Robert Fritschen


Robert D. Fritschen, 85 of Laurel, died on Thursday, April 22, 2021 at Unity Point Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa.

Services will be held Tuesday, April 27 at 10:30 am at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Laurel with the Rev. Jerry Connealy officiating. Burial will be in the Laurel Cemetery. Visitation will be on Monday, April 26 at church from 5:30 – 7 p.m. with a rosary at 7 p.m. Visitation will continue one hour prior to the service on Tuesday.

Memorials may be directed to the Laurel Community Foundation or Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Laurel.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Wintz Funeral Home in Laurel. To watch a livestream of the service, please visit

Robert D. Fritschen was born on Nov. 27, 1935 to Andrew C. and Matilda (Wehner) Fritschen in Mitchell, South Dakoa. He was baptized in St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Farmer, S.D. Bob grew up on the family farm near Spencer, S.D. and attended school at St. Peter’s grade school and Edgerton Consolidated High School, both in Farmer, S.D. He was offered an athletic scholarship to attend college but stayed on the farm to help his parents until he was 23. He then enrolled at South Dakota State University in Brookings where he earned his BS and MS degrees, graduating in 1963. While in graduate school he also managed the first co-ed dorm in the history of the university. 

Bob married a childhood friend and sweetheart, Hazel Robinson on May 3, 1958 in Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Spencer, South Dakota. Two daughters were born to them, Annette and Annita Kay. Following graduation from college in 1963, Bob went to work for the University of Nebraska, starting out in Scottsbluff. He was transferred to the Northeast Research and Extension near Concord in 1965 to develop a swine research program. He raised money from farmers/business donors and built a complex of buildings to study housing management needs for growing/finishing pigs. In a few years his work was known nationally and internationally. He was very active in the swine industry and established Nebraska’s first Area Swine Producers Association in 1966. He was invited to 29 countries and nearly every state in the Union to speak and report on his studies. He designed a building for growing/finishing pigs that at one time was the most popular style in the country, known as the Nebraska Modified Open Front Building. The Canadian government asked for and received permission to use the plans for their swine industry.

For his extensive work, he was nationally recognized three times, including the National Extension Award from the American Society of Animal Science and the United States Superior Service Award from the Unites States Department of Agriculture. In 1981, he received the National Hog Farmer Award for outstanding service to the nation’s swine industry. He was named to Who’s Who in Agriculture Higher Education, and Personalities of America as well as American Men and Women of Science. Bob was a prolific writer and wrote articles for many swine related publications including the British Pig Farming Magazine. His fact sheets on space requirements for pigs and tail biting are still in use today by the National Pork Producer’s Council. Several of his fact sheets have been translated into Spanish. While at Concord, he organized a 4-H club and was co-leader for ten years and served 4-H in numerous volunteer roles. 

In 1979, Bob was transferred to Scottsbluff where he assumed the role of Associate Director of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. From there he transferred to Lincoln, where he taught the Swine Production course and was responsible for coordinating the Statewide Swine Extension Program. Later he was promoted to Director of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff where he established a Distance Learning Center to make the resources of the University more available to people in remote places. In 1992, he was asked to take on a similar role at the Northeast Research and Extension Center, partnering with Northeast Community College to build a Learning Center in Norfolk. For his pioneering work on distance learning, Bob was awarded the Distinguished Education Service Award from the University of Nebraska in 1997. In 1998 after 35 years with the University of Nebraska, Bob retired with the title of Professor Emeritus. 

In retirement, Bob stayed active. He helped establish the Laurel Community Foundation of which he and Hazel contributed to. He was instrumental in developing a TeamMates mentoring chapter at the local school and coordinated the program and mentored students for six years. Bob also served on the city council for 11 years and helped establish an economic development office for Laurel and served as an advisory board member. He was a member of the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement and a Trustee and served as Secretary Treasurer. He was also a member of Agriculture Builders of Nebraska Inc. and chaired the University of Nebraska Distance Learning Advisory committee. In 2006, Bob received the Knights of Ark Sar Ben Ike Friedman Community Leader Award. 

Bob wrote and published two books after he retired. He was an avid fisherman and while he fished from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, his favorite locale was the family fishing camp in the Black Hills called Thunderbird Roost near Deerfield Lake. The most important elements in his life were his family and his faith. 

Survivors include his wife Hazel of Laurel; daughter, Annette Pritchard of Laurel; granddaughters, Susan Pritchard, Lori (Spencer) Lowe, Amy (Matt) Dohma; grandson, John (Aleta) Thomas; great-grandchildren, Cade Dohma, Taylor Lowe, Lily Thomas, Piper Thomas; son-in-law John Thomas of Aurora; two sisters Marian (Julius) Schultz of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Geraldine Oberembt of Mitchell, South Dakota; sister-in-law, Ruby Fritschen of Great Falls, Montana. He is also survived by many fishing buddies, friends, nieces, nephews, and cousins. 

He was preceded in death his parents, Andrew and Matilda Fritschen; daughter, Annita Kay Thomas; sons-in-law, David Pritchard, Randy Lanser; two sisters, Marjorie (Gene) Kolbach and Beverly Guenther; and brother Andy Fritschen. 

Pallbearers will be Matt Dohma, Spencer Lowe, Mitch Lanser, Joe Kolbach, and Don Pritchard.