result, he filled his life with a love of family, work and friends. He was a devout Catholic who rarely missed mass and was a member of the Knights of Columbus where he volunteered. He believed in forgiveness, never held grudges and was known to be a peacemaker in his family and amongst friends.
Nick is survived by his loving wife, Jeannine and their daughters, Steph (Andy Raddatz), Nicole and Katelyn, his grandson, Austin Franchino, all from the Twin Cities, his brothers, Randy (Tracy), Mike (Cheryl) and Kenny (Jodi) Kitzhaber, Greenwood, WI, sister, Lisa Kitzhaber, Owen-Withee, WI, godson, Ryan Kitzhaber from Peoria, IL, other relatives, in-laws, friends, and his beloved dogs, Pokey and Gracie. Nick’s generous spirit of family and love extended to many. He is also survived by a host student from Taiwan named Hank Hsu, who continues to be an important part of their family.
He was predeceased in death by his father, Ron Kitzhaber, mother, Bonnie Kitzhaber and brother, Lawrence, other relatives and friends.
A private mass will be held at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in St. Paul on July 10 at 10 AM with interment at Roselawn Cemetery. A public celebration of his life will take place in his hometown of Greenwood, WI from Noon to 4 PM at Parkway Pines on July 12.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the following organizations in Nick’s memory: Open Arms of Minnesota, Rock Creek Disabled Outdoors, Inc. or Habitat for Humanity.