Nienhaus was born and raised Catholic. She is a lifetime member of Sacred Heart Parish. An only child, Nienhaus said she was labeled a tomboy growing up because she played every sport she could. She attended Sacred Heart Elementary School and graduated from St. Mary High School in Menasha.
“I went to Marquette University and majored in math and minored in physical education. I was going to teach elementary education,” recalled Nienhaus. But when she was student teaching she had the opportunity to teach math and physical education and realized how much she loved P.E. Her first job out of college was teaching P.E. and coaching at Kaukauna High School.
After four years at Kaukauna, Nienhaus returned to school to get her master’s degree in physical education. She started teaching P.E. at Appleton West High School in 1971 and stayed there until her retirement in 1999. She spent many of those years coaching various sports, from basketball to volleyball, but her longest stint was 25 years coaching girls’ golf. In 1997 Nienhaus donated seed money to convert the former Goodland Field in Appleton to an athletic complex for Appleton West. This softball, baseball and soccer facility was named Nienhaus Sports Complex in her honor.
In 1971 Nienhaus became a part owner of Winagamie Golf Club and she bought out her partners in 1992. She is a member of the teaching division of the LPGA and is now a master life professional golfer.
“Early on I was engulfed with my teaching and the golf course so I wasn’t a real strong volunteer,” noted Nienhaus. “When I retired there was an opportunity for me to do things with my ‘off season.’ During the off season from golf I love to do things for church. I’ve been on the finance committee for a number of years, I’m now serving my second term as a trustee, I’m a eucharistic minister. I try to do whatever I can.”
Your Catholic Neighbor
When Nienhaus heard about service trips to Nicaragua from some of her fellow teachers, she knew that would be the perfect volunteer situation for her.
“They go to different villages and do things for kids. We work with orphanages,” she said. “The very first year that I went I gathered up sports equipment from everybody because they wanted used sports equipment. I also bought four swing sets; we then had our industrial arts teacher friends put them together and mark them. It was my job to go there and instruct the men in the villages to put them together.”
Partners of America also sponsors a scholarship program for Nicaraguan students.
“We think for them to better themselves they need to have more education,” said Nienhaus. “We have 25 kids on scholarship. The last trip that we went to there was a learning center that was built, and we funded that and we did things to put supplies in there. This is to help the women learn trades so they can earn some money to benefit themselves.”
When Nienhaus went to the Dominican Republic two years ago, she said her group did a lot of physical labor. “We built two classrooms out of cement blocks. We did a lot of painting. That trip was a great trip for me because I’m a diagnosed workaholic. I love to work and I love to do things like that. That was almost like going on a retreat for a couple of weeks.”
These humanitarian excursions are the experience of a lifetime, said Nienhaus. “When I go on these trips to Third World countries, I come back with an appreciation for what these people have gone through and how they live,” she said. “They have a deep devotion. They love the Blessed Virgin Mary. They have demonstrative Masses. They have a wonderful faith. They live simplistically but they love life and they appreciate everything we do for them.”