Bicyclist remembered as extraordinary man
When you see the sheriff’s truck drive into your driveway on a beautiful Tuesday morning in June, you know it is bad news, said Tony Nowak.
Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski and Lt. Jason Veeser came to the door, and after Judy Nowak had invited them in, they asked Tony and Judy, the parents of four children, to sit down.
It was then that Joski told them that their son, Andrew, had been killed while riding on his bicycle on Wisconsin 54 to work at WS Packaging Group in Algoma as the sun rose that morning around 5:30 a.m.
“It was hard … we were in shock,” said Tony, sitting at the kitchen table in their home a week after his son’s death. The Nowaks have lived on their 250-acre dairy farm outside Casco for 42 years, a farm that Andrew moved to from Denmark when he was 8 years old..
What was clear to the hundreds of people who attended his memorial service in Casco on June 25 was that 49-year-old Andrew Nowak was an extraordinary man.
When Nowak was killed on June 21, hit by a 20-year-old man in a truck, he was participating in the Great Cycle Challenge to help fight childhood cancer. Nowak had taken up biking several years ago, when his parents no longer needed his help on the farm after they sold their cows in 2007.
It was Andy’s second year participating in the challenge, in which he donated 10 cents for every mile up to 500 miles that he rode on his bike in June. He had also asked his friends on Facebook to donate to his effort.
Last year, he rode 686 miles for the Great Cycle Challenge, donating more than $1,000 to the organization.
“For him, riding a 100 miles on his bike was nothing,” said Tony. Andrew biked the 24-mile round trip to work almost every day and always wore a helmet and protective biking gear, his father said. .
His parents said that he had four to five bikes and participated in many charity bike events.
“He rode his bike rain, snow or shine,” said his sister-in-law, Sharon Nowak.
Nowak owned his home in Casco and was a familiar figure in the village, where he often walked to the Village Kitchen for a meal and to the post office and village stores. His brothers, Randy and Scott, and his sister, Sue, all live within nine miles of their parents’ farm.
An electrician by trade, his family hopes he will be remembered as a hard-working, wonderful man.
While his bicycle rides were solitary, he often rode in motorcycle rallies for charity. He attended the Rolling Thunder rally in Washington, D.C., to recognize POWs and MIAs, and made many friends at the rally, according to Sharon.
“He once rode his motorcycle all the way to Alaska, bought a T-shirt, and turned around and rode home,” Judy said..
At the memorial service, members of four different local motorcycle clubs were present to honor him..
“He would have done anything for anybody … he was that kind of guy,” said Judy.
But his biggest gift was to Randy, his oldest brother, said Sharon, Randy’s wife.
In 1989, Randy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Randy had been treated and gone into remission four times when in 2001, he had another relapse and his doctor’s told him he might not survive without a stem-cell transplant.
Andy was found to be the best match.
“Despite the risks to himself from the medication he had to inject to produce stem cells, he never once thought he shouldn’t do this,” said Sharon.
“He never hesitated … he would just say, ‘He is my brother,'” said Judy.
Judy keeps a picture of Randy, who was ill, visiting Andrew, who was healthy but in a hospital bed, preparing to give his brother his stem cells.
“He saved his brother’s life,” said Sharon. Randy, the father of four children, has remained cancer-free for 14 years.
Nowak was also a veteran who gave generously to POW and veterans organizations, according to his family.
He displayed the American and POW flags at his home and on his bike. He went out of his way to show his appreciation for other veterans, Judy said.
Andy enlisted in the Army shortly after graduating from Luxemburg-Casco High School in 1985 and was stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia and in Germany, serving for four years.
In 2006, after visiting the Central Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in King, he went to Wiesner & Massart Funeral Home in Casco. Although he was only 39 years old, he made his funeral plans, asking to be buried at the King cemetery and to be cremated.
On Wednesday, his family, traveling in four vehicles, took his ashes to the King cemetery.
“Andy thought of others first and then himself,” said Sharon.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Bicyclist remembered as extraordinary man