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Falls Hall of Fame inductees, all lights that shine brightly

Speeches full of dignity, humility and compassion

Sept. 19, 2011

It was a good night last Friday for looking back and remembering in Menomonee Falls, and mercifully, it has nothing to do with me or all the kindness and gratitude that was thrown my way before, during and after my induction into the Athletic Hall of Fame.

Because my fellow inductees in this, the eighth class of the Hall, were just too kind, too gracious and too eloquent not to be remembered well.

There was all-around women's star Linda Niederdorfer-Schneider, who at the dinner that preceded the ceremonies, admitted that she as not much of a public speaker but in her remarks afterward, proved her self-deprecating statement to be a lie.

"I was always the girl who waited for my father to come home from work so we could play catch," she said quietly. "Yeah, 'Daddy's home', I would say."

She also thanked her brothers for letting her tag along and play ball when that wasn't convenient or cool (back in the late 1970s, early 1980s).

And she copiously thanked retired Falls coaches Bob Hessler (softball) and John Attoe (tennis) for continually making her sports experience fun. She has been busy raising children in the Carolinas since her graduation but said playing sports in high school were some of the best times in her life.

Being part of a team stands out

State gymnastics champion Kristi Kitzman-Chuckel was very sweet, getting a bit choked up during dinner when asked to give a brief overview of her thoughts on the honor.

She went on and on talking not about the state titles she had won but how much she learned from veteran Falls coach Tracy Howard (who was in attendance) and how much more fun it was to go to state as part of a team as opposed to just qualifying on an individual basis.

A cheerleader, too, her energy almost burst through her smile.

Geoff DeCloux and his daughter were the models of dignity standing in for his brother and her uncle, the late Falls North state diving champion Craig DeCloux. Geoff talked at length of Craig's competitiveness and again thanked long-time Falls swim and dive coach Bob Schweiger for his efforts in coaching the great group of Falls' divers that arose in the 1970s that included Craig.

Geoff asked Schweiger to stand and take a bow. It's the second straight year that that has happened to Schweiger as 2010 inductee Sue Momsen had acknowledged him, too.

Falls North basketball star Dave Gross was a model of gratitude recalling his huge family and how he was one of the youngest and was always struggling to find someone to play a game of one on one.

Into the picture entered his late brother, Hal, who would always make the time after he got off of work to play ball with his seventh-grade brother.

"And at first, he would always let me win, and later, I would let him win," he said.

Dave was humbled that he went into the Hall a year behind his all-around star brother, John, and noted that the dedication and energy he put into hoops has served him well in the business world.

The large and expansive Gross clan made a night of it, renting a limo to take everyone to and fro on this, the evening of their second honor in as many years.

Father remembers late son

One of the most poignant moments of the evening came when the late Matt Hadler's father, Jim, took the microphone. He made a small joke about his son being a man of few words and so was he, and then choked up a bit when talking about the huge impact his son had people in his brief 21 years on this earth.

He noted that though Matt only spent a year at Cedarville (Ohio) University that more than 30 students and friends from the cross country and track teams at the school came up to the funeral following Hadler's fatal motorcycle accident in 1999 and how they were a comfort to the family in its time of shock and grief. He also spoke of a neighbor in the area who they rarely spoke to, but who came to the funeral, too, just because he always saw Matt run by his house.

The family was genuinely grateful for this moment. He held his dignity and thanked everyone in the room for this honor. You got the feeling that his late, electrical engineering major son was lighting up the room in ways no one could have foreseen.

That memory was carried over with Hadler's former Falls' teammates Kevin Kriegel, Ben Van Male and Matt Finger as well as their coach Bob Rymer, who all spent a long time staring at the much too young a face on the Hadler plaque, one that they'll remember forever hanging in that well-lighted area of the Menomonee Falls High School hallway.

And in their various ways, all the inductees were lights that shone brightly on this night of memory in the Falls.

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