Community Mourns Loss of Pferdehirt

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By: 
Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–Wayne Pferdehirt, a serving member of the Middleton Plan Commission, passed away in an accident Aug. 26 while hiking on the John Muir Trail in California. Pferdehirt indicated in social media posts that he planned to hike the entirety of the 240-mile trail in 21 days.

Pferdehirt was esteemed in his professional career field earning a master’s degree in Urban & Regional Planning from Northwestern University in 1975 and serving in the Army Corp of Engineers and as an Environmental Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory.

In 1991, Pferdehirt was recruited to the University of Wisconsin-Madison/UW-Extension to help establish the UW Solid & Hazardous Waste Education Center. In 1998, Pferdehirt became director of the online graduate engineering programs at UW-Madison. 

Pferdehirt directed the Master of Engineering Management program starting in 1998 and more recently the Master of Engineering in Engineering Data Analytics program. In 2007, he helped to launch the Badger Pals fund to support children receiving treatment at UW-Madison's American Family Children's Hospital by connecting them with fun activities and athletic event opportunities.

Pferdehirt is also recognized for serving his community. City administrator Mike Davis was neighbors with Pferdehirt for 17 years.

"Wayne’s death is a huge loss for the community,” Davis says. “He has been not only a devoted Plan Commission member, but also a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, neighbor and faculty member of the U.W. Engineering Department.

“Wayne was one of the best neighbors I’ve ever had, and we were neighbors for about 17 years,” Davis adds. “He was thoughtful, caring, intelligent, kind, humble and loving. We have lost a great neighbor, and many city officials and friends will mourn his passing together.”

Mayor Gurdip Brar who appointed Pferdehirt to the plan commission had known him for more than 20 years.

“Our children were of similar ages and went to Middleton High School together,” Brar says. “Our son and one of his daughters were together as undergraduates at MIT and later as Ph.D. students at University of California Berkeley”

Pferdehirt also served on the Middleton Zoning Board of Appeals for two years.

“Wayne will be remembered for his warm, welcoming smile, passion to serve his fellow citizens and for his expertise in water resources, storm water issues and wetlands,” Brar says. “He made a difference for our city. Wayne loved adventure and his dream was to hike the John Muir Trail. He met his tragic death following his dream and when he was just about to accomplish it. He was a Good Neighbor and outstanding citizen. He will be missed for a long time.”

According to Pferdehirt’s obituary he was a talented musician and was active in his faith. He played guitar, congas, djembe, and was particularly adept on the harmonica. He ran marathons at an enviable pace, including Boston, New York and Chicago. Wayne loved hiking and backpacking, driving his motorcycle, and spending time with his wife and family. 

Pferdehirt’s full obituary can be found on page 6.

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