May 13, 1926 ~ February 24, 2021
Andrew Maria Nocker, 94, of Sister Bay, died peacefully late Wednesday afternoon, February 24, 2021, at Good Samaritan Society-Scandia Village. He was a beloved husband, father, “opa,” and great-grandfather who was passionate about his model train collection, big-band music, tinkering in his workshop, boating the shores of Door County, his parakeet Petey, the Today Show, aged Wisconsin cheddar, and so much more.
He was born Andreas Maria on May 13, 1926, in Köln, Germany, the son of Peter Franz Nöcker and Änne Margarethe (Apfel) Nöcker, where his early life was defined by dual identities. Though Andreas was baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic Church, his mother was a German Jew who converted to Catholicism when she married his father. With the outbreak of World War II and the rise of Nazism in Germany, this became a stark distinction. Andreas was first identified as a “mischling” (half-breed) and barred from attending his school, and ultimately his family received horrific news of their impending relocation to a Nazi concentration camp. Desperate to save her family from association with her Jewish heritage, Andreas’ mother took her own life and he went into hiding under the protection of the Catholic church in Köln. Despite these tragic circumstances, Andreas survived the war and graduated from Lindenthaler Gymnasium in Köln and went on to study at RWTH Aachen University in Aachen, Germany, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
After graduation, Andreas dreamed of working in the auto industry and set his sights on moving to America, specifically to Detroit, Michigan. He was able to emigrate to the United States in 1950, arriving in New York and eventually moving across the country to Los Angeles, where he resided for several years. Once in the States, Andreas Americanized his name to Andrew. He returned home to Köln, Germany to marry Gisela Christel Müller at his childhood parish, Am Krieler Dom, on July 15,1954, and the two of them eventually settled in Berwyn, Illinois. In August, 1960, Andrew and Gisela bought their first home in Oak Park, Illinois, the historic Chicago suburb where they put down roots and went on to raise their family.
He and Gisela were blessed with 28 years of marriage and four daughters: Claudia, Monika, Kristina, and Juliana. On July 12, 1982, just three days shy of their 28th wedding anniversary, Gisela died suddenly of cardiac arrest, leaving Andrew to raise his children as a single father.
A few years later, while looking for menswear at Lytton’s department store in Oak Park, Andrew met Ilse Erna (nee Frey) Garcia, who worked at the store and was, to his surprise, also a German native. The two struck up a lively conversation and Ilse eventually worked up the courage to ask Andrew out for coffee. They fell deeply in love and were married on October 22, 1988, at Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park, the parish where Andrew’s daughters had grown up and where the family remained longtime members.
For 25 years, Andrew was employed as a mechanical engineer with Signode Corporation (later Illinois Tool Works) in Glenview, Illinois. One of Andrew’s greatest joys was travel, and over the course of his career he went on business and pleasure trips to cities across the country, Europe, Japan, and India, even spending three years working in Germany while his young family remained in the States. After taking early retirement from Signode to have more flexibility in caring for his children, Andrew spent the next 10 years working from home as a sales rep for Bremekamp, a plastic medical equipment manufacturer headquartered in Germany. Following that, he became a sales representative for GFM North America, another German company that manufactured machinery for folding various paper products. He remained with GFM for the remainder of his career, also taking on freelance work assisting the City of Chicago with technical document translations.
Andrew and his family began vacationing in Door County, WI in the 1960s, spending many memorable summer trips in their pop-up Jayco camper at Peninsula State Park. In 1996, after living in Oak Park for more than 35 years, Andrew and Ilse were ready to embrace the Door County lifestyle full time, and they relocated to Sister Bay. Andrew was a lifelong fixer and tinkerer who took pride in his substantial basement workshop and in renovating and maintaining his own houses, including the home on Scandia Road where he and Ilse settled in Sister Bay. They lived there until 2017, when they relocated to The Meadows at Good Samaritan Society-Scandia Village in Sister Bay.
