Lue Ehinger Big Heart Award

The Lue Ehinger Big Heart Award is an annual award presented in February, on Valentines Day, to acknowledge contributions made to the Fort Atkinson community relating to the mission of Heart of the City. Our dear member Lue Ehinger had one of the biggest hearts of all, and we wish that she be memorialized as others carry on in her tradition.

Ann Engelman won the 2022 award for stirring a lot of community pots, civic and cultural.

The unusual year of 2021 found us giving 2 awards, one to the Fort Health Care administration and healthcare workers, and one to local radio host Michael Clish.

Jean Brooks, who nominated Fort Health Care for the award, noted the countless hours spent by the administrative staff to manage the pandemic, and to minimize the risk to staff and patients by providing good (protective) equipment and instituting diligent safety precautions. She also praised the patient care staff for their dedication and fortitude in doing their jobs in the face of the unknowns and tragic knowns of the unprecedented Covid 19 pandemic.

Michael Clish, news reporter and on-air host, recently retired from WFAW, WSJY, WKCH after 25 years of providing broadcast coverage of nearly every aspect of the community.

Heart of the City awarded Clish for his commitment to providing coverage of important meetings in the community, promoting non-profit groups and covering programs that support the quality of life in Fort Atkinson.

“From moderating and setting the tone for political conversations, conducting countless interviews with area representatives regarding initiatives in surrounding communities, building momentum for city projects, promoting local festivals, and being a consistent presence at city council and school board meetings, Clish has been our anchor, earpiece and sounding board — not to mention, our good friend.” Karen Reinhardt, board member

The Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson was the 2020 recipient for its youth education programs and support of City parks and recreation, in particular the Skateboard Park created in this year.

The 2019 Winner is Aimee Hanyzewski, organizer of the Chamber Series Concerts, recognized for bringing a love of classical music to the community through this free series. The series has been going on for 7 years, and has featured everything from string quartets, guitar trios, harpists, brass quintets, the Madison Bach Musicians and much more.

The 2018 winner is Dick Wanie, whose passion for and love of nature and the environment manifests itself and overflows into things that many of us now take for granted. Dick was a prime catalyst for Fort Atkinson’s designation as a Bird City, a strong advocate for establishing and improving Mush-Ko-Se-Day Park, a builder of duck blinds and tireless educator training Scouts and students, young and old, the secrets of hunting, fishing and improving our precious environment and landscape.

The 2017 winner is Vern Zech, whose Facebook page, “Fort Atkinson Wi: Taking a Stroll Down Memory Lane”, provides a platform for sharing historic memories and photos and for current civic discussion. Vern primes that pump by posting old photos and current news stories.

The 2016 winner is Amy Lutzke, reference librarian at Dwight Foster Public Library, for her tireless work behind the scenes — connecting dots between people, ideas, opportunities and projects, as well as being an ambassador for sustainable living and the health of the Rock River.

The 2015 winner is Joan Jones, the force behind the newly- opened Fort Atkinson Club.

The 2014 winner is Joe Nehmer, director of Jefferson County Parks Department.

Nehmer was nominated in appreciation for his work in protecting and providing access to special outdoor places close to home throughout Jefferson County. His many accomplishments include developing the Glacial River Bike Trail through Fort Atkinson and later connecting it to Jefferson and Watertown; creating the Jefferson County Dog Park; and adding the Mason Farm property to Dorothy Carnes County Park, where campsites were developed in 2013 and an historic cabin is being renovated.
Nehmer has worked for Jefferson County Parks for over 30 years and has built positive relationships with organizations, donors, and government agencies. His colleagues laud the patience and persistence with which Nehmer has repeatedly won over the approval of the County Board on projects such as the Jefferson County Dog Park and the Glacial River Bike Trail, whose eventual popularity were not always recognized at the outset.
Nehmer has been a driving force behind the Glacial Heritage Area partnership, a multi-agency group working to connect a regional network of parks and corridors resembling a “string of pearls.” He has been instrumental in developing regional water trails maps, recreation asset maps, bike maps, and five-year bike plan updates.

While calling attention to Joe Nehmer’s contributions, Heart of the City noted that credit also goes to all the staff of the Jefferson County Parks department.

The 2013 winner is Dennis Kuchenmeister, Fort school district buildings and grounds supervisor, for helping Purdy Elementary School win a Green Ribbon award from the U.S. Department of Education, one of only 3 awarded to schools in Wisconsin!

2012 Fanny Highsmith
2011 Evon “Ernie” Heine
2010 Madison Area Technical College
2009 Chris Spangler, Daily Union
2008 Greg Greenhalgh
2007 School District of Fort Atkinson
2006 Rudy Bushcott, Scott Lastusky

If you would like to nominate an individual or organization for their contributions or leadership in encouraging sustainable development, the preservation of existing and treasured civic characteristics, and active participation of the citizenry, please email us.

BigHeart09 2009 Winner – Chris Spangler The winner is Chris Spangler and the Daily Jefferson County Union, with Leslie LaMuro Heart of the City president. Nominator Beth Gehred offers the following praise: “With heartfelt thanks for a hard job well done, for helping build community with each edition of the paper that comes out, for editorials that extol the virtues of good citizenship and sustainable development, for graciousness to our organization, and for being part of a business that maintains a diverse and productive downtown.”
BigHeart08 2008 Winner – Greg Greenhalgh Greg gave his time and financial support to several community projects: the garden by the Post Office, the Water Tower Restoration, and Blackhawk.
  2007 Winner – The School District of Fort Atkinson The School District received the award for their leadership in helping the community choose geothermal heating and cooling for two schools in Fort Atkinson.
BigHeart06 2006 Winners – Rudy Bushcott and Scott Lastusky Rudy and Scott received the award for their excellent work in extending the Glacial River bike trail to downtown Fort Atkinson.