In the first class

New Wisconsin 4-H Hall of Fame to include two from county

Brother and sister William (Bill) Jens (left) and Nancy Kissel of Sheboygan County will be among the initial inductees in the newly-established Wisconsin 4-H Hall of Fame. They will be recognized at a ceremony in Wisconsin Dells next month. — Submitted photo Brother and sister William (Bill) Jens (left) and Nancy Kissel of Sheboygan County will be among the initial inductees in the newly-established Wisconsin 4-H Hall of Fame. They will be recognized at a ceremony in Wisconsin Dells next month. — Submitted photo Sheboygan County residents William (Bill) Jens and Nancy Kissel will be among the initial laureates in the Wisconsin 4-H Hall of Fame when it is recognized at a gathering Nov. 15 at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells. Making the evening even more memorable, Jens and Kissel are brother and sister.

Wisconsin 4-H is recognizing one hundred state leaders and supporters of 4-H in its newly established Hall of Fame, which coincides with the centennial celebration of 4-H in the state. Honorees including volunteers, staff and supporters who were chosen based on citizenship, leadership qualities, contributions to the growth and development of 4-H, and their community and career accomplishments.

Jens came relatively late to 4-H because there was no club in his area when he was a youth. And he didn’t know that when he and wife Caroline formed the first urban club in Sheboygan County, the Northshore 4-H Club, in 1959 it would lead to more than half a century of service.

He served as that club’s general leader, project leader, and activity leader, while also working with county wide activities. Jens has been an advisor to the County Junior Leader Association, and director and president of the county 4-H Leaders Association. He played a major role in the development of Camp Riversite, the Sheboygan 4-H Alumni Association, and the Sheboygan County 4-H Endowment Fund. He also chaperoned many years of county delegates to the state 4-H Congress in Madison.

On the district level Jens helped form the South Central District Council in 1976. He advised the State 4-H Youth Council, served on the state 4-H Planning Committee and helped coordinate the Wisconsin delegation to the National 4-H Congress. He served the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation as a board member and president, on the State Fair Youth Expo Building Space Utilization Committee and other Wisconsin State Fair committees, and as president of the State 4-H Adult Leader Council.

Across the country he was recognized as one of two non 4-H employees chosen to work with the committee that selected delegates and award winners for the National 4-H Congress.

Jens’ dedication has been recognized with the Distinguished Leadership Award from Wisconsin 4-H, the Friends of Extension Award, and the Wisconsin 4-H Distinguished Alumni Award.

“When working with the youth as a leader it is my hope that as the reward or recognition a member attains for a specific achievement fades over time the life skills they’ve learned remain,” Jens said. “In my work with 4-H, I was trying to set an example for others to follow.”

Kissel, Jens’ younger sister, has been active in 4-H for almost 50 years.

A frequent announcer at local and state 4-H horse shows, she has been a committee member, including chairperson, of the Wisconsin 4-H Horse Association. While also serving on the board of directors, she has presented seminars at the annual Wisconsin 4-H Horse Association leaders meetings.

Kissel started the Clotheshorse project in Sheboygan County, helping it grow to a statewide project. She chaired the Communications Events at the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup in Louisville, Ky., as well as judging the event, for many years.

Kissel is widely known for locally formulating the Horseless Horse Project, a program which she pioneered in Sheboygan County. She developed the program statewide, then presented more than a dozen seminars across the country to establish it nationally.

Kissel earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sheboygan County 4-H Alumni Association and, like Jens, earned the Wisconsin 4-H Alumni Award, specifically for her contributions to the community in minority and handicapped education.

In 2007 she was named the Outstanding National Youth Leader of the Year by the American Youth Horse Council, and in March of this year earned the American Youth Horse Council Distinguished Service Award, which noted her tireless efforts to touch lives of youth involved with horses.

“I’ve made so many friends through my involvement with 4-H,” said Kissel, “but the most gratifying part has been seeing the kids I’ve worked with come back to be leaders. I see families and names now where I am meeting the second and third generation coming through 4-H.

“I just enjoy being around the young people,” she added. “They respect me and at the same time we enjoy each other’s company. I love the people.”

Both Jens and Kissel are still very active in the Sheboygan County 4-H program. Sarah Tarjeson, 4-H youth development educator with Sheboygan County UW-Extension, understands their transformational impacts on the community. “We are privileged to have been served by Nancy Kissel and Bill Jens throughout their years of dedication to the program. We continue to be blessed by their positive direction and grassroots support for our own local 4-H program. In fact, the Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development Program has benefited from their generations of contributions.”

Jens and Kissel grew up on the family farm south of Sheboygan in the town of Wilson. Jens and Caroline (Poth) were married in 1948, while Kissel married husband Jene in 1956.

The Jens’ four children - Phillip (Cheryl) Jens of Oostburg, Diane (Tom Fick) of Fort Atkinson, Carol (Joe Neu) of Gainesville, Florida, and John (Diane) of Racine - were all active in 4-H.

The Kissel family 4-H alumni include Dan, and Andy (Tracy) of Sheboygan, and Steve (Pam) of Oostburg. The Andy Kissel family still lives on the family land in the town of Wilson that Jens and Kissel grew up on.

The 4-H tradition continues, with several of the Jens and Kissel children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren serving as 4-H adult and youth leaders into the fourth generation.

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