Susan Nitzke, 71, of Cottage Grove, WI, the woman who once added colors to our pale
skies, has died after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer.
Susan was born August 23, 1946 in Byron, WI to Lawrence and Marcella (Schoofs)
Schwartz. She married William Nitzke on August 24, 1968. She earned her PhD at the
University of Wisconsin, Madison and worked for more than 30 years at UW-Madison,
ultimately serving as Chair of the Nutritional Sciences Department.
Susan battled pancreas cancer for five years, defying the odds as she did throughout her
life and career. Her determination and courage propelled Susan from a small farming
community with a one-room school to the pinnacle of her profession. She faced all
challenges head-on and worked harder if someone doubted her abilities or suggested a
goal was impossible. Following her retirement from the University, Susan was searching
for a challenge and had always been captivated by watercolor. She took classes, attended
workshops and devoted her time to becoming an accomplished watercolor artist. Her art
has been showcased in many art exhibitions and she has won several state awards. You
can see some of her work at suenitzkeart.com.
Early in her career, she traveled the globe in concert with the Food For Peace Program
providing nutrition education resources to the poorest people in developing countries.
She returned to the University of Wisconsin to complete her doctorate degree and spent
the next thirty years teaching and mentoring students, and providing nutrition education
resources to university extension colleagues around the state and nation. She also
conducted nutrition education research and published her results in nutrition journals. In
2014 Susan was awarded the Helen D. Ullrich award from the Society of Nutrition
Education and Behavior, the Society’s highest honor for lifetime achievement. She was a
frequent guest on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television and through
the media she helped learners at all levels understand how to apply nutritional science to
their lives. Through her service on state and national nutrition committees, she informed
public nutrition guidance and policy decisions.
Loved and admired by family, friends and colleagues, Susan gave of herself to help
others. She will be deeply missed forever by her husband, Bill Nitzke, children Angela
(Nitzke) Martin and Andrew Nitzke, her son-in-law, Scott Martin, and her precious
grandchildren, Sienna Martin and Reed Martin.
She is also survived by her brother Lawrence Schwartz, her nieces and nephews:
Maureen Kennedy, Bob Geiger, David Geiger, Chuck Geiger, Marry Ella Smits, Lisa
Gilarde, Lawrence Thomas Schwartz II, and Michael Schwartz. Her great nieces
Kimberley Nelson, Katie Wapneski, and Stephanie Kennedy along with God-daughter Jill
Way and Carissa Low all held a special place in Susan’s heart.
Pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease that is the third leading cause of death from
cancer in the United States for which there is no cure. Most patients live for only a few
weeks or months after diagnosis and there has been no meaningful advances in detection
or treatment in the last four decades. A scientist to the end, Susan participated in several
clinical trials to help advance the research to help future patients, but this deadly disease
ultimately took its toll. The family would like to give special thanks to all the doctors,
nurses and staff at the Carbone Cancer Center, especially to Dan Mulkerin, MD and Mary
Susan lived a wonderful, happy, and purpose-filled life. She made it a point to make the
world better and brighter through her kindness, her work, her gardening and her art. Now
that she is no longer with us, let us continue her legacy in honor of the life she lived.
Contributions in her name can be made to the Pancreas Cancer Task Force at the
University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, 600 Highland Ave, Madison, Wi 53572
and The University of Wisconsin Nutritional Sciences Alumni Fund for Community
Development.1415 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706.
A memorial celebration will be held at the Fluno Center 4pm, Thursday August 30.