Lloyd Sippel with his great-granddaughter Catherine Nickolai around Christmas in 2016. (Submitted photo)
Lloyd Sippel may be 87 years old, but he seems to have the energy of someone half his age or a quarter of his age.
Bonnie Scholz, the principal at Catholic Central High School in Burlington, can attest to that.
“Not only am I amazed, I have experienced his strength and agility first hand, as he and I (mostly him) unloaded two pallets of new science tables and chairs that were dropped off after school last year, right before a vacation (and a snow storm),” Scholz said.
Suzanne Nickolai, the safe environment program manager for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Sippel’s granddaughter, attributes that to his background growing up on a farm in the Fond du Lac area.
“Grandpa has never been one to sit idly by when there is work to be done, and he has a knack for finding where he is needed,” Nickolai said. “He is always finding something to be fixed, a committee to run or an event to plan. He forgets that he is in retirement and still acts as if he is just a German farm boy with chores on his to-do list for the day.”
Perhaps he does feel that way. When initially asked his age, Sippel said he was 39. When it was pointed out the math didn’t check out — he has seven children and 11 grandchildren who have graduated from Catholic Central and some great-grandchildren right around the corner from enrolling — he fessed up to his real age.
For the past couple of years, Sippel has been a volunteer maintenance engineer at Catholic Central, and Scholz estimates he has been involved with more than 400 repairs to the school.
“(There’s a) sense of giving back to the school,” Sippel said. “I think our kids and grandkids got an excellent education there. I’m willing to help with anything that needs to be done there.”
For years, Sippel and his wife Joan had a home on 5 acres of property. Four years ago, they moved into an apartment in Burlington. Not having the yard or the raspberry patch (the couple donated homemade jam to the annual Topper Auction every year) to tend to, Sippel confessed to a friend at the school he was “a little bored” in his new home.
“There wasn’t as much to do,” Sippel said. “I really enjoy being busy, and I really enjoy sprucing up the building and making it look better.”
Among the projects he has worked on at the school are a new roof, exterior painting, renovating a couple of classrooms, converting a library and computer lab into classrooms, coordinating some internal painting, renovating the theater and replacing 11 outside steel doors.
Raised on a dairy farm as one of nine kids, Sippel said he couldn’t imagine spending his retirement any other way.
“You’re always busy,” Sippel said. “There’s always work to do. Laying on a beach was never on the horizon.”
In addition to all of his offspring who benefitted from the Catholic education provided at the high school, Sippel had become a vital part of the Catholic Central community long before he took on the task of heading up the maintenance projects.
He was on the development committee at the high school for about 25 years, he and Joan co-chaired the auction committee for about 20 years, and he was on the school board for about 15 years. At his home parish of St. Thomas in Waterford, Sippel has been a lector for 30 years, served on the parish council for 15 years and was on the building committee when the new church was built. Sippel attended Catholic schools from grade school through graduating from Marquette University.
Sippel estimates he spends about 20 hours a week at Catholic Central, working on various projects.
Joan Sippel was a teacher at St. Thomas and principal at St. Charles in Burlington.
Scholz is grateful to have Sippel’s expertise contributing to the betterment of the school.
“He is a major blessing to Catholic Central High School,” Scholz said.