Life on the Lake essay: Jerry (Krawczak) Nestingen

Jerry Nestingen ’48 passed away on Nov, 1, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Jerry was an avid fan of Madison and the UW. She reveled in her college years and reminisced frequently about friends, football and living on the lake. While she was Director of the Dane Co. Jr. Red Cross, Jerry married Ivan A. Nestingen who received his Bachelors and Law Degree from the University and became Mayor of Madison 1956-1961. Jerry hosted UW Alumni at her home in Wash, D.C. and it was her great joy to return to campus every summer living at the Surf on Lake Mendota. Her presence at the Union Terrace, St Paul’s Church and summer events on the Square is greatly missed.

Here is an essay written by my mother, Jerry Nestingen ’48, about living on Lake Mendota as a student and then in her senior years:

As a student long ago in Madison, I had no idea how important Lake Mendota was to my education. I did not take it for granted, however. My junior and senior year rooms were in a house on the lake and I vividly recall sitting cross-legged on my bed watching the blinking stars in a very dark sky thinking I would never live like that again. I could see a sliver moon and hear the lazy splashing of water on the shore. I often said prayers of thanksgiving for that experience.

There is no question that the frantic pace of classes, exams, work and some disturbing echoes from home were always lessened by the healing benefits of watching the endless ripples on Lake Mendota—or by the fact that hurrying past that vast expanse of water my mind would immediately move into a different time zone. Without knowing it, I had a daily therapy session with benefits beyond any doctors’ prescription.

And so it was that now so many years later I was determined to find a lake view apartment for my free summer. The summer became summers – five of them now, and as I write this, a boat is gliding past with six passengers. I think they see me on my tiny balcony and I bet they envy me in this prized spot on the sixth floor. No yacht can rival the view I have each early morning as I pull myself up to the window ledge from my bed and peer out at a pink and yellow line in the East marking the horizon far across the lake. I lower myself into bed and fall back asleep and soon a faulty motor or twittering bird wakes me to see that a magnificent thing happened while I slept – the sun opened the sky and changed all the colors and even the rhythm of the ripples on the lake.

This ever-changing mural goes on day and night and sometimes I cannot believe that it can all turn into a shattering, electric, black and white violent threat. It spreads across the whole sky like a boiling cauldron.

But for now I can sit low on a cushion and see the green leaves become a black silhouette as the sun goes down in a gentle glide – a soft red ball disappearing behind Picnic Point.

A boat has broken a long, long path through the water going far to the other shore. For a moment I seem to be on that boat.

But it is getting darker. Boats seem to pass in silence with tiny red and blue lights completely changing the scene and the mood it invokes, bringing back memories from the past.

I was wrong those many years ago; I did get to live like this again.

Jerry Nestingen
June 30, 1996