MANITOWOC — Norbert Pritzl last attended classes led by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity when he was 13 years old.
That was 80 years ago.
But time hasn’t erased Pritzl’s many positive memories of being one of their students at St. Mary School in the rural Manitowoc County community of Clarks Mills.
That’s why, to this day, the 93-year-old Pritzl attends nearly every funeral held for a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, regardless whether he knew them.
“Most of them I don’t know personally, but I know they are part of the order so I know they do so many good things for a lot of people. It’s the right thing to do to pay my respects,” said Pritzl, who lives at Felician Village, a senior living home, and drives himself to funeral services at Holy Family Convent.
“They’re a great, terrific organization. I remember the good days from school,” he said. “I had them as teachers for eight years. I never went to school after the eighth grade, so they’re the only teachers I ever had. I remember them. Great people.”
Pritzl kept in contact with those teachers in the years after he finished school. Since the nearest school after eighth grade was about six miles away, and Pritzl’s parents had no means of getting him there in the late 1930s, he began working full-time as a farmer at 13 years of age.
Pritzl is the oldest of 12 children born to John and Mary Pritzl. “I’m pleased to say that 11 of the 12 are still alive,” Pritzl said. His father also had three other children from a previous marriage before his first wife died during childbirth.
Pritzl was baptized at St. Mary Church. “Our family went to church very faithfully,” he said. He attends church services daily at Felician Village and makes the 23-mile roundtrip drive to St. Mary CHurch for Mass a couple times each month.
Pritzl and his late wife, Rita, who died in 2016, met at a community dance and were married May 29, 1954, at St. Casimir Church in Northeim. For 33 years, the couple owned Breezy Knoll Dairy Farm, adjacent to his father’s farm. They have nine children and 10 grandchildren.
In the early 1970s, Pritzl joined the Serra Club of Manitowoc County. The club serves as an international lay organization promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He remains the oldest and longest-tenured club member.
“Norb is a good man, an honest person, a man of faith, a family man,” said Barbara Tringali-Brey, who serves with him on the Serra Club’s Internal Program Committee. “He’s very close to not just his children and grandchildren, but all his siblings. He has a wonderful sense of humor. He’s so hard working, but at the same time he’s very humble.”
Pritzl brings those qualities to the Serra Club, said Tringali-Brey. “He’s a little hard of hearing, but he doesn’t let that distract him at all. He’s a very gracious, important part of our club,” she said.
Tringali-Brey, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, said Pritzl is instrumental in helping schedule speakers. The club’s 30 participants meet twice monthly at Holy Family Memorial in Manitowoc.
“I once asked Norb to give a witness talk about what Serra Club meant to him,” Tringali-Brey said. “It was beautiful. He impressed so many people. He’s a very inspirational person, and we’re lucky to have him.”