Andrew and Ilse were active and passionate members of the Sister Bay community. He served as a Trustee on the Board for the Village of Sister Bay for more than five years, taking great pride in contributing to the preservation and revitalization of Sister Bay’s beautiful lakefront. He volunteered for the Sister Bay Historical Society (which he irreverently referred to as the “hysterical society”) and did everything from removing storm windows on historic residences to leading tours for visitors. Though not a musician himself, Andrew had a great passion for music, especially classical and jazz, which deepened as he watched his daughters and grandchildren pursue training and flourishing careers in classical violin, cello, piano, harp and percussion. He looked forward to volunteering as an usher with Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Egg Harbor, where he relished big-band performances in the exuberant style of Glenn Miller, and the Door Community Auditorium in Fish Creek. Andrew was also an avid boater and loved spending time on the water, starting with his first vintage wooden speedboat, “Colonia,” which proudly flew the flag of his hometown Köln, and later with the larger modern speedboats that he kept at his slip in the Sister Bay marina. He enjoyed water skiing, taking visitors on scenic tours of the peninsula shoreline, and terrifying countless grandchildren and guests by bouncing vigorously across the rough waves of Lake Michigan. Andrew’s life was rooted in his Catholic faith, and he and Ilse were active parishioners of St. Rosalia Parish in Sister Bay (now Stella Maris Parish-Sister Bay), where he served as eucharistic minister and reader for more than 20 years.
Anyone who knew Andrew also knew of his passion for trains, especially his enormous model train collection, built over a lifetime of acquiring small-gauge German Märklin pieces. He was a member of the National Model Railroad Association, and when he moved to Door County and finally had the time to focus on setting up his dream railway, Andrew even built an addition on his home to accommodate his enormous (and ever-growing, thanks to the internet) collection. There, he donned his conductor’s cap and delighted his 19 grandchildren by creating a model train lovers’ haven, complete with train-themed clocks, artwork, and knick knacks. He painstakingly built tiny train depots and town buildings by hand, and brought the setup to life with miniature people, trees, cars, shops, and even a full German-style biergarten and carnival. Though Andrew’s model train collection was an endless work in progress, he took enormous pleasure in mapping the electrical connections, figuring out track configurations, and imagining the details.
An affable man with an irreverent sense of humor, Andrew was also famous in his family for writing and keeping copies of thousands of letters and emails to family, friends, and the occasional unsuspecting company or organization. He wrote legendary complaint letters, such as the missive to StarKist where he slyly questioned the price difference between two seemingly identical types of canned tuna!
He will be deeply missed by his wife, Ilse, with whom he shared more than 32 years of marriage; four daughters, Claudia (John) Venegoni of Gurnee, Illinois; Monika (Wyatt) Sutherland of Viroqua, Wisconsin; Kristina (partner Rob Haak) Gullion of Viroqua, Wisconsin; and Juliana (Patrick Ferry) Nocker Ferry of Los Angeles, CA; nineteen grandchildren, Mark (Danielle) Venegoni; Jenna (Mitch) Herzog; David (Kara) Venegoni; and Luke (fiancée Eleia Yonke) Venegoni; Tatiana (partner Soren Zeliger) Sutherland; Avery Sutherland; Ephraim Sutherland; and Naomi (partner Raheem Moore) Sutherland; Noah (partner Taylor Cowden); Gullion, Gabriel Gullion, Amalia Gullion, and Satya Gullion; and Ava Ferry, Scarlett Ferry, Leo Ferry, and Oliver Ferry; Brianna (Garcia) Stanley, Maria Garcia, and Alex Garcia; six great-grandchildren, Gabriella, Nicholas, and Luca Venegoni; Theodore and Josephine Herzog; and Jace Stanley; brother Stephen Nöcker and sister Marietta Nöcker, siblings-in-law Manfred Müller and Renate Bramer, and cousin Marcel Odenbach, all of Köln; and Helga Rubik of Bretten, Germany.
Andrew was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife, Gisela; his stepson, Brian Garcia; his brother, Michael Nöcker; and his brothers-in-law, Klaus Müller and Peter Rubik.
Due to pandemic restrictions, a private family gathering was held at Casperson Funeral Home, and Andrew was laid to rest in St. Rosalia Cemetery in Sister Bay with a graveside committal service officiated by Fr. Thomas Farrell of Stella Maris Parish.
Memorials may be given in Andrew’s name for Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin (www.birchcreek.org), the Peninsula Music Festival in Ephraim, Wisconsin (www.musicfestival.com), or the Door County Land Trust (www.doorcountylandtrust.org).
Expressions of sympathy, memories, and photos of Andrew may be shared with his family through his tribute page at www.caspersonfuneralhome.com